Causes of the Afghan War


Causes of the Afghan War is a compilation of documents assembled by the Afghan Committee of the British Parliament to examine the events leading up to the Second Anglo-Afghan War, which began in November 1878 and lasted until September 1880. The committee was comprised of members of Parliament from all parties who were critical of the secrecy with which the British government had initiated the war and its reasons for doing so. As stated in the preface: “We believe that this war is unjust; and injustice is certain, sooner or later, to bring disaster in its train. We believe that, even if just, it is inexpedient; that the policy which brought it about is unwise, and will imperil our rule in India.” The stated purpose of the book is to help the British public at large understand the war by making available to it the same documents (“papers”) presented by the government to the Parliament or assembled by the Afghan Committee in the course of its own investigations. The book is in three parts. The first deals with the causes of the Anglo-Afghan War, beginning with events in 1855 and leading up to the outbreak of the conflict in 1878. The second part deals with the Anglo-Indian occupation of Quetta (in present-day Pakistan) in 1876 and its incorporation into British India. The third part, entitled “England and Russia in Central Asia,” concerns the understanding reached between the British and Russian governments in 1876 regarding their respective spheres of influence in Asia and the subsequent breakdown of that understanding as a consequence of competition for influence in Afghanistan. The texts reproduced here include diplomatic dispatches, correspondence between British and British Indian officials and their Afghan and Russian counterparts, articles or reports from newspapers and periodicals, and other documents, excerpted from a series of parliamentary “Blue Books” (so called because they were printed with blue paper covers) on Afghanistan and Central Asia. The texts are elucidated and commented upon in an anonymously written connecting narrative.

Last updated: August 25, 2016