July 27, 2016

Southern Afghanistan and the North-West Frontier of India

Southern Afghanistan and the North-West Frontier of India is a pamphlet containing two separate works, “Southern Afghanistan. The Tal-Chotiali Route,” and a paper entitled “The North-West Frontier of India.” The first work is a reprint of two articles that appeared originally in Army and Navy Magazine arguing the importance of the Tal‒Chotiali route as a link between southern Afghanistan and British India. The author, Griffin W. Vyse, advocates the permanent stationing of British troops at Tal (in present-day Pakistan) in order to control the eastern terminus of this route running from India to Kandahar via Pishin. Vyse had served as field engineer in part of the Tal‒Chotiali Field Force in southern Afghanistan during the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–80), and he bases his argument on information obtained from his service in the field. He begins with a general discussion of the passes from India into Afghanistan and notes that until very recently European writers knew of only three such passes, the Khyber, the Gulairi (or Gomal), and the Bolan. He points out the existence of many more passes, including 92 alone in the part of Afghanistan bordering Baluchistan, of which he argues the Tal‒Chotiali route is the most important. The work contains a detailed discussion of the geography of the region, with many historical references to the routes taken by military leaders, going back to the Emperor Babur in 1505, to cross the mountains separating Afghanistan and India. The second essay is a bitter attack on the importance assigned by British policy to the districts of the Northwest Frontier, which Vyse argues are much poorer and harder to control than southern Afghanistan and Baluchistan. The pamphlet is subtitled “A Refutation of Mistakes Made in Parliament” and is dedicated to the Marquis of Hartington, Secretary of State for India. It contains a large fold-out sketch map by Vyse of southern Afghanistan and northern Baluchistan showing the Tal‒Chotiali route.

England and Russia in Central Asia

Demetrius Charles Boulger (1853–1928) was a British orientalist who wrote prolifically on topics mainly related to the British Empire. With Sir Lepel Henry Griffin (1838–1908), a British administrator in India, he co-founded the Asiatic Quarterly Review, which he edited for a time. Presented here is Boulger’s two-volume England and Russia in Central Asia, published in 1879 during the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–80). Boulger was an unapologetic imperialist with strongly anti-Russian views. In this book he predicts an “imminent” Anglo-Russian war, which, he argues, Great Britain should undertake at a time when it is still “strong enough to solve the Central Asian Question wholly in our own favour.” Volume one is largely dedicated to matters pertaining to Russia. Its 11 chapters cover such topics as recent Russian explorations in Central Asia, the Amu Darya River, Russian government of Turkestan, Russia’s military strength in Central Asia, and Russia’s relations with Khiva and Khokand, Bukhara, and Persia. This volume has seven appendices containing official documents, including the texts of the treaties concluded by Russia with the khanates of Khiva and Bukhara. A “latest” Russian official map of Central Asia is also included at the end of volume one. Volume two covers matters relating primarily to Great Britain and British India. It has ten chapters, covering such topics as recent British explorations in Central Asia, the Anglo-Indian army, Afghanistan, and England and Persia. The final chapter, “The Rivalry of England and Russia,” summarizes the main arguments and warns of Russian intentions. Two appendices contain the texts of the treaties of Gulistan and Turcomanchai, imposed by Russia on Qajar Persia in 1813 and 1828 respectively. A third appendix, entitled “A French Opinion upon England and Russia in Central Asia,” contains an assessment of the strategic situation in the region that was published by the influential French daily Le Journal des Débats in the spring of 1878. At the start of volume two there is also a fold-out map of Persia and Afghanistan. In the end, the Anglo-Russian war that Boulger predicted never materialized, as Russia never seriously threatened India and as subsequent events such as the Russo-Japanese War (1904–5), World War I, and the Russian Revolution shifted the focus of both powers to other regions.

The Afghan Question

The Afghan Question is a pamphlet containing the text of a speech given by Thomas George Baring, first earl of Northbrook (1826–1904), in Winchester, United Kingdom, on November 11, 1878. Northbrook was a prominent Liberal politician who served as viceroy of India from 1872 to 1876. As viceroy, he opposed the suggestions increasingly voiced in London that Russian expansion in Central Asia be countered by British efforts to secure the northwestern approaches to India, possibly even by expansion into Afghanistan. In the speech, Northbrook reviews the history of British policy toward Afghanistan since 1840 and the end of the First Anglo-Afghan War in 1842, and in particular his own policy as viceroy of not pressing for the establishment of a British resident mission in Kabul or insisting that the ruler of Afghanistan receive British officers at his court. He then reviews the controversy that had arisen since the summer of 1878, when it was learned in London that a Russian mission had arrived in Kabul on July 22. The British authorities immediately decided to send a mission of their own to the Afghan capital, which on September 21 was denied entrance to the country by Afghan officials at the Khyber Pass. The British then issued an ultimatum to the ruler of Afghanistan, Amir Sher Ali Khan, containing certain demands which, if not met, would result in the commencement of war on November 20. Northbrook chides the government for doing little to ascertain the intentions of either the Russians or the Afghans, failing to communicate adequately with the amir, and in effect using the controversy over the missions as a pretext to launch a war. He ends the speech by asking “whether the war is just, and whether it is necessary,” and concludes that “upon these two essential questions, I am sorry to say, it is quite impossible for me, in the present state of the information before the public, to pronounce a decided or positive opinion.” Northbrook remained a critic of the war and, when the Liberals returned to power under William Gladstone in April 1880, advocated for complete and rapid withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan.

