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Surakh-aub, bridge showing gorge.

Surakh-aub, bridge showing gorge.

Photographer: Burke, John

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1879

Shelfmark: Photo 487/(96)

Item number: 96

Length: 17.8

Width: 31.6

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

Photograph showing the Surkhab river gorge in Afghanistan with a bridge across it, taken by John Burke in 1879. The Surkhab or Red River, rises in the Safed Koh mountain range and eventually joins the Kabul river. Burke, an intrepid

photographer widely travelled in the Indian sub-continent, is best known for his photography during the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-80). He entered Afghanistan in 1878 with the Peshawar Valley Field Force and during the two-year campaign worked steadily in the hostile environment of Afghanistan and the North West Frontier Province (now Pakistan), the scene of the military operations. Burke's photographs include many of the people of Afghanistan and 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.

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