July 18, 2016

The Hero of Herat: A Frontier Romance

The Hero of Herat: A Frontier Romance is a popular biography of Eldred Pottinger (1811–43) by Maud Diver (1867–1945), a British Indian author who was a friend and contemporary of Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936) and who, like Kipling, primarily wrote about Englishmen in India and their encounters with the people and cultures of the East. Pottinger was an army officer in the East India Company and the nephew of Henry Pottinger, also in the service of the company. In 1837 Eldred Pottinger traveled from Peshawar to Kabul and Herat, disguised as a horse dealer. Soon after his arrival in Herat, the city was besieged by the Persian army with the assistance of Russian officers. Pottinger identified himself to and offered his services in the defense of the city to Yar Mohammad Khan, the wazir and commander of the forces under Shah Kamran, ruler of Herat. His services were accepted and the defense was successful, as the Persians ended their siege and withdrew in September 1838. Pottinger left Herat in 1839 but returned to Afghanistan in 1841 as the British political agent in Kohistan. He was heavily involved in the fighting and diplomacy of the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839–42). The Hero of Herat covers Pottinger’s activities up to his departure from Afghanistan in 1839. A later volume by the same author covers his involvement in the events of the First Anglo-Afghan War. The book opens with a portrait of Pottinger in Afghan dress and concludes with a fold-out map that illustrates the route of his journey to Afghanistan in 1837‒38.

Correspondence Relating to Persia and Affghanistan

Correspondence Relating to Persia and Affghanistan is a compilation of documents concerning British policy toward these two countries, published in London at the time of the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839–42). 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. One section of the book documents the expedition of Shah Shuja (1785–1842), ruler of the Durrani Empire from 1803 to 1809, into Afghanistan in 1833–34 and his attempt to reclaim the throne in collaboration with Maharaja Ranjit Singh, ruler of the Punjab. Shah Shuja was defeated by Afghan forces at Kandahar under Dost Mohammad Khan. The First Anglo-Afghan War began four years later, when the British sent an Anglo-Indian army into Afghanistan in order to install Shah Shuja, who they perceived as more sympathetic to their interests than Dost Mohammad Khan, as ruler of the country. The documents provide a detailed look at the secret diplomacy that preceded the First Anglo-Afghan War.

The Life and Career of Major Sir Louis Cavagnari

Sir Pierre Louis Napoleon Cavagnari (1841–79) was a French-born army and political officer who joined the army of the East India Company in 1858 and held a variety of military and political posts in India up until the time of his death. During the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–80), he negotiated the Treaty of Gandamak (signed May 26, 1879), which ended the first phase of the war. Under the terms of the agreement, the government of the new ruler of Afghanistan, Ya‘qub Khan, was obliged to receive a permanent British envoy at Kabul and Britain was given the right to exercise control over Afghan foreign policy. Lord Lytton, viceroy of India, appointed Cavagnari as the British envoy resident at Kabul. Cavagnari entered the city on July 24, 1879. His reception was at first friendly, but on September 3 several Afghan regiments mutinied and attacked the citadel where Cavagnari and other British officials were living. Cavagnari and his guards were killed. These events triggered a general uprising and a second phase of the war. The Life and Career of Major Sir Louis Cavagnari is a compilation of original documents relating to Cavagnari’s life and the diplomatic and military circumstances of the Second Anglo-Afghan War, published in Calcutta (present-day Kolkata) in 1881. The documents include dispatches about Afghanistan from the government of India to the government in London, correspondence between the British and Sher Ali Khan, ruler of Afghanistan in 1863‒66 and 1868‒79, excerpts from newspapers and official reports, and the complete text of the Treaty of Gandamack. The compiler was Kally Prosono Dey (also seen as Kaliprasanna De), who appears to have been a civil servant or clerk in the government of India.

My Wanderings in Persia

My Wanderings in Persia is an account of a three-year journey to and posting in Tehran in 1875‒78 by a British official contracted to the India Office for unspecified services. The author traveled by sea from London to Bombay and to Karachi and then overland to Tehran. His return journey was via Russia and across Europe. The book contains descriptions of the major cities of Persia (present-day Iran) visited, with observations on culture, religion, and everyday life. The author is critical of many aspects of Persia, including the cruelty and despotism of the ruling shah and the treatment of women throughout society. The book is illustrated with drawings and contains a large fold-out map that uses different colors to show the author’s route, the old western frontier of British India and the new “scientific frontier” further to the west, and the old Russian frontier and the new Russian frontier of 1878 after the Russian advance southward. An inset map in the lower left shows an enlarged view of the scientific frontier between Afghanistan and British India (in present-day Pakistan). The scientific frontier was a term used in 1878 by British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli (Lord Beaconsfield) in reference to a rectified border between Afghanistan and British India, by which he meant a frontier that could be occupied and defended according to the requirements of the science of military strategy, as opposed to a “haphazard frontier” that was the product of historical circumstance. Although Anderson includes this term in the subtitle of his book and marks it prominently on the map, there is in fact very little discussion of the Afghan-Indian frontier in the book, which deals largely with Persia and very little with Afghanistan. An appendix gives the distances on the stage roads from Bushehr to Tehran, Tehran to Baghdad, and Tehran to Resht (present-day Rasht), with the distance in miles between stages and remarks on the status of the road on each stage.

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.

Our Scientific Frontier

The “scientific frontier” is a term used by Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (Lord Beaconsfield) of Great Britain in 1878 to denote a border between British India (in present-day Pakistan) and Afghanistan, which could be occupied and defended according to the requirements of the science of military strategy, as opposed to the existing frontier, which had been formed by a haphazard pattern of British expansion through agreements and annexations. The term subsequently figured prominently in British discussions about the defense of British India from a possible Russian invasion through Afghanistan. Our Scientific Frontier, published toward the end of the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–80), is an analysis of this subject, written to influence the British debate on the terms of peace. The author, William Patrick Andrew, was chairman of the Scinde, Punjab, and Delhi Railway Company, and thus an expert on logistics and transport in India and along its frontiers. The book contains chapters on the Northwest Frontier, the history, geography, and economy of Afghanistan, the independent border tribes, mountain passes, probable routes of invasion from Afghanistan into India, and the “Powindahs, or Soldier-Merchants of Afghanistan.”  Three appendices cover the Sherpur entrenchments that were part of the defense of Kabul, the Bolan and Khyber railways (neither of which was constructed until after the period discussed), and transport by rail of troops, horses, guns, and war matériel in India.