Map of city [of Kabul], ground plan drawn by Guides.
Photographer: Burke, John
Medium: Photographic print
Photographic copy of a detailed map of Kabul, Afghanistan, taken by John Burke in 1880. Burke accompanied the Anglo-Indian forces into Afghanistan during the Second Afghan War (1878-80).
His two-year 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 (1878-80). 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, creating a buffer state. In 1878 the Amir Sher Ali, who for the majority of his reign kept good terms with the British, was devastated by the death of his favourite son and his court was in disarray. The British were trying to establish a permanent mission at Kabul which Sher Ali, trying to keep a balance between the Russians and British, would not permit. The arrival of a Russian diplomatic mission in Kabul increased British suspicions of Russian influence and ultimately led to the Second Afghan War. The British undertook a three-pronged drive into Afghanistan, held the Khyber Pass and defeated the Amir's forces. Appointing his son Yakub Khan as regent, Sher Ali fled from his capital to take refuge in Russian Turkestan but died at Mazhar-e-Sharif on 21 February 1879. Yakub had to agree to the Treaty of Gandamak, whereby Afghanistan ceded to the British control of its foreign affairs, and the Khyber and Michni Passes, and allowed British representatives in Kabul and other locations.
Sir Louis Cavagnari took up the post of British Resident at Kabul in July 1879, but along with his mission was killed by Afghan troops just two months later. The Afghan war was not yet over, and in a fresh phase of the campaign, British forces under General Roberts retook Kabul in October 1879 and launched punitive action against the Afghans. Burke's photographs in this album are a record of the city in this period, 1879-80.
This map of the city of Kabul was prepared by the Queen's Own Guides. The Corps of Guides was an elite fighting force originally raised in 1846 by Lt. H. D. Lumsden in Peshawar. It consisted of one troop of cavalry and two companies of infantry, with 300 English and native troops, and operated in the North West Frontier as the Trans-Frontier Brigade. In 1876 Queen Victoria conferred on the Corps of Guides the style of 'Queen's Own', making them one of the first units of the Indian Army to become a Royal regiment. For 60 years thereafter they fought 54 campaigns along the Khyber Pass which figures hugely in their annals, and they became the most famous of Indian Army regiments. (Lt. Lumsden is credited with the invention of khaki in his search for something more suitable to the terrain as uniforms for the Guides rather than the tight-fitting scarlet jackets of the British troops). The Guides had a huge role in the first phase of the Second Afghan War when many of their men were killed.