Village of Lala Cheena in the Khyber River


In the fall of 1878, The Illustrated London News dispatched the Scottish artist William Simpson (1823–99) to Afghanistan in anticipation of a conflict between Britain and Afghan tribal leaders. The British were concerned about growing Russian influence in the region and a possible Russian threat to British India. Fighting broke out in November 1878, precipitating what became known as the Second Afghan War (1878–80). Simpson documented the conflict, but he was also interested in people he encountered and places he visited, especially ancient Buddhist ruins, several of which he excavated. Shown here is Simpson’s watercolor sketch of the village of Lala Cheena. Simpson’s notes indicate that this was where General Sir Neville Chamberlain met with Faiz Mahomed Khan, governor of the fort of Ali Majid. The sketch is dated November 21, 1878, the day of the Battle of Ali Masjid in which 12,000 British and Indian troops defeated 3,700 Afghan troops and an unknown number of Afghan tribesmen. The painting is from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection at the Brown University Library.

Last updated: September 30, 2016