The First Anglo-Afghan Wars

A Reader

The First Anglo-Afghan Wars

Book Pages: 288 Illustrations: 1 photograph Published: April 2014

Editor: Antoinette Burton

Contributor: Andrew J. Bacevich

Asian Studies > South Asia, History > European History, World History

Designed for classroom use, The First Anglo-Afghan Wars gathers in one volume primary source materials related to the first two wars that Great Britain launched against native leaders of the Afghan region. From 1839 to 1842, and again from 1878 to 1880, Britain fought to expand its empire and prevent Russian expansion into the region's northwest frontier, which was considered the gateway to India, the jewel in Victorian Britain's imperial crown. Spanning from 1817 to 1919, the selections reflect the complex national, international, and anticolonial interests entangled in Central Asia at the time. The documents, each of which is preceded by a brief introduction, bring the nineteenth-century wars alive through the opinions of those who participated in or lived through the conflicts. They portray the struggle for control of the region from the perspectives of women and non-Westerners, as well as well-known figures including Kipling and Churchill. Filled with military and civilian voices, the collection clearly demonstrates the challenges that Central Asia posed to powers attempting to secure and claim the region. It is a cautionary tale, unheeded by Western powers in the post–9/11 era.


"The reader illustrates the importance of finding elusive local perspectives on the first Anglo–Afghan wars to achieve a nuanced understandingof the conflicts."   — Robert Eric Colvard, Itinerario

"Current Western leaders could definitely benefit from reading the essays in this volume." — Harold E. Raugh, Jr., International Journal of Military History

"Overall, Burton’s impressive collection of documents offers a great deal to students and scholars alike. It will enliven classroom debate in courses on imperialism, warfare, and South and Central Asia. The book provides a much-needed history of recent and contemporary warfare, especially in Afghanistan, South Asia, and the Middle East." — Kate Imy, H-War, H-Net Reviews

"Antoinette Burton has curated a groundbreaking archive of documents related to what she poignantly calls the 'First Anglo-Afghan Wars.' Incisively introduced with a critical eye toward how these texts bear the traces of Afghan and sepoy agency and toward the roles of non-European actors in the unfolding of Afghanistan's history, this brilliant Reader delivers a counter-narrative to the totalizing pull of American exceptionalism. The significance of articulating this archive and situating its contents' relevance to the ongoing present cannot be overstated. As a classroom tool, it promises to revolutionize discussions not only about the British empire, but also about current front-page news." — Zarena Aslami, author of The Dream Life of Citizens: Late Victorian Novels and the Fantasy of the State

"As important as they were in the annals of Britain's imperial history, the first Anglo-Afghan wars were the formative crises of the Afghan state. By drawing together travel writings, newspaper and intelligence reports, diaries, and poems by contemporaries, Antoinette Burton has assembled the essential compendium on these image-fixing encounters for the student and specialist alike." — Nile Green, editor of Afghanistan in Ink: Literature between Diaspora and Nation


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Antoinette Burton is Professor of History and Catherine C. and Bruce A. Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She has written and edited many books, including A Primer for Teaching World History: Ten Design Principles; Empire in Question: Reading, Writing, and Teaching British Imperialism; Archive Stories: Facts, Fictions, and the Writing of History; and After the Imperial Turn: Thinking with and through the Nation, all published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Foreword / Andrew J. Bacevich ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction: The Anglo-Afghan Wars in Historical Perspective 1

Part I. Strategic Interests on the Road to Kabul 15

Part II. The First Anglo-Afghan War, 1839-1842: Occupation, Route, Defeat, Captivity 43

Part III. The Second Anglo-Afghan War, 1878-1880: Imperial Insecurities, Global Stakes 127

Part IV. The Great Game, 1880-1919 189

Selected Bibliography of Secondary Sources 255

Reprint Acknowledgments 257

Index 259
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5662-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5650-9
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