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The Amir's garden, Jellalabad, from entrance.

The Amir's garden, Jellalabad, from entrance.

Photographer: Burke, John

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1878

Shelfmark: Photo 487/(76)

Item number: 76

Length: 21.2

Width: 28.7

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

Photograph of the garden of the Amir of Afghanistan (Wazirbagh) with soldiers in the foreground, taken by John Burke in 1878. The gardens were situated about half a mile to the west of Jalalabad (the royal winter capital) and contained the palace of the Amir, two large tanks or reservoirs and a circular summer house, shown in this view. Jalalabad, situated in a fertile and well-watered valley in eastern Afghanistan, was known for its gardens, first built here by the Mughals. Babar, the founder of the Mughal empire (1483-1530), planted gardens here where he halted during his journeys.

Burke accompanied the Peshawar Valley Field Force, one of three British Anglo-Indian army columns deployed in the Second Afghan War (1878-80), 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'. Coming to India as apothecary with the Royal Engineers, Burke turned professional photographer, assisting William Baker. Travelling widely in India, they were the main rivals to the better-known Bourne and Shepherd. Burke's 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. 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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