Journal of a Political Mission to Afghanistan


Journal of a Political Mission to Afghanistan is an account of a mission undertaken by Henry Burnett Lumsden, a British officer in the Indian army, to Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 1857. Lumsden’s assignment was to ensure that the subsidies paid by the government of India to Amir Dost Mohammad Khan, ruler of Afghanistan, were being used for the upkeep of troops employed to defend Afghanistan against the Persians, a vital British interest. Lumsden was accompanied by his brother and fellow army officer, Lieutenant Peter Lumsden, and by Dr. Henry Walter Bellew, the author of the book presented here. Bellew was a surgeon and medical officer in the Indian Army who undertook a number of political missions in Afghanistan and went on to write several other works on Indian and Afghan subjects. The book has two parts. Part one, consisting of three chapters, is an introduction to Afghanistan and its people. It covers geography, topography, marriage and customs, the ethnic groups that make up the Afghan population, history, and religion. The origins of the Afghan people and the tradition that they are descended from Saul, the first king of Israel, are covered in detail. The second and much longer part of the book is Bellew’s journal of the mission in 11 chapters. There are eight beautiful color prints of Afghan subjects, and an appendix with a list of all the plants gathered by Bellew on the march to and from Kandahar with brief descriptions of their characteristics and, where relevant, their medical uses.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Smith, Elder, & Company, London


Title in Original Language

Journal of a political mission to Afghanistan, in 1857, under Major (now Colonel) Lumsden

Type of Item

Physical Description

480 pages : illustrations ; 23 centimeters


  1. T.R. Moreman, “Lumsden, Sir Henry Burnett [Harry] (1821‒1896),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2004).
  2. D’A. Power, revised by James Falkner, “Bellew, Henry Walter (1834‒1892),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Last updated: July 27, 2016