Around Afghanistan


Major Émile Antoine Henry de Bouillane de Lacoste (1867–1937) was a military officer who, after serving with the French army in Indochina, undertook a number of extended voyages to different parts of Asia on behalf of the French authorities. He wrote several books based on his travels. Around Afghanistan is an English translation of a work originally published in Paris in 1908 under the title Autour de l’Afghanistan aux frontières interdites (Around Afghanistan by forbidden borders). As the French title makes clearer than the English, Bouillane de Lacoste was denied permission by the Afghan authorities to travel in Afghanistan. He thereupon he devised a scheme to travel around the borders of the country. Starting from Tehran in late April 1906, Bouillane de Lacoste traveled first to Meshed in northeastern Persia (Iran) and from there into Russian Central Asia, through Ashkabad (present-day Ashgabat) and Merv (both in present-day Turkmenistan), Bukhara, and Samarkand. After reaching the end of the Russian railway line at Andijan (present-day Andijon, Uzbekistan), he proceeded into the Altai Mountains in present-day Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which he then crossed into China and British India. The next stage of journey was from Srinagar (Kashmir) to Lahore, and from there across Baluchistan (in present-day Pakistan) and back into Persia, where he eventually reached Tehran in late January of 1907. The journey was made by rail and horse caravan. Bouillane de Lacoste was accompanied by Lieutenant Hippolyte Marie Joseph Antoine Enselme (born 1872), who had served with Bouillane de Lacoste in Indochina and accompanied him on an earlier voyage to Manchuria. Bouillane de Lacoste’s account is written as a diary, and contains descriptions of the landscape and the people he encountered. The book contains several maps, including one of the author’s route, and nearly 80 photographs. The preface, by Georges Leygues, a French politician who was later, for some years, the minister of Marine and briefly prime minister, contains general reflections on the Anglo-Russian rivalry in Central Asia and the British in India, written from a French perspective.

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Sir I. Pitman & Sons, London


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217 pages : maps, portraits ; 25 centimeters

Last updated: August 26, 2016