Welcome to the podcast! I’m recording this episode on the 1st Anglo Afghan War while dealing with selling my house and going through a divorce. The podcast is a great escape for me during these difficult times.

Quick housekeeping:

I’m pleased to welcome new patron Matt Anderson as a Loveable Chimney Sweep. Update on transcripts: I’ve been working on fully footnoted transcripts back to episode 32. Apple Podcasts now automatically produces transcripts for all episodes, which is great for accessibility. Today we’re continuing our series on the invasion of Afghanistan. If you haven’t listened to episodes 054-056 yet, start there first.

Prelude to the invasion:

The First Anglo-Afghan War is remembered as a great military disaster and a masterclass in bad political decision-making. I discuss how this war doesn’t fit neatly into typical frameworks like colonialism or imperialism. The British goal was to install a friendly king as a buffer, not to rule directly.

Different world views

I explore the concept of Orientalism and how it applied to British views of Afghanistan at the time. We look at quotes from British envoys and compare them to Roman descriptions of Germanic tribes, noting similarities in how “frontier” peoples were viewed. I discuss the Afghan perspective and capabilities, including their use of the jezail rifle.

The key British players introduced:

  • Lord Auckland (Governor General)
  • Sir William Macnaughten (Secretary to Governor General)
  • Alexander Burnes (British agent)
  • Sir John Keane and Sir Willaby Cotton (Generals leading the invasion force)

Professionals talk logistics

I detail the enormous logistical challenges of planning the invasion, including assembling troops, supplies, and animals. The invasion force had to take a longer desert route instead of the Khyber Pass, covering over 1,200km on foot.

Hunger and missed opportunities

The army starts to starve, and has to force the grim Bolan pass

Next episode:

We’ll follow the army as it pushes deeper into Afghanistan and attempts to put Shah Shuja on the throne.

If you want to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.

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