History of the Afghans


Joseph Philippe Ferrier (1811‒86) was a French soldier who served as a military instructor in the army of Persia (present-day Iran) in 1839‒42 and again in 1846‒50. He was sent on a diplomatic mission to Europe by the Qajar ruler Muhammad Shah (1808-48, reigned 1834‒48), but later fell out of favor with the shah and was forced to leave Persia. He returned to the Persian service in 1846, after undertaking a dangerous overland journey through Afghanistan and Persia in 1844‒46. While working for the Persian army, Ferrier reported to the French government and sought to promote French interests in the rivalry with Great Britain and Russia for influence in the country. Ferrier produced two major books based on historical research and his personal observations. Caravan Journeys and Wanderings in Persia, Afghanistan, Turkistan and Beloochistan was published in London in 1857; the French edition, Voyages et aventures en Perse, dans l’Afghanistan, le Beloutchistan et le Turkestan appeared only in 1870. The book presented here, History of the Afghans, was published in London in 1858 and is an English translation of the manuscripts of Ferrier made by a British officer, Captain William Jesse. A French edition of the book was never published. The work is a history of the Afghans from ancient times to 1850. Ferrier chronicles the rise of British power in South Asia, which from a French perspective he regrets. In the final passage of the book, he notes that possession of Peshawar in the north and Shikarpur in the south had given the British control of the Indus River, and concludes: “These are the têtes-de-pont [bridgeheads] which command the passage of that river, and give the Anglo-Indian government the power of exercising the greatest influence over the policy of the chiefs of Kandahar and Kabul—may Europe never have cause to repent that she has permitted those conquests which will render Great Britain and Russia all-powerful over this planet.” The book contains a detailed fold-out map.

Last updated: July 27, 2016