Click here to skip to content

Afghanistan 1881-1919: Sources in the India Office Records

Chronology 1881-1919

Abdur Rahman Khan

Abdur Rahman Khan, Amir of Afghanistan. 1897. ©The British Library Board, Photo 298 (77)



1881 AprBritish forces withdraw from Kandahar
JulMuhammad Ayub Khan advances on Kandahar; defeated by Abdur Rahman Khan
SepForces of Abdur Rahman Khan occupy Herat
1881-84Campaigns to subdue the Northern territories
1881-82Campaigns against the Ghilzai
1882-92Campaigns against the Shinwari
1882British (Indian) Agent arrives in Kabul
1883-84Campaigns against the Mangal-Zurmat (Pushtun tribes)
1884Russians annex Merv. British and Russian governments appoint Commissioners to delineate the boundary of north-western Afghanistan
1885-86Campaign in Laghman
1885-88Afghan Boundary Commission delineates the north-western frontier of the country - the Ridgeway Line
1885 AprAbdur Rahman Khan visits the Viceroy of India at Rawalpindi. The Russians defeat an Afghan force and occupy the oasis of Panjdeh ('The Panjdeh incident'); as a result of negotiations with the British Government the Russians retain Panjdeh in return for relinquishing claims to points within the Amir's dominions
1886-88Campaigns against the Ghilzai
1888Campaign to put down Muhammad 'Ishaq Khan
1889-96Campaigns against Pushtun tribes in Kunar
1889Badakhshan campaign
1890Campaign against the Khan of Asmar
1891Russian surveyors move into the Pamirs in the north east of Afghanistan. British and Russians agree that the Oxus should be the international boundary, as a result of which several areas change rulers; Wakhan added to the Amir's possessions
1891-93Hazarajat campaign
1892Government of India propose to send a mission to the Amir under Lord Roberts (of Kandahar) Abdur Rahman Khan attempts to establish direct relations with British Government
1893Mission of Sir H.M. Durand to Kabul. Agreement of Abdur Rahman Khan to the settlement of the boundary in the Pamirs. Understanding reached over the Indo-Afghan frontier; the 'Durand line' agreed
1894G.N. (later Lord) Curzon visits Abdur Rahman Khan in Kabul
1895-96Campaign against Kafiristan; forcible conversion of pagan inhabitants
1895Slavery in Afghanistan abolished. Abdur Rahman Khan deputes his son Shahzada Nasrullah Khan to London in attempt to establish direct diplomatic relations. British Agent and son murdered by an Agency chuprassi
1897Risings of tribes along the North West Frontier against the Government of India
1901Death of Abdur Rahman Khan: peaceful succession of his son Habibullah. Government of India refuses to recognise the agreement with Abdur Rahman Khan of 1880 as dynastic rather than personal; Habibullah attempts to open independent diplomatic relations. North West Frontier Province becomes a separate administrative unit under the Government of India, distinct from the Punjab
1904Mission to Kabul of Sir Louis Dane

Treaty agreed, based on Abdur Rahman Khan's agreement with the Government of India. Revision of the Goldsmid Award in Seistan

1907Habibullah visits India. Anglo-Russian convention over spheres of influence in Persia, Afghanistan and Tibet virtually ignores local rulers
1911Mahmud Tarzi b rings out the Afghan modernist newspaper Seraj-al-Akhbar
1914Outbreak of First World War: Afghanistan remains neutral
1915Turco-German mission (the Von Hentig-Niedermeyer mission) to Kabul
1918End of World War I
1919-20 FebHabibullah assassinated by person or persons unknown


There are a number of printed works by Europeans employed by the Amir in Kabul. In addition Abdur Rahman Khan wrote (or authorised the writing of) his own autobiography The life of Abdur Rahman, Amir of Afghanistan, edited by Sultan Muhammad Khan (London 1900).

In the India Office Records, there was a proliferation of detailed information from the Agent during this period, although the restrictions on his movements and communications had rendered the material not entirely reliable. There is also correspondence and memoranda concerned with the development of policy as well as précis and summaries prepared as a basis for the latter.

In addition, during this period, such items as gazetteers, military reports, notes on tribes and ethnic groups, Who's Who and reports on survey operations (chiefly produced in connection with boundary delineation) begin to proliferate. They are mainly to be found in the Military and Political and Secret Department Libraries and among the Political Department Memoranda; they may also be found as enclosures to Political and Secret Letters.

