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The Bala Hissar from east end Siah Sang [Kabul].

The Bala Hissar from east end Siah Sang [Kabul].

Photographer: Burke, John

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1879

Shelfmark: Photo 430/3(11)

Item number: 11

Length: 20.5

Width: 32.3

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

Photograph with a view looking across the snow-clad valley from the Bala Hissar or High Fortress at Kabul in Afghanistan, taken by John Burke in 1879 during the course of the Second Afghan War (1878-80). The Sia Sang mosque at the gate of the Bala Hissar was where the Amir Dost Muhammed had his simple coronation ceremony. This valley was a feature of major military importance in the war, although conditions were harsh, particularly during the cold Afghan winters. The ancient fortress was the 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. When British troops under General Roberts occupied the city in 1879, the fortress was partially destroyed by them in retaliation for the killing of the British Resident Sir Louis Cavagnari and his mission by the Afghans in September that year.

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.

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