Being a Personal Narrative of a Journey to, and Residence in that city in the years 1836-8
Author: Lt Col Sir Alexander Burnes
|No. of Pages||448|
“Cabool”, first published in 1842, is a must-read. It’s a rare book published with the aim to preserve archives. In recent years, there has been a growing and urgent upsurge of interest in learning about Afghanistan — primarily, for political reasons and strategic international compulsions.
The personal accounts and observations of Sir Alexander Burnes may provide us with the historical backdrop of conflict in contemporary Afghanistan. It also presents the background of a British colonial strategy and the Russian plans for the hot waters as they were being constructed in the author’s time — to which he was also an architect in his own right.
The book invokes a world where war with Sindh is successfully averted; military features of the native land are mapped by the British; the river Indus is surveyed under false pretext; natural history and geology of the Indus basin are also recorded; negotiations aim at commercial treaties with Dost Mohammed, sovereign of Afghanistan, and also with the Indian chiefs of the western provinces; Afghans are learning to live with Punjabis under Ranjeet Singh; Kaffirs dance to the tune of their ancient music, but the native suffers — all in all, to gradually become grey to the expanding British and Russian empires.
Sir Alexander Burnes led the British commercial mission to the court of the Emir of Kabul in 1837-38. The mission was a failure. Burnes, however, re-entered Kabul in 1839 with the invading British troops that occupied the Afghan capital. In 1841 he lost his life just at the age of 36 at the hands of a raging Afghan mob.
“Cabool” is published by Jumhoori Publications in collaboration with the National College of Arts, Lahore.