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The Bala Burj and City [Kabul].

The Bala Burj and City [Kabul].

Photographer: Burke, John

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1879

Shelfmark: Photo 430/3(10)

Item number: 10

Length: 20.1

Width: 31.2

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

Photograph taken by John Burke in 1879 of the lofty detached bastion acting as a watchtower or burj, part of the Bala Hissar citadel situated above the city of Kabul, in the period of the Second Afghan War (1878-80). The ancient citadel of Bala Hissar or High Fortress dated from the 5th century AD and encapsulated Afghan history, with successive invasions and rulers adding to and rebuilding different parts of it. It was the seat of power and much of Kabul city lay within it and its rulers sheltered within its thick walls. When the British under General Roberts occupied Kabul in 1879 after the killing of the British Resident Major Cavagnari by Afghan troops, they stayed here too. When leaving, they partially destroyed it as a lesson to the Afghans.

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.

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