History of the War in Affghanistan, from Its Commencement to Its Close

History of the War in Affghanistan, from its Commencement to its Close is a narrative of the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839–42). The book is based on the journal and letters of an anonymous, high-ranking British officer, who purportedly served many years in the British army in India. Published in London in 1843, the book was edited by Charles Barnes Nash (1815–92), a British lawyer who was extensively engaged in the affairs of public companies in Great Britain. The book is comprised of 14 chapters, beginning with a general description of the country and its people and a history of the Durrani Empire (1747–early 19th century), the predecessor state to modern Afghanistan. The war began when the British launched an invasion with the aim of overthrowing the Afghan ruler, Amir Dost Mohammad Khan, and replacing him with the supposedly pro-British former ruler, Shah Shujaʻ. The invaders were at first successful. They installed Shah Shujaʻ in Jalalabad and forced Dost Mohammad to flee the country. But in 1841 Dost Mohammad returned to Afghanistan to lead an uprising against the invaders and Shah Shujaʻ. The rebellion forced the British force to retreat to India; the force was then annihilated by Afghan tribesmen. In the end, the war proved futile, as Dost Mohammad eventually returned to rule Afghanistan. History of the War in Affghanistan, from its Commencement to its Close recounts the stages of the war in chronological order, beginning with the declaration of war at Simla, British India, and concluding with the complete British withdrawal from Afghanistan in October 1842.

England and Russia in the East

Henry Creswicke Rawlinson (1810–95) was a British scholar and diplomat, best known for his contributions to the field of Assyriology. In 1827 he entered the service of the East India Company, where he held a variety of posts. He was involved in the reorganization of the Persian army in 1833‒39 and in 1843 was appointed political agent of the East India Company in Turkish Arabia. He later served as consul general in Baghdad, where, in addition to his official duties, he took part in archeological expeditions and worked at deciphering Akkadian cuneiform tablets. He returned to England in 1856 and in 1858 was elected to Parliament as a member of the Conservative Party. He served briefly as British minister to Persia, where he was known for his uncompromising attitude towards Russia, which he regarded as a growing threat to the security of British India and to British interests in the region. England and Russia in the East, published in 1875, is a collection of five essays by Rawlinson about Persian, Afghan, and Central Asian affairs, three of which are reprints of articles that appeared in the Calcutta Review and the Quarterly Review, and two of which were written for this volume. Rawlinson focuses on the perceived Russian threat and argues that “in the event of Russia’s approach to Herát, it will be indispensable to the safety of India that we should resume our military occupation of Western Afghanistán….”  Chapter four of the work, “Central Asia,” is the most scholarly and least polemical part of the book. It offers a comprehensive overview of the geography of the entire region, which Rawlinson defines as located “between the Russian empire to the North and the British-Indian empire to the south, including, perhaps, a portion of the Persian province of Khorassán to the west, and Chinese Turkestán to the east.” Rawlinson provides a wealth of detail about the region, drawn from all of the leading British, Russian, German, and French authorities as well as knowledge derived from his own travels and observations. Regional treaties dating from 1853 to 1874 are included in the appendix in whole or in extract.

Recollections of the Kabul Campaign, 1879 & 1880

Recollections of the Kabul Campaign, 1879 & 1880 is a firsthand account of the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–80). The author, Joshua Duke, was a British officer in the Bengal Medical Service, attached to “our native army in India.” The war began in November 1878 when Great Britain, fearful of what it saw as growing Russian influence in Afghanistan, invaded the country from British India. The first phase of the conflict ended in May 1879 with the Treaty of Gandamak, which permitted the Afghans to maintain internal sovereignty but forced them to cede control over their foreign policy to the British. Fighting resumed in September 1879 after an anti-British uprising in Kabul that resulted in the death of Sir Louis Cavagnari, the British resident in Kabul and a negotiator of the Treaty of Gandamak, and of nearly all the British soldiers at the residency. The Kabul Field Force, commanded by General Sir Frederick Roberts and composed of British and Indian army regiments, was sent to Kabul to restore order and take revenge. Recollections of the Kabul Campaign offers a vivid eye-witness account of the main incidents of the war, including the bloody siege of the Sherpur Cantonment of December 1879, in which Afghan forces mounted a nearly successful attack on the Anglo-Indian forces, the relief march from Kabul to Kandahar in August 1880, and the climactic Battle of Kandahar in September 1880 that ended the war. In addition to his account of the military operations, Duke provides insights from his perspective as a medical officer, for example, on the treatment of wounds by traditional methods by the Afghan forces. The book is illustrated with a frontispiece photograph of Roberts and maps and drawings of important battles and fortresses. The appendix contains a summary explanation of the causes of both Anglo-Afghan wars, the full text of the Treaty of Gandamak, and copies of correspondence between Russian and Afghan authorities that were found by the British when they occupied Kabul.