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Sherpur from Asmaie.

Sherpur from Asmaie.

Photographer: Burke, John

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1879

Shelfmark: Photo 430/3(49)

Item number: 49

Length: 19.3

Width: 31.1

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

Photograph with a view looking down onto the Sherpur Cantonment, situated a mile north of the city of Kabul in Afghanistan, taken by John Burke from the Asmai Heights, 1879-80. The cantonment was planned by Sher Ali (1825-1879), Amir of Afghanistan, as the main winter headquarters of his army. The main wall of the cantonment was over a mile and a half long with massive towers at regular intervals for artillery. In October 1879 British forces under General Roberts entered Kabul and occupied its fortress after the death of the British resident Cavagnari and his mission during the Second Afghan War (1878-80). Roberts was tasked with establishing a line of communication with British forces via the Khyber Pass, securing his force at Kabul and punishing those responsible for the death of Cavagnari. The cantonment offered a secure and easily defendable position close to the city; it was large enough to accommodate the troops and provided easy access eastwards through the Khyber Pass towards Peshawar, northwards towards Kohistan and westwards into the Chardeh Plain. Here the forces stayed through the summer of 1880.

The photograph is part of a series of images forming the Afghan War albums which provided a visual document of the country and resulted in Burke achieving renown as the first significant photographer of Afghanistan and its people. The British became involved in Afghanistan, trying to create a buffer state and protect their Indian empire in the face of Russian expansion in Central Asia. The Anglo-Russian territorial rivalry created what came to be known as the Great Game between the powers. In 1878 Burke accompanied British forces into Afghanistan, 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'. In his two-year expedition in Afghanistan during the Second Afghan War, Burke became the photographer of the region where the strategies of the Great Game were played out.

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