Khyber chiefs & Khans, with Captain Tucker, Political Officer in Jamrood Fort
Photographer: Burke, John
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of Afghan chiefs and a British Political Officer posed at Jamrud fort at the mouth of the Khyber Pass, taken by John Burke in 1878. Burke, the most intrepid of the photographers active in Victorian India, accompanied nearly all of the British military campaigns of this period, but is best known for his photography
during the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-80). He accompanied the Peshawar Valley Field Force during the two-year campaign and worked steadily in the hostile environment of Afghanistan and the North West Frontier Province (Pakistan), the scene of the military operations. Burke's photographs include many of the people of Afghanistan, and he is also credited with photographing the many darbars that took place with Afghan chiefs which led to the uneasy peace treaties characteristic of the campaign. His Afghan expedition produced an important visual document of the region where strategies of the Great Game were played out.
The Anglo-Russian rivalry (called the Great Game) precipitated the Second Afghan War. Afghanistan was of strategic importance to the British in the defence of their Indian Empire, and the prevention of the spreading influence of Russia. They favoured a Forward Policy of extending India's frontiers to the Hindu Kush and gaining control over Afghanistan. An opportunity presented itself when the Amir Sher Ali turned away a British mission while a Russian mission was visiting his court at Kabul. The British had demanded a permanent mission at Kabul which Sher Ali, trying to keep a balance between the Russians and British, would not permit.
British suspicions of the Amir's perceived susceptibility to the Russians led them to invade Afghanistan.
In this image a group of Afghans surround a British officer (Captain Tucker) seated amidst them. As a political officer, he would have had a key role in drumming up support for the British war effort through his local contacts.