The First Afghan War


This book is a brief account, written for a popular audience, of the First Anglo-Afghan War, published in 1878, the year that marked the start of the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–80). The First Anglo-Afghan War began in late 1838 when the British launched an invasion of Afghanistan from India with the aim of overthrowing the Afghan ruler, Amir Dōst Moḥammad Khān, and replacing him with the supposedly pro-British former ruler, Shāh Shujāʻ. The British were at first successful. They installed Shāh Shujāʻ as ruler in Jalalabad and forced Dōst Moḥammad to flee the country. But in 1841 Dōst Moḥammad returned to Afghanistan to lead an uprising against the invaders and Shāh Shujāʻ. In one of the most disastrous defeats in British military history, in January 1842 an Anglo-Indian force of 4,500 men and thousands of followers was annihilated by Afghan tribesmen. The British then sent a larger force from India to exact retribution and to recover hostages, before finally withdrawing in October 1842. The concluding sentence of this book sums up the essential futility of the conflict: “And so the English army left secure on the throne of Afghanistan the dynasty they had spent so many millions of treasure and so many lives to overthrow.” The book is by Mowbray Walter Morris (1847–1911), editor of Macmillan’s Magazine and the author of works of biography and literary criticism.

Last updated: September 30, 2016