Afghan Horse Dealers


This photograph of a pair of Afghan horse dealers is from an album of rare historical photographs depicting people and places associated with the Second Anglo-Afghan War. The men in the image, by Sir Benjamin Simpson (1831–1923), both wear fine turbans. The one on the right has pointed shoes called paizaar, and his younger companion has two small leather pouches on his belt, probably holding money or ammunition. Simpson was an avid amateur photographer who spent many years in the Indian Medical Service and served as deputy surgeon general in the South Afghanistan Field Force, mostly in Kandahar, in 1880–81. He took many photographs of the city and its people in the months following the September 1880 victory in the Battle of Kandahar by Major General Frederick Roberts over Ghazi Mohammad Ayub Khan. The Second Anglo-Afghan War began in November 1878 when Great Britain, fearful of what it saw as growing Russian influence in Afghanistan, invaded the country from British India. The first phase of the war ended in May 1879 with the Treaty of Gandamak, which permitted the Afghans to maintain internal sovereignty but forced them to cede control over their foreign policy to the British. Fighting resumed in September 1879, after an anti-British uprising in Kabul, and finally concluded with the decisive Battle of Kandahar. The album includes portraits of British and Afghan leaders and military personnel, portraits of ordinary Afghan people, and depictions of British military camps and activities, structures, landscapes, and cities and towns. The sites shown are all located within the borders of present-day Afghanistan or Pakistan (a part of British India at the time). About a third of the photographs were taken by John Burke (circa 1843–1900), another third by Simpson, and the remainder by several other photographers. Some of the photographs are unattributed. The album possibly was compiled by a member of the British Indian government, but this has not been confirmed. How it came to the Library of Congress is not known.

Last updated: September 30, 2016