[IOR:C] Council of India

[IOR:L/E] Revenue Department

L/E/7 Revenue, Statistics and Commerce Departmental Papers, 1882-87
Revenue and Statistics Departmental Papers, 1887-1921

[IOR:L/MIL] Military Department

L/MIL/17/14 Military Department Library: Afghanistan

[IOR:L/PARL] Parliamentary Branch

L/PARL/2/182-83, 284 and 334 contain Parliamentary Papers dealing with Afghanistan issued during this period

[IOR:L/PS] Political and Secret Department

L/PS/3 Home Correspondence (to 1911)
L/PS/7 Correspondence with India (to 1911)
L/PS/8 Demi-Official Correspondence (to 1912)
L/PS/10 Departmental Papers: Separate (Subject) Files, 1902-31
L/ PS/11 Departmental Papers: Annual Files 19 12-30
L/PS/14/4-7 Correspondence between the Viceroy and the Amir, 1901-20
L/PS/17 Parliamentary Questions and Addresses, 1881-1911
A number of these Questions relate to Afghanistan
L/PS/ 18 'A' Series Memoranda
L/PS/20 Political Department Library: 'B' Series and miscellaneous

[IOR:P] Proceedings

India Foreign
Until 1884 Afghanistan will be found generally under the Political Branch. In 1884 the Frontier Branch was created and took over responsibility for most questions relating to Afghanistan. From 1884 there are consolidated annual indexes to all branches.
Punjab Foreign (to 1901) Frontier Branch are rather sparse
Except for a short series of Irrigation Proceedings, no Proceedings of the Government of the North-West Frontier Province (created 1901) were received by the India Office.

[MSS EUR] Private Papers

Mss Eur C178

ALDER (Garry John)
`British Policy on the Roof of the World 1865-95, with special reference to the Anglo-Russian agreement of 1895', by Garry John Alder (Ph.D. thesis, University of Bristol, 1959), later published as `British India's Northern Frontier, 1865-95' (London 1963).
1 volume, 1865 - 1895

Mss Eur C375

HAMILTON (Lilias ), Dr
Typescript copy of `The Power that Walks in Darkness' an unpublished novel set in Afghanistan by Dr Lilias Hamilton (c1857-1925), personal physician during the 1890s to Abdur Rahman Khan, Amir of Afghanistan.
1 box, 1890 - 1899

Mss Eur D573

MORLEY (John ), Viscount Morley of Blackburn
Morley Collection: papers of John Morley, Viscount Morley of Blackburn (1838-1923), as Secretary of State for India 1905-10 and 1911.
59 volumes; 1 folder, 1905 - 1911

Mss Eur D613

ROOS-KEPPEL (George Olof), Lt-Col Sir
Correspondence of Lt-Col Sir George Olof Roos-Keppel (1866- 1921), Chief Commissioner and Agent to the Governor-General, North West Frontier Province 1908-19, with Lord Hardinge, Viceroy 1910-16, and Lord Chelmsford, Viceroy 1916-21, and others, relating to frontier administration, relations with Afghanistan, the Indian constitutional problem, and international relations.
3 volumes, 1902 - 1919

Mss Eur D659

DANE (Louis William), Sir
Dane Collection: papers of Sir Louis William Dane (1856-1946), Indian Civil Service, Punjab 1876-1913, Foreign Secretary, Government of India 1903-08, Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab 1908-13, mainly relating to the British Mission at Kabul 1904-05.
15 items, 1894 - 1939

Mss Eur D686

BIRDWOOD (William Riddell), Field Marshal 1st Baron Birdwood
Birdwood Collection: papers of Field Marshal Sir William Riddell Birdwood, 1st Baron Birdwood (1865-1951), C-in-C, India 1925-30; including correspondence and papers of Lord Kitchener as C-in-C, India 1902-09 to whom Birdwood was Military Secretary; papers arising from Birdwood's appointments as ADC to the King 1906-11 and 1917-22, and as G.O.C., ANZAC 1914- 18 and Australian Imperial Force 1915-20.
99 items, 1883 - 1949

Mss Eur D727

DURAND (Henry Mortimer), Sir
Durand Collection: papers of Sir Henry Mortimer Durand (1850-1924), Indian Civil Service, Bengal 1870-94, Foreign Secretary to Government of India 1885-94, negotiated frontier agreement with Afghanistan (`Durand Line') 1893, Minister Plenipotentiary at Teheran 1894-1900.
19 items, 1876 - 1908

Mss Eur E204

BETHMANN-HOLLWEG (Theobald von), Count
Letter (nd) in German with Indian translation from Count Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg (1856-1921), German Chancellor 1909-17 to the Thakur Sahib of Gondal, encouraging opposition to British rule in India and advocating the German view of the 1st World War; copy of letter to Amir of Afghanistan introducing members of German mission to Kabul; explanatory note (1921) by Sir Dighton Probyn.
1 volume, 1915 - 1915

Mss Eur E214

FERGUSSON (James ), Sir, 6th Bart
Fergusson Collection: papers of Sir James Fergusson, 6th Bart (1882-1907) as Governor of Bombay 1880-85.
23 items, 1880 - 1885

Mss Eur E233

RUSSELL (Arthur Oliver Villiers), 2nd Baron Ampthill
Ampthill Collection: papers of Arthur Oliver Villiers Russell, 2nd Baron Ampthill (1869-1935), as Governor of Madras 1900-06 and Acting Viceroy 1904.
77 items, 1900 - 1906

Mss Eur E420

BARROW (Edmund George), General Sir
Barrow Collection: official, demi-official and private papers, correspondence and diaries of General Sir Edmund George Barrow (1852-1934), Indian Army 1877-1919, Military Secretary, India Office 1914-17, Member, Council of India 1917-24, including material relating to the Kitchener-Curzon controversy 1905, and the Mesopotamia Commission 1916-17.
45 items, 1877 - 1930

