July 27, 2016

Prison Sketches, Comprising Portraits of the Cabul Prisoners, and Other Subjects

Prison Sketches, Comprising Portraits of the Cabul Prisoners, and Other Subjects is a set of lithographs based on drawings made primarily by Lieutenant Vincent Eyre (1811–81) at the time he was held prisoner during the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839–42). Appointed commissary of ordnance to the Kabul Field Force that marched into Afghanistan in the fall of 1839, Eyre arrived in Kabul in April 1840, bringing with him a large quantity of ordnance stores. An uprising by the Afghans against the Anglo-Indian force began on November 2, 1841. The occupiers were besieged in their cantonments, and on November 13 Eyre was severely wounded. Under a treaty with the Afghan government, in early 1842 the Anglo-Indian force was given safe passage to evacuate the country. Accompanied by his wife and child, Eyre joined the column heading eastward but, along with the other British soldiers and civilians, he was taken hostage by the amir, Akbar Khan (1816–45, ruled 1842–45). The British hostages spent nearly nine months in captivity and suffered many privations, including severe cold and the effects of an earthquake and its aftershocks. In August 1842, the captives were marched north towards Bamian in the Hindu Kush, under the threat of being sold as slaves to the Uzbeks. They finally were released on September 20, after one of the prisoners, Major Pottinger, succeeded in buying off the Afghan commander of their escort. Prior to his release, Eyre had managed to smuggle the manuscript of his journal in parts to a friend in India, who sent it to England where, with the help of Eyre’s relatives, it was published the following year under the title The Military Operations at Cabul, which Ended in the Retreat and Destruction of the British Army, January 1842. Eyre’s sketches of his fellow prisoners and of several scenes from his captivity also were smuggled out of Afghanistan and made their way to England. Following the success of The Military Operations at Cabul, the Bond Street stationer and lithographic publisher Lowes Dickinson had lithographs made from the sketches, which were published separately. Dickinson supplemented the drawings by Eyre with those by several other artists, with the aim of completing a set of sketches, “which cannot fail to interest those who have read of the disasters of Cabul.” The lithographs were intended to be inserted into and bound with Eyre’s The Military Operations at Cabul, or with another work by a fellow prisoner, Lady Florentia Wynch Sale’s A Journal of the Disasters in Affghanistan, 1841-2 (1843). This bound collection from the Library of Congress contains 30 of the 32 lithographs that Dickinson had produced.

The Military Operations at Cabul

The Military Operations at Cabul is comprised primarily of the journal kept by Lieutenant Vincent Eyre (1811–81) before and during the time he was held prisoner in the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839–42). Appointed commissary of ordnance to the Kabul Field Force that marched into Afghanistan in the fall of 1839, Eyre arrived in Kabul in April 1840, bringing with him a large quantity of ordnance stores. Eyre begins his journal on November 2, 1841, the first day of the uprising by the Afghans against the Anglo-Indian force, in which Sir Alexander Burnes was killed. The occupiers were besieged in their cantonments and on November 13 Eyre was severely wounded. Under a treaty with the Afghan government, in early 1842 the Anglo-Indian force was given safe passage to evacuate the country. Accompanied by his wife and child, Eyre joined the column heading eastward but, along with the other British soldiers and civilians, he was taken hostage by the amir, Akbar Khan (1816–45, ruled 1842–45). The British hostages spent nearly nine months in captivity and suffered many privations, including severe cold and the effects of an earthquake and its aftershocks. In August 1842, the captives were marched north towards Bamian in the Hindu Kush under the threat of being sold as slaves to the Uzbeks. They finally were released on September 20, after one of the prisoners, Major Pottinger, succeeded in buying off the Afghan commander of their escort. Prior to his release, Eyre had managed to smuggle the manuscript of his journal in parts to a friend in India, who sent it to England where, with the help of Eyre’s relatives, it was published the following year. The book includes an introductory chapter, a foldout map of the Kabul cantonment and surrounding country made by Eyre, a glossary of Afghan terms, a list of those held prisoner and released in September 1842, and a list of the civilian and military officers killed in the uprising of November 1841. Eyre was a gifted artist who also produced most of the drawings in Prison Sketches, a collection of portraits of some of the men and women with whom he had been imprisoned that also was published in London in 1843.

The Retention of Candahar

The Retention of Candahar, published in London in 1881, is typical of the many pamphlets produced in Great Britain as the British Parliament and public debated policy toward Afghanistan in the wake of the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–80). The war began in November 1878 when the British sent an Anglo-Indian force into Afghanistan with the aim of replacing the Afghan amir, Sher Ali Khan, who was reputed to harbor pro-Russian sentiments, with a ruler more favorable to Britain. After a series of battles won by both British and Afghan forces, the war finally ended in September 1880 with a decisive British victory at the Battle of Kandahar. William Ewart Gladstone, who became prime minister for a second time in April 1880, took office firmly committed to a policy of complete withdrawal from Afghanistan. The policy was opposed by many active and retired officials in Britain and British India, who argued that British Indian troops should permanently occupy Kandahar as a check on possible Russian expansion toward India. This pamphlet, written by a retired major general who had served as political superintendent and commandant on the Sind frontier and in Baluchistan, argues for retention. The pamphlet presents the military, political, and financial case for a continued British military presence in Afghanistan and disputes “government arguments for abandonment.” The pamphlet greatly exaggerates the threat to Afghanistan posed by Russia, and concludes with a warning that “Afghanistan must eventually fall under the influence of Russia or England. We have now to decide which it will be.” This argument did not win out, and in the end the British and Indian governments made good on Gladstone’s commitment to complete withdrawal. The last British Indian troops left Afghanistan in the spring of 1881. The new Afghan ruler, ʿAbd-al-Rahman, conceded British supervision of his foreign relations in return for which Britain promised him a subsidy and help in resisting unprovoked aggression by an outside power, but Afghanistan was able to preserve its independence and avoid foreign occupation.

