Major Cavagnari C.S.I. & chief sirdars with Kunar Syud [Jalalabad].
Photographer: Burke, John
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of Major Cavagnari and Afghan sardars or chiefs including Kunar Syed, taken at Jalalabad in Afghanistan by John Burke in 1878. 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 Pierre Louis Napoleon Cavagnari (1841-1879). A half-Irish, half-Italian aristocrat, descended from the royal family of Parma on his father's side, he had been brought up in England, with schooling at Addiscombe. He served with the East India Army in the 1st Bengal Fusiliers and then transferred into political service, becoming Deputy Commisssioner at Peshawar, and was appointed as envoy by the Viceroy Lord Lytton in the 1878 mission to Kabul which the Afghans refused to let proceed. This refusal was one of a series of events which led to the Second Afghan War. In this photograph Major Cavagnari is in the centre with Badshah Kunar Syed, a powerful local ruler,
immediately to the left. Sardar Kala Khan, the emissary between Yakub Khan and the British, is on the other side of Cavagnari. 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.