India Office Records: Afghanistan Resources

Pencil sketch of the entrance to the main bazaar in Kabul about 1840
‘Entrance to the Principal Bazaar at Kabul’ from A personal narrative of a visit to Guzni, Kabul, and Afghanistan, and of a residence at the Court of Dost Mohamed, Thomas Vigne Godfrey, 1840

A wealth of archival resources relating to the modern history of Afghanistan can be found in the East India Company and India Office Records and Private Papers, covering the 17th to 20th centuries.

About the collection

The Anglo-Afghan relationship is documented within the records of the East India Company, Board of Control and India Office. They span from the contacts made by the agency of the East India Company in the early 17th century, to the administration of the British Legation in Kabul in the mid-20th century. 

These records are complemented by collections of private papers of individuals who travelled through, or were posted to, Afghanistan.


  • Mountstuart Elphinstone's Mission to the Afghan Kingdom 1808-1809
  • Records relating to the Anglo-Afghan Wars of 1838-1842, 1878-1880 and 1919
  • The Records of the British Legation at Kabul 1923-1948

What is available online?

Some digitised material relating to Afghanistan and the wider region may be found on the Qatar Digital Library.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

The sources for Afghanistan appear across a wide range of East India Company and India Office Series, including the East India Company Original Correspondence; Board of Control Records; Factory Records; Home Miscellaneous Series; Proceedings; Parliamentary Branch; Military Department and Political and Secret Department.

The guide Afghanistan: Sources in the India Office Records contains information on available sources, details of the native agents and British Ministers who held posts in Afghanistan from c.1856 to 1947, the local rulers of Herat, Kabul and Kandahar and those for the whole of Afghanistan.

Apart from the archival material described above, collections of Afghan literary and artistic materials are held in the Persian Collections and Prints & Drawings Section of the British Library.

What is available in other organisations?

Diplomatic responsibility for relations between Britain and Afghanistan rested officially with the Foreign Office and their records relating to Afghanistan can be searched online using the National Archives Discovery Catalogue.

Further information

Lesley Hall A brief guide to sources for the study of Afghanistan in the India Office Records (London, 1981)

M D Wainwright and N Matthews A Guide to western manuscripts and documents in the British Isles relating to South and South East Asia (London, 1965)

Yapp, M E, Strategies of British India - Britain, Iran and Afghanistan, 1798-1850 (Oxford, 1980)

Anthony Farrington (Ed.), British intelligence on Afghanistan and its frontiers, c. 1888-1946: secret and confidential print from the British Government of India (Leiden, 2003)