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The Amir Yakub Khan's camp, Safed Sang.

The Amir Yakub Khan's camp, Safed Sang.

Photographer: Burke, John

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1879

Shelfmark: Photo 487/(97)

Item number: 97

Length: 17.8

Width: 31.6

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

Photograph of the camp of Amir Yakub Khan near Safed Sang, Afghanistan, taken by John Burke in May 1879, the month in which Britain and Afghanistan signed the Treaty of Gandamak. Burke accompanied British forces into Afghanistan in 1878 and covered the events of the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-80), becoming the first significant photographer of the country and its people in the process. The British, having taken the Khyber Pass and defeated the Amir Sher Ali's forces, wintered in Jalalabad, waiting for the new Amir Yakub Khan to accept their terms and conditions. One of the key figures in the negotiations was the military administrator Pierre Louis Napoleon Cavagnari (1841-1879), a half-Irish, half-Italian aristocrat who was appointed as emissary by the Viceroy Lord Lytton.

In May 1879, Yakub Khan travelled to Gandamak, a village just outside Jalalabad and entered into negotiations with Cavagnari as a result of which the Treaty of Gandamak was signed whereby the Amir ceded territories to the British and accepted a British envoy in Kabul. Cavagnari took up the post of British Resident in Kabul in July 1879. He was known to be reckless and arrogant rather than discreet and his role as envoy was viewed as injudicious even by some of the British. The situation in Kabul was tense and eventually some Afghan troops who had not been paid by the Amir rebelled and attacked the Residency, killing Cavagnari and his mission in September 1879. The war was far from over despite the treaty and British troops were recalled over the mountains to occupy Kabul, secure it and launch punitive action against the Afghans. Yakub Khan abdicated, taking refuge in the British camp and was subsequently sent to India in December.

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