A Peep into Toorkisthān


Rollo Gillespie Burslem (1813–96) was a British soldier in the 13th Prince Albert’s Light Infantry Regiment, which was part of the Anglo-Indian Army of the Indus that invaded Afghanistan during the initial phase of the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839–42). Burslem’s regiment later became part of the occupying force tasked with enforcing order in the country. In the summer of 1840, Burslem accompanied Lieutenant Stuart of the Bengal Engineers on a mission to survey the passes of the Hindu Kush and the Turkestan mountain ranges. A Peep into Toorkisthān is Burslem’s account of the mission. The party left Kabul with a military escort on June 13, traveled to Balkh through Bamyan, and returned to Kabul on November 7, three days after the surrender of Dost Muhammad Khan to Sir William Macnaghten, the British envoy to Afghanistan. First published in London in 1846, the book is comprised of 20 short chapters that describe the routes that the mission took and the people, physical features, ancient ruins, markets, and vegetation of the places visited. Burslem also recounts military engagements fought with the Afghan rebels and concludes his narrative with the encounter at Purwan Durrah with Dost Muhammad and his men. On this occasion, a panic seized a British reconnaissance force, resulting in the loss of several officers. The book includes a route map and is illustrated with plates showing two different views of the cave of Yeermallik, a view of the town and fortress of Kollum, and facsimile drawings of ancient coins that Burslem collected during the mission.

Last updated: September 30, 2016