Analytical Narrative of the Events Relating to the Correspondence on the Affairs of Persia and Affghanistan


In 1839, the year the First Anglo-Afghan War broke out, the British Foreign Office compiled and published under the authority of the government a volume entitled Correspondence Relating to Persia and Affghanistan. It was a collection of official documents concerning British policy toward these two countries. The documents cover the five-year period immediately preceding the war. The volume includes, for example, dispatches sent to the British foreign secretary, Viscount Palmerston (1784–1865), by British diplomats in Saint Petersburg and Teheran; Palmerston’s replies; the texts of treaties concluded by the East India Company with the shah of Persia, the amirs of Sind, and other parties; correspondence between Dost Mohammad Khan (1793‒1863), ruler of Afghanistan, and the governor-general of India; and reports concerning Afghanistan by Sir Alexander Burnes, political officer in India and Afghanistan, to Governor-General of India Lord Auckland. The volume, however, contained only the texts of the documents; no context was given to explain the events. In this Analytical Narrative, a second volume published in the same year, the Foreign Office contextualizes the events relating to the correspondence. The narrative is divided into two sections, with the first containing the analysis, and the second select extracts from the official documents. Published in the lead up to the war with Afghanistan, the analysis presents events to the British public in the context of an alleged larger Russian scheme aimed at subverting the British Empire in India. In what appears to be a preparation of British public opinion for a possible war with Russia, the analysis concludes that sooner or later it would be necessary to devise “some effectual and permanent check on the restless ambition” of Russia. British-Russian rivalry in Central Asia never actually led to a direct war between the two countries.

Last updated: July 28, 2017