Positivist Protest against the Afghan War


This document is a one-page manifesto issued by the Positivist Society in London to protest the Second Anglo-Afghan War, which began in November 1878 when Great Britain, fearful of what it saw as growing Russian influence in Central Asia, invaded Afghanistan from British India. The text declares: “As Positivists we condemn our Indian Empire in principle. We therefore deprecate all extensions of it…. The present invasion of Afghanistan seems to be even more destitute of excuse than many of the other unjust aggressions by which our Indian Empire has been from time to time extended. There is not, as in some other cases, even a pretence that we have suffered any injury from the Afghans, or that we are interfering for the purpose of ameliorating their condition.” The protest is signed on behalf of the society by its president, E.S. (Edward Spencer) Beesly. The Positivist Society was an organization that campaigned for social reform and the rights of workers and against the British Empire and British sea power, ostensibly on the basis of principles articulated by the French philosopher Auguste Comte (1798–1857), the founder of positivism.

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1 printed page ; 21 centimeters


  1. Michel Bourdeau, "Auguste Comte," The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/comte/.
  2. Martha S. Vogeler, “Beesly, Edward Spencer (1831–1915),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Last updated: September 30, 2016