Afghanistan: A Short Account of Afghanistan, Its History, and Our Dealings with It


This book is a brief history of Afghanistan and its relations with the British Empire. It was published in London in 1881 as Parliament and the British public were debating policy toward Afghanistan in the aftermath of the Second Anglo-Afghan War, which was fought between 1878 and 1880. The author, Philip Francis Walker, was a London barrister who had recently served with the British army in Afghanistan, and the book contains vivid accounts of fierce fighting with the Afghans. In a typical passage, Walker describes the Afghan tribesmen as “being in great strength, fighting very courageously, and being well led.” The most interesting aspect of the book is the summary, in the concluding pages, of the debate underway in Britain about future policy toward Afghanistan. According to Walker, three main plans were under discussion: “1st. That we should annex the whole country, including Herat. 2nd. That we should settle some chief, or chiefs, in the country, as securely as possible, and ourselves retire behind the scientific frontier, with, or without Candahar. 3rd. That we should evacuate most of the country, and continue to hold almost the same frontier [between British India and Afghanistan] as hitherto.” Walker generally favored the second option, but the third was in fact followed by the Liberal government of Prime Minister William Gladstone.

Last updated: September 30, 2016