Afghanistan: In Relation to Past Conquests of India


The Afghan Committee of the British Parliament was comprised of members of Parliament from all parties who were critical of the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878‒80) and the policies that had led to it. The committee issued documents and reports intended to help the public to understand the war and to counter the secrecy with which, in the committee’s view, the British government had conducted its policy toward Afghanistan. Afghanistan: In Relation to Past Conquests of India is a pamphlet published by the committee in 1879, written by the Reverend William Arthur (1819–1901), a Methodist missionary who had lived and worked in India in 1839–41. The Disraeli government had invoked the argument that British India was vulnerable to attack by Russia through Afghanistan to justify the Anglo-Indian invasion of Afghanistan, and Arthur begins with the observation that “India is often spoken of as having been, in all ages, the easy prey of every foreign conqueror.” He goes on to argue that the conquest of India was in fact an extremely difficult undertaking, accomplished very rarely. Summing up the historical evidence presented in the pamphlet, he concludes that during “the 2,400 years from Darius to the present time, we have found that five great conquerors have attempted to sweep down upon India through the Hindu Koosh. Two of them, Darius and Genghis Khan, were stopped by the frontier stream. The third, Alexander, was stopped in the Punjab by the second river…. Two, Tamerlane and Nadir Shah, reached Delhi. None of the five got further.” Adding that “not one of the five had to face a centralized Government able to command the united forces of the country,” he discounts the contention that India was in any way threatened by a possible Russian invasion.

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Subject Date

Publication Information

P. S. King, London


Title in Original Language

Afghanistan: In relation to past conquests of India

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Physical Description

16 pages : 21 centimeters


  1. David N. Hempton, “Arthur, William (1819‒1901),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Last updated: August 31, 2016