Mss Eur F92

LEE-WARNER (William ), Sir
Lee-Warner Collection: correspondence, writings and papers of Sir William Lee-Warner (1846-1914), Indian Civil Service 1869-95; Secretary, Political and Secret Dept, India Office 1895-1903; Member, Council of India 1902-1912.
32 items, 1863 - 1917

Mss Eur F101

MCMAHON (Arthur Henry), Col Sir
Miscellaneous letters and official reports of Col Sir (Arthur) Henry McMahon (1862-1949), Indian Army 1885, Indian Political Dept 1890-1914; photograph of McMahon with Chinese and Tibetan delegates to Simla Conference, 1913-14; letter from Dalai Lama, 1915.
72 folios, 1900 - 1915

Mss Eur F111-112

CURZON (George Nathaniel), Marquess Curzon
Curzon Collection: correspondence and papers of George Nathaniel Curzon, Marquess Curzon of Kedleston (1859-1925), Parliamentary Under-Secretary, India Office 1891-92 and Foreign Office 1895-98; Viceroy of India 1899-1905; Lord Privy Seal 1915-16; Lord President of the Council and member of War Cabinet 1916-19; Foreign Secretary 1919-24; and papers of his family c1842-1968.
1464 items, 1866 - 1925

Mss Eur F122

RICHARDS (Henry Erle), Sir
Correspondence and papers of Sir Henry Erle Richards (1861-1922) as Legal Member of the Governor-General's Council 1904-1909. Papers on the Viceroy's state visit to Agra attended by the Amir of Afghanistan in 1907.
20 items, 1904 - 1909

Mss Eur F123

HAMILTON (George Francis), Lord
Hamilton Collections: papers of Lord George Francis Hamilton (1845-1927) as Secretary of State for India 1895-1903, including correspondence with the Viceroy, the Governors of Madras and Bombay, and others. With special references to the negotiation with the Amir of Afghanistan in 1901-02. [See also Mss Eur C125].
105 items, 1895 - 1903

Mss Eur F131

KEYES (Terence Humphrey), Brig-Gen Sir
Keyes Collection: letters and papers of Brig-Gen Sir Terence Humphrey Keyes (1877-1939), Indian Army 1897-1932, Indian Political Service 1903-33, relating to his services in Iran 1904-06, Makran (Baluchistan) 1912-17, with the British Military Mission, South Russia 1917-20, and as Resident, Hyderabad 1930-33; with family correspondence and a diary by his daughter; includes papers on the early 20th century Central Asia questions especially on the 1905 Anglo-Afghan treaty.
46 items, 1897 - 1953

Mss Eur F171

WERGE THOMAS (Evelyn Maude)
Werge Thomas Collection: papers of Brig-Gen John Nicholson (1821-57), Bengal Army 1839-57, and other members of his family; of General Sir James Abbott (1807-96), Bengal Artillery 1823, Deputy Commissioner, Hazara 1847-53; of their biographer Evelyn Maude Werge Thomas (1891-1975); and of other members of the Thomas family, including Geoffrey David Ivor Thomas (1905-74), Indian Civil Service, Burma from 1930; includes papers on Russian expansion and the 1st World War.
155 items, 1746 - 1972

Mss Eur F197

YOUNGHUSBAND (Francis Edward), Lt-Col Sir
Younghusband Collection: papers of Lt-Col Sir Francis Edward Younghusband (1863-1942), British Army 1882, Indian Foreign Dept 1889-1909, British Commissioner to Tibet 1903-04, religious thinker; his wife Helen Augusta (nee Magniac) (1861-1945); his daughter Dame Eileen Louise Younghusband (1902-81); and other members of their families.
694 items, 1836 - 1981

Mss Eur F480

LE MARCHAND (John Wharton Jones), Lt
Photographsof Lt John Wharton Jones Le Marchand (1887-1915), Indian Army 1908-1915, with the 56th Punjabi Rifles; also an article entitled "The Le Marchand Story" from The Military Chest, 1986
1 folder, 1909 - 1915

Mss Eur J711

RAVERTY (Henry George), Maj
Papers of Maj Henry George Raverty (1825-1906), Bombay Army 1843-64, oriental scholar, including unpublished manuscripts entitled 'The History of Herat', 'The Mahdi', 'History of the Mings or Hazarahs of the Chingiz or Great Khan'; translations and notes from various oriental works; and a Persian-Pamiri-Chitrali vocabulary; also Raverty's recollections of his experiences during the second Sikh War.
57 items, 1848 - 1906

Mss Eur Photo Eur 291

DAVIS (Walter Stewart)
Copy of memoir by Walter Stewart Davis (b 1865), Indian Police 1884-88, Indian Political Service 1888-1920, Political Agent, Bhopal 1912-20, describing his upbringing and his career on the North-West Frontier and in the Persian Gulf and Bhopal; continued up to 1934 as a journal of his retirement.
423 folios, 1884 - 1920