This photograph of the British camp on the Shagai Plateau is from an album of rare historical photographs depicting people and places associated with the Second Anglo-Afghan War. The ascent to the Shagai Plateau begins shortly after the entrance to the Khyber Pass from the southeast (at Peshawar, in present-day Pakistan). The encampment of the conical tents of the Peshawar Valley Field Force stretches off into the horizon. The camels seen among the tents were used by the British and Indian troops to transport supplies and equipment. Smaller hills in the Safed Koh mountain range flank both sides of the encampment. The photograph presumably was taken shortly before the Battle of Ali Masjid, which occurred in late November 1878 and was the opening battle of the war. The Second Anglo-Afghan War began in November 1878 when Great Britain, fearful of what it saw as growing Russian influence in Afghanistan, invaded the country from British India. The first phase of the war ended in May 1879 with the Treaty of Gandamak, which permitted the Afghans to maintain internal sovereignty but forced them to cede control over their foreign policy to the British. Fighting resumed in September 1879, after an anti-British uprising in Kabul, and finally concluded in September 1880 with the decisive Battle of Kandahar. The album includes portraits of British and Afghan leaders and military personnel, portraits of ordinary Afghan people, and depictions of British military camps and activities, structures, landscapes, and cities and towns. The sites shown are all located within the borders of present-day Afghanistan or Pakistan (a part of British India at the time). About a third of the photographs were taken by John Burke (circa 1843–1900), another third by Sir Benjamin Simpson (1831–1923), and the remainder by several other photographers. Some of the photographs are unattributed. The album possibly was compiled by a member of the British Indian government, but this has not been confirmed. How it came to the Library of Congress is not known.
Attributed Name: Burke, John, died 1900
References: “Shergai Heights looking towards Ali Musjid showing entire line of enemy’s defences right & left of Ali Musjid & camp of 3rd Brigade,” British Library Online Gallery, March 2009, http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/photocoll/s/019pho000000487u00019000.html.
Place: Central and South Asia; Pakistan; Northwest Frontier
Institution: Library of Congress
Physical description: 1 photographic print in an album : albumen