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The Bala Hissar Gate, or Shah Sahid's Gate [Kabul].

The Bala Hissar Gate, or Shah Sahid's Gate [Kabul].

Photographer: Burke, John

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1879

Shelfmark: Photo 430/3(1)

Item number: 1

Length: 20.4

Width: 33.1

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

Photograph taken by John Burke in 1879, in the period of the Second Afghan War (1878-80), with a view of the damaged gate and walls of the Bala Hissar fort in Kabul in Afghanistan, and British troops posed at the entrance to the fort. The views in this album concentrate on the topography of Kabul and military scenes during the British occupation of 1879-80. In 1878 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. Coming to India as apothecary with the Royal Engineers, Burke turned professional photographer, in partnership at first with William Baker. Travelling widely in India, they were the main rivals to the better-known Bourne and Shepherd.

The old citadel of the Bala Hissar or High Fortress was the ancient seat of power at Kabul dating back to the 5th century AD. It was located south of the city overlooking the houses and bazaars from a commanding height. In 1879 when British troops re-occupied the city, the fortress was partially destroyed by General Roberts in retaliation for the killing of the British Resident Sir Louis Cavagnari and his mission by the Afghans.

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