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Afghanistan 1843-1878: Sources in the India Office Records

Chronology 1843-1878

Portrait heads of Dost Muhammad

Portrait heads of Dost Muhammad, and three members of his family, E.Eden, June 1841. ©The British Library Board [WD 1291]



1843Return of Dost Muhammad Khan to Kabul. British annex Sind
1845-46First Anglo-Sikh War
1846Death of Muhammad Akbar Khan, heir apparent of Dost Muhammad
1847-48Ghilzai rebellions
1848-49Second Anglo-Sikh War: Dost Muhammad Khan allies with the Sikhs
1849British defeat the Sikhs and their allies and annex the whole of the former Sikh dominions. The whole of northern Afghanistan (except Badakhshan) submits to Dost Muhammad
1851Yar Muhammad Khan of Herat dies; succeeded by his son Saiyid Muhammad Khan
1854Persian attempts to exert control over Herat: British remonstrate. Persian envoy to Kabul seeks anti-British alliance
1854-56Crimean War between Britain and Russia
1855Mission of Ghulam Haidar Khan, heir-apparent of Kabul, as plenipotentiary to meet the British at Peshawar. Treaty of friendship signed with Sir John Lawrence for the Government of India. Dost Muhammad annexes Kandahar, provoking considerable opposition. Saiyid Muhammad of Herat overthrown by a conspiracy
1856Persians besiege Herat; it falls in October. Ghilzai revolts
1856-57Arrival of British Vakil to the Court of the Amir of Kabul (see British Representatives in Afghanistan)
1857Jan Dost Muhammad goes to Peshawar and concludes a treaty with the Government of India; is granted a subsidy
Mar Anglo-Persian Treaty of Paris; Persians withdraw from Herat; a nephew of Dost Muhammad appointed ruler
Apr A British Military Mission under Major H.P. Lumsden arrives in Kandahar
1857May Outbreak of rebellion in India against the British
1858Death of Ghulam Haidar Khan; Sher Ali appointed heir apparent. Government of India transferred from the East India Company to the British crown
1859Badakhshan recognises Dost Muhammad Khan as ruler. British annex Baluchistan
1863May Dost Muhammad annexes Herat
Jun Death of Dost Muhammad Khan; Sher Ali succeeds to much opposition
1863-69Civil war between Sher Ali and his brothers
1863Sher Ali defeats the combined forces of Muhammad Azim Khan and Muhammad Afzal Khan
1864Abdur Rahman Khan, son of Muhammad Afzal Khan flees to Bokhara; Sher Ali imprisons Muhammad Afzal Khan; Muhammad Azim Khan takes refuge at Rawalpindi with the British. The death of the heir apparent casts Sher Ali into a fit of melancholia. The British Vakil leaves Kabul, leaving the Munshi in charge
1866Abdur Rahman Khan and Muhammad Azim Khan take Kabul and place Muhammad Afzal Khan on the throne. Sher Ali retains Herat and considerable support in the south and north. British recognise Muhammad Afzal as Amir of Kabul
1867Death of Muhammad Afzal Khan; Muhammad Azim Khan succeeds as Amir, quarrels with Abdur Rahman Khan, who leaves for the north

Sher Ali reconquers Kandahar and Kabul. Muhammad Azim flees to Persia, Abdur Rahman Khan takes refuge in Tashkent. British Vakil returns to Kabul


The Government of India grant Sher Ali a subsidy and invite him to a conference at Amballa with the Viceroy, Lord Mayo

1871Sher Ali nominates Abdullah Jan as heir apparent; his other sons Muhammad Yakub Khan and Muhammad Ayub Khan rebel
1872Boundary Commission in Seistan under Major Goldsmid to settle frontier between Afghanistan and Persia
1873Anglo-Russian agreement over spheres of influences in Central Asia. Simla conference between Government of India and Afghan delegation
1874Sher Ali imprisons Muhammad Yakub Khan; revolt by his brother Muhammad Ayub Khan fails; he takes refuge in Persia
1875Muslim agent of the Russian Czar appointed to Kabul
1876Turkish mission to Kabul
1877The British establish a military outpost at Quetta in Baluchistan. Sher Ali invited by the British to send a representative to meet Sir Lewis Pelly for a conference at Peshawar. Saiyid Nur Muhammad, the anti-British Afghan representative, dies early in the discussions.
1878Russo-Turkish war settled by the Congress of Berlin



During this period there was a great increase in the production of official record material in the India Office Records on several levels. After the appointment of a British Vakil at Kabul around 1856-57 reports on affairs in Afghanistan were submitted weekly. At another level, because of the international strategic and diplomatic issues involving Afghanistan, there was an increase in correspondence, memoranda, etc, dealing with the formation of high policy decisions, as well as précis, abstracts and summaries. During this period, the series of Political and Secret Department memoranda was started, and also the Political and Secret Department Library.

