Sha Sahid Mosque showing entrance and Bala Hissar [Kabul].
Photographer: Burke, John
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of a mosque near the ruined fortress of Bala Hissar at Kabul, Afghanistan, taken by John Burke during the Second Afghan War (1878-80). The Bala Hissar or High Fortress was the ancient seat of power at Kabul dating back to the 5th century. British forces entered Kabul under the command of General Roberts in October 1879 and occupied the fortress after the killing of the British Resident Sir Louis Cavagnari and his mission in September of the same year. Roberts was tasked with establishing a line of communication with British forces via the Khyber Pass, securing his force at Kabul and punishing the Afghans responsible for the death of Cavagnari.
The views in this album concentrate on the topography of Kabul and military scenes during the British occupation of 1879-80. John Burke accompanied the Peshawar Valley Field Force, one of three British Anglo-Indian army columns deployed in the war, despite being rejected for the role of official photographer. He financed his trip by advance sales of his photographs 'illustrating the advance from Attock to Jellalabad'. Burke's Afghanistan photographs produced an important visual document of the region where strategies of the Great Game (concerning the territorial rivalry between Britain and Russia) were played out.
The Bala Hissar was located south of the city overlooking the houses and bazaars from a commanding height. In July 1879, having negotiated the Treaty of Gandamak with the new Amir Yakub Ali, whereby the presence of a British Resident in Kabul was agreed to, Sir Louis Cavagnari arrived to take up the post. Just two months later in the volatile atmosphere, he and his mission were killed by Afghan troops and the Residency was sacked. It was obvious that despite the treaty the Afghan war was far from over, and the troops from the first part of the campaign begun in 1878 were recalled to take Kabul in a second phase. The fortress was partially destroyed by General Roberts and his soldiers in retaliation for the killing of the British Resident.