Major Cavagnari C.S.I. & Sirdars Jellalabad Durbar group.
Photographer: Burke, John
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph by John Burke taken in 1879, showing the British envoy, Major Cavagnari, with Afghan sardars or chiefs, at Jalalabad in Afghanistan, in the period of the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-80). After having taken the Khyber Pass and advanced into Afghanistan, the British occupied Jalalabad, the first major city on the Afghan side and the royal winter capital. They waited here for the new Amir in Kabul, Yakub Khan, to respond to their terms and conditions. This photograph is of Major Cavagnari meeting with the leaders of the tribes in the area, a meeting which was part of the British attempt to win favour with the many semi-independent Afghan tribes in the event of a treaty with the Amir. Pierre Louis Napoleon Cavagnari, was a half-Irish Italian aristocrat, descended from the royal family of Parma. 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 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.