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Title: Imagining Afghanistan : British foreign policy and the Afghan polity, 1808-1878
Author: Bayly, Martin
Awarding Body: King's College London (University of London)
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis seeks to provide a cultural history of Anglo-Afghan relations during the nineteenth century. Specifically, it explores the manner in which British perceptions of Afghanistan provided the understandings that guided policy decisions. These understandings did not consist purely of ideas driven by strategic logic. Rather, throughout the nineteenth century, building on the initial works of European travelers, the British developed, refined, and acted upon an amorphous and contested ‘idea’ of Afghanistan; one that was more than simply the function of great power geopolitics. The sources informing this imagined entity were cultural, intellectual, moral, political, and social-scientific, as much as they were emotional. It was an idea, or collection of ideas, that would evolve and become trammeled by events, and ultimately leave a legacy that persists to this day. This thesis aims to make two contributions: firstly, to recover Anglo-Afghan relations from a historiography dominated by great power relations, specifically Anglo-Russian relations and the ‘great game’. Secondly, to contribute to the wider debate on the contributions that imperial history can offer to the International Relations discipline. The thesis develops in three sections. The first section examines how British official knowledge of Afghanistan was constructed through the experience of early British explorers and their published travel accounts, focusing in particular on the works of Mountstuart Elphinstone, Alexander Burnes, and Charles Masson. The second section looks at how key policy decisions leading to the first Anglo-Afghan war were shaped by the knowledge provided by an Afghanistan ‘knowledge community’. The third section on ‘exception’ considers the impact of the first Anglo-Afghan war on diplomatic relations, and charts the emergence of a particular ‘idea’ of Afghanistan mediated by the intellectual and cultural influences of a particular frontier mentality.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available