170327 History Talk An Afghan Disaster 1879-80

Date: 27th March 2017 10:30

Location: Salón de Actos, Espai la Senieta, Moraira (next to the large free car park)

Subject:  An Afghan Disaster 1879-80

Lecturer: Brian Nicholls

In recent years Afghanistan has become a regular topic of discussion for Western politicians and media. Britain’s association with this troubled part of the world goes back to the first disastrous  conflict in 1840 which was followed by two more in 1879 and 1919.

Afghanistan stood between the might of Imperial Russia to the north and British India to the south. Between India and the Afghan border were the Tribal Territories of the North West Frontier. This whole area has been described as ‘one of the most legendary places on Earth… No area of comparable size has seen so much action, bloodshed, intrigue, gallantry, savagery, devotion, patience or sacrifice.’  The political and military machinations in this area were often referred to as ‘The Great Game’, but for the participants it was certainly no game.

This talk concentrates on the events leading up to and following, the murder of the British Envoy Sir Louis Cavagnari and his small escort in the residency at Kabul in the autumn of 1879. This was followed by the catastrophic destruction of a British military force by the rebellious Afghan army.

These events, following the Great Sepoy Mutiny of 1857/8, and the defeat of a similar British force at the hands of the Zulus one year earlier, were a serious blow to the morale of the Empire.

In both cases retribution soon followed but it had been clearly demonstrated that the British Empire was not invulnerable and those lessons were learned and stored away for use many decades later.




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