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Group. The Amir Yakub Khan & sirdars of Kabul [Safed Sang].

Group. The Amir Yakub Khan & sirdars of Kabul [Safed Sang].

Photographer: Burke, John

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1879

Shelfmark: Photo 487/(99)

Item number: 99

Length: 17.8

Width: 31.9

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

Photograph featuring Yakub Khan, the Amir of Afghanistan, seated in the centre, and his officers, taken in May 1879 by John Burke at Safed Sang in Afghanistan. The six foot tall Daoud Shah, from the Ghilzai tribe, his commander-in-chief, sits at the Amir's right. To the Amir's left is Habibullah Khan, the moustafi or prime minister. Burke accompanied British forces into Afghanistan in 1878 and covered the events of the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-80), becoming the first significant photographer of the country and its people in the process. The British, having defeated the Amir Sher Ali's forces, wintered in Jalalabad, waiting for the new Amir Yakub Khan to accept their terms and conditions. One of the key figures in the negotiations was the military administrator Pierre Louis Napoleon Cavagnari (1841-1879), a half-Irish, half-Italian aristocrat who was appointed as emissary by the Viceroy Lord Lytton.

In May 1879, Yakub Khan travelled to Gandamak, a village just outside Jalalabad and entered into negotiations with Cavagnari as a result of which the Treaty of Gandamak was signed whereby the Amir ceded territories to the British and accepted a British envoy in Kabul. Cavagnari took up the post of British Resident in Kabul in July 1879. He was known to be reckless and arrogant rather than discreet and his role as envoy was viewed as injudicious even by some of the British. The situation in Kabul was tense and eventually some Afghan troops who had not been paid by the Amir rebelled and attackled the Residency, killing Cavagnari and his mission in September 1879. The war was far from over despite the treaty and British troops were recalled over the mountains to occupy Kabul, secure it and launch punitive action against the Afghans. Yakub Khan abdicated, taking refuge in the British camp and was subsequently sent to India in December.

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