History of the British Conquest of Afghanistan and Western India, 1838-1849

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This book examines British empire building in South Asia in the final decades of East India Company hegemony in India. It traces the history of military expeditions west of the Indus and north of the Sutlej rivers into Afghanistan, Sind, Gwalior, and Punjab. These are critical episodes in the history of empire as it manifested itself in the sub-continent in the middle of the nineteenth century, as an interdisciplinary case study to test theories of imperialism.


“Broad-range analysis of empire-states’ relationships to each other and the nation portray British imperialism as an increasingly Eurocentric process. This conceit broadly characterizes the British in South Asia, as well as their actions in western India between 1838 and 1849. It leads (unlike the Russian empire-state) to progressively less respect for socio-cultural difference. This lack of respect results in the British more rapidly jettisoning South Asian forms of sovereignty. Wallis richly portrays this process in Afghanistan, Sindh, Gwalior and Punjab. It is also a process that continued until it witnessed a major challenge: the Mutiny of 1857. The history of 1857 while more studied than the imperial actions that Wallis documents - should not overshadow the events that precede it. Studies like Wallis’ expand