[IOR:C] Minutes of the Council of India

[IOR:L/PARL] Parliamentary Branch

L/PARL/2/88 Parliamentary papers on Afghanistan, 1846-79
L/PARL/2/89 Parliamentary papers on Afghanistan, 1878-79
L/PARL/2/182 Parliamentary Papers on Afghanistan and Central Asia, 1864-84

[IOR:L/PS] Political and Secret Department

In 1875 the separate Secret and Political Departments, which had until then created their own series of records, were amalgamated into one Political and Secret Department and all correspondence with India, both Secret and Political, was bound up in the same series. Secret letters from Persia, however, continued as a separate series until 1888.

L/PS/3 Home Correspondence, 1807-1911
L/PS/5 Secret Correspondence with India, 1756-1874
L/PS/6 Political Correspondence with India, 1792-1874
L/PS/7 Political and Secret Correspondence with India, 1875-1911
L/PS/8 Demi-Official Correspondence, 1862-1912
L/PS/9/123-190 Secret Letters and enclosures from Persia, 1843-88
L/PS/18 Memoranda: 'A' Series
L/PS/20 Political and Secret Department library: 'B' Books. See also miscellaneous material

[IOR:P] Proceedings

From 1860 (with some variations) Proceedings were no longer sent back to London in full but were divided into Part 'A' Proceedings which were sent back in their entirety, Part 'B' Proceedings of which only a summary was sent and Part 'C' (or 'Deposit') Proceedings which dealt with routine and ephemeral matters, and which were not copied to London.

India: Secret (to 1859 only)
Political and Foreign (to 1858)
Foreign and Political, 1859-61
In the indexes up to 1860-61 see under 'Native Powers' and 'Government of the Punjab' for material on Afghanistan.
India: Foreign (Political) (from 1861)
Monthly indexes to the proceedings in the various branches of the Foreign Department were bound up in annual volumes but not consolidated; for Afghan affairs see indexes to the proceedings in the Political Branch. The indexes are printed and follow a modern-style system from 1861.
Punjab: Foreign (from 1871)
Punjab Foreign Department Proceedings were not received by the India Office prior to 1871.

British Vakil's Reports

From the appointment of a British Vakil at Kabul around 1856 periodical diaries as well as occasional newsletters on affairs in Afghanistan were submitted through the Commissioner, North West Frontier at Peshawar, to the Government of the Punjab who forwarded them to the Government of India. Up to 1865 only translated extracts of the reports were sent to the Indian Government and by them to the India Office but from 1865 translations of the complete diaries were sent. Reports were also received from newswriters elsewhere in Afghanistan. These diaries and newsletters can be found in the following series of India Office Records:

L/PS/5 Secret Department: Enclosures to letters from India (to 1874)
L/PS/7 Political and Secret Department Correspondence (from 1875)
P Proceedings: India Foreign (Political) (to 1871 only)
P Proceedings: Punjab Foreign (from 1871 only)

[MSS EUR] Private Papers

Mss Eur B380

BOURKE (Richard Southwell), 6th Earl of Mayo
Private letters from Richard Southwell Bourke, 6th Earl of Mayo (1822-72), as Viceroy of India 1869-72, to the 8th Duke of Argyll (1823-1900), Secretary of State for India 1868-74, commenting on official matters and enclosing copies of official papers (indexed).
5 volumes, 1869 - 1870

Mss Eur C260

FLEMING (Henry Hugh Mackenzie), Capt
Letters from Capt Henry Hugh Mackenzie Fleming (d 1852), British Army 1840-52, to his parents and sister, describing his life in India, including service in Sind, Afghanistan, and the Sikh War 1848-49, when he was present at the battle of Chilianwala (1849).
1 volume, 1840 - 1851

Mss Eur C605

Manuscript copy of (i) letter by unidentified officer of the Bengal 30th Native Infantry, dated 26 Jan 1849, describing the battle of Chilianwala; (ii) letters, dated 13 and 28 Mar 1849, describing the pursuit of the Sikh and Afghan armies.
7 folios, 1849 - 1849

Mss Eur C634

HERRIES (William Robert), Capt
Letters from Capt (later Maj) William Robert Herries (d 1846), British Army 1835-46, chiefly describing his activities as A.D.C. to the Governor-General Lord Ellenborough, including events in Afghanistan, his task of accompanying the `Gates of Somnath' on their return to India, and the battle of Maharajpur.
106 folios, 1842 - 1846

