Photograph taken by John Burke in1879, with a view looking along the road towards the fortified post at the summit of the Bala Burj or watchtower of the Bala Hissar fortress at Kabul, in the period of the Second Afghan War (1878-80). The views in this album concentrate on the topography of Kabul and military scenes during the British occupation of 1879-80. In 1878 John Burke accompanied the Peshawar Valley Field Force, one of three British Anglo-Indian army columns deployed in the war, despite being rejected for the role of official photographer. He financed his trip by advance sales of his photographs 'illustrating the advance from Attock to Jellalabad'. Burke's Afghanistan photographs produced an important visual document of the region where strategies of the Great Game (concerning the territorial rivalry between Britain and Russia) were played out.
The Bala Hissar or High Fortress was the ancient seat of power at Kabul dating back to the 5th century AD. It was located south of the city overlooking the houses and bazaars from a commanding height. In 1879, when General Roberts and his troops occupied the city in the second campaign of the war, precipitated by the killing of the British Resident Sir Louis Cavagnari and his mission and the sacking of the residency by the Afghans, the British first stayed in the fortress and later partially destroyed it in punitive action against the Afghans.