An Account of the Kingdom of Caubul, and its Dependencies in Persia, Tartary, and India


Mountstuart Elphinstone (1779–1859) was an administrator with the East India Company who in 1808 was sent by the British Indian authorities on a mission to Afghanistan for the purpose of concluding an agreement with the Afghan ruler, Shah Shuja Durrani. Suspicious of British intentions and engaged in a domestic power struggle, Shah Shuja refused to allow Elphinstone and his party to proceed beyond Peshawar (in present-day Pakistan), which was then part of the Durrani Empire. Elphinstone remained in Peshawar for several months, where he met with Shah Shuja and gathered information about Afghanistan from a variety of sources, including merchants, travelers, and Islamic teachers. The result was a detailed report to the East India Company, which Elphinstone later expanded into An Account of the Kingdom of Caubul, and its Dependencies in Persia, Tartary, and India, published in 1815. The book is arranged logically and systematically. Following an introduction describing the mission of 1808‒9, it contains books on geography; the inhabitants of Afghanistan and their customs and way of life; the Afghan tribes; the provinces; and the royal government of Kabul. Appendices cover the history of the kingdom from the founding of the Durrani monarchy; the narrative of a Mr. Durie, a half-English, half-Indian compounder of medicines, of his journey across Afghanistan; an account of neighboring countries, including Kafiristan (a region in eastern Afghanistan conquered in 1896, present-day Nuristan Province); an extract from the memoir of Lieutenant Macartney, the surveyor in Elphinstone’s party who drew up a detailed map of Afghanistan; and a vocabulary of Pushto words. The book includes colored plates that portray Afghans of different ethnic groups and a very large fold-out map. An Account of the Kingdom of Caubul became a standard work, relied upon for decades by the British and other Europeans as a source of information about Afghanistan. Elphinstone went on to serve in a variety of posts in British India and to write other books, including History of India: The Hindu and Mohametan Periods (1841).


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Publication Information

Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, London


Title in Original Language

An account of the kingdom of Caubul, and its Dependencies in Persia, Tartary, and India

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Physical Description

675 pages : maps ; 28 centimeters


  1. C.A. Bayly, “Elphinstone, Mountstuart (1779–1859),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Last updated: September 30, 2016