A Peep into Toorkisthān

Rollo Gillespie Burslem (1813–96) was a British soldier in the 13th Prince Albert’s Light Infantry Regiment, which was part of the Anglo-Indian Army of the Indus that invaded Afghanistan during the initial phase of the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839–42). Burslem’s regiment later became part of the occupying force tasked with enforcing order in the country. In the summer of 1840, Burslem accompanied Lieutenant Stuart of the Bengal Engineers on a mission to survey the passes of the Hindu Kush and the Turkestan mountain ranges. A Peep into Toorkisthān is Burslem’s account of the mission. The party left Kabul with a military escort on June 13, traveled to Balkh through Bamyan, and returned to Kabul on November 7, three days after the surrender of Dost Muhammad Khan to Sir William Macnaghten, the British envoy to Afghanistan. First published in London in 1846, the book is comprised of 20 short chapters that describe the routes that the mission took and the people, physical features, ancient ruins, markets, and vegetation of the places visited. Burslem also recounts military engagements fought with the Afghan rebels and concludes his narrative with the encounter at Purwan Durrah with Dost Muhammad and his men. On this occasion, a panic seized a British reconnaissance force, resulting in the loss of several officers. The book includes a route map and is illustrated with plates showing two different views of the cave of Yeermallik, a view of the town and fortress of Kollum, and facsimile drawings of ancient coins that Burslem collected during the mission.

A Dictionary of the Pathan Tribes on the North-West Frontier of India

Pathan is a British term for Pashtun (also seen as Pushtun and Pukhtun), the people who inhabited the region along the border between British India and Afghanistan. Today they constitute the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan and the second largest in Pakistan. During much of the 19th and early 20th centuries, British India sought to control the Pathan areas in order to secure India’s northwestern border with Afghanistan. A Dictionary of the Pathan Tribes on the North-West Frontier of India was compiled by James Wolfe Murray (1853–1919), a British officer who was at the time an assistant quartermaster general in the intelligence branch in India. The book was published in Calcutta in 1899. The dictionary provides a detailed index of the Pathan tribes and their subdivisions. It does not include details on Pathan history or genealogy. The dictionary uses a hierarchical classification that starts with the tribe on top, followed by the clan, the division of the clan, the subdivision of the division, the section of the subdivision, and other minor fractions of the section. The entries are alphabetically ordered, from the lesser entity to the greater. The locality of the tribe, clan, or division is given in brackets. Some entries are also followed by figures in parentheses, indicating the number of fighting men in that division or fraction. The dictionary concludes with a note explaining the various spiritual titles and denominations used by the Pathans, and a color map showing the tribal boundaries.

The Life of Abdur Rahman, Amir of Afghanistan

ʻAbd al-Rahman Khan (1844‒1901) ruled Afghanistan from 1880 to 1901. He was a grandson of Dost Mohammad Khan (ruled 1826‒39 and 1845‒63), the founder of the Barakzai dynasty of Afghanistan after the fall of the Durranis and the end of the First Anglo-Afghan War in 1842. After long years in exile in Central Asia, Rahman came to power in Afghanistan with the support of the British, by whom he was later patronized financially, politically, and militarily. The Life of Abdur Rahman, Amir of Afghanistan is a two-volume work, edited and translated from the original Persian by Mir Munshi Sultan Mohamed Khan, the amir’s former state secretary. Volume one consists of 12 chapters, the first 11 of which are an autobiographical narrative of the amir’s life up to his accession to the throne at the end of the Second Anglo-Afghan War and his early years as ruler, in which he consolidated his grip on the country by defeating the Hazaras and conquering Kafiristan. The final chapter of volume one and the eight chapters of volume two consist of ʻAbd al-Rahman Khan’s observations and reflections on various matters as conveyed by Sultan Mohamed Khan. The titles of some of these chapters indicate the range of topics covered: “My Successor to the Throne of Kabul”; “The Means I Took for the Encouragement of Progress in Commerce, Industries, and Arts”; “A Few Details in My Daily Life”; “The Boundaries of Afghanistan and the Durand Mission”; “The Future of Afghanistan”; and “England, Russia, and Afghanistan.” The book includes a preface by Sultan Mohamed Khan in which he explains how the book was composed, and in which he claims that “since the time of the great Mogul Emperors—Timur, Babar, and Akbar, etc. no Muslim sovereign has written his autobiography in such an explicit, interesting, and lucid manner as the Amir has done….” The book is illustrated and contains a genealogical table of the Barakzais and several maps.