Mss Eur D1162

FRERE (Henry Bartle Edward), Sir, 1st Bart
Letters from Sir (Henry) Bartle Edward Frere, 1st Bart (1815-84), Bombay Civil Service 1834-67, written while Chief Commissioner in Sind 1850-59, to Brig-Gen John Jacob, Political Superintendent of Upper Sind 1847-58; with copy of Secret Despatch 64 of 1858 from Frere to Governor of Bombay on Kalat affairs 1839-58 recommending formation of Frontier Field Force and the occupation of Quetta.
1 folder, 1858 - 1858

Mss Eur F78

WOOD (Charles ), 1st Viscount Halifax
Wood Collection: papers of Sir Charles Wood, 1st Viscount Halifax (1800-85) as President of the Board of Control 1853-55 and Secretary of State for India 1859-1866.
143 items, 1853 - 1870

Mss Eur F83

BRUCE (James ), 8th Earl of Elgin
Elgin Collection (1): papers of James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin (1811-63) as Viceroy of India 1862-63.
117 items, 1862 - 1863

Mss Eur F90

LAWRENCE (John Laird Mair), Sir, 1st Baron Lawrence
John Lawrence Collection: papers and correspondence of Sir John Laird Mair Lawrence, 1st Baron Lawrence (1811-79), Bengal Civil Service 1830-59; Member, Board of Administration of the Punjab 1849-53; Chief Commissioner of the Punjab 1853-59; Member, Council of India 1859-63; Viceroy of India 1864-69.
79 items, 1841 - 1879

Mss Eur F114

NAPIER (Robert Cornelis), 1st Baron Napier of Magdala
Napier Collection: correspondence and papers of Robert Cornelis Napier, Field Marshal 1st Baron Napier of Magdala (1810-90), Bengal Engineers 1826; Military Member, Governor-General's Council 1861-65; C-in-C, Bombay 1865-68; commanded Abyssinian Expedition 1867-68; C-in-C, India 1870-76; Governor of Gibraltar 1876-82. Some reference to affairs in Central Asia and Persia in 1875.
68 volumes; 7 portfolios; 10 boxes, 1794 -1910

Mss Eur F126

PELLY (Lewis ), Lt-Gen Sir
Pelly Collection: correspondence and papers of Lt-Gen Sir Lewis Pelly (1825-1892), Bombay Army 1840; Indian Political Dept 1851; held political posts in Persia and Zanzibar 1859-62; Political Resident, Persian Gulf 1862-73; Agent to Governor- General and Chief Commissioner, Rajputana 1873-78; Resident and Special Commissioner, Baroda 1874-75.
112 items, 1842 - 1883

Mss Eur F134

GOLDSMID (Frederic John), Maj-Gen Sir
Goldsmid Collection: correspondence and papers of Maj-Gen Sir Frederic John Goldsmid (1818-1908), Madras Army 1839-75, chiefly relating to his work as Boundary Commissioner for the settlement of the Perso-Baluch frontier and Arbitrator in the Perso-Afghan dispute concerning Sistan 1870-72; also including unpublished memoirs and literary papers.
89 items, 1836 - 1899

Mss Eur F231

SMITH (Robert Vernon), 1st Baron Lyveden
Lyveden Collection: correspondence and papers of Robert Vernon Smith, 1st Baron Lyveden (1800-73), as President of the Board of Control 1855-58, relating in particular to the Persian Campaign 1856-57 and the Indian Mutiny 1857-58; also papers, dated 1898-1900, relating to the service and death of Capt Ronald James Vernon in the Boer War.
34 items, 1855 - 1858

Mss Eur G38

BOWRING (Lewin Bentham)
Compiled by Lewin Bentham Bowring (1824-1910), Bengal Civil Service 1843-70, Private Secretary to Viceroy 1858-62, Chief Commissioner, Mysore and Coorg 1862-70. See G38/1, ff.6, genealogical and biographical material on 'Pedigree of Kings of Cabu'

Mss Eur IOR Neg 11671-88

GASCOYNE-CECIL (Robert Arthur Talbot),3rd Marquess of Salisbury
Papers of Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne Cecil, 3rd Marquis of Salisbury (1830-1903) as Secretary of State for India 1866-67 and 1874-78.
18 reels, 1866 - 1878

Mss Eur Photo Eur 440

MOORE (Adolphus Warburton)
Photocopy of letter book of Adolphus Warburton Moore (d 1887), India Office official from 1858-87, Assistant Secretary, Political Department from 1875-85, containing copies of private correspondence with Col (later Maj-Gen Sir) Owen Tudor Burne (1837-1909), Private Secretary to Viceroy 1869-72 and 1876-78, Secretary, Political and Secret Dept, India Office 1874-76 and 1878-80; and others.
1 folder, 1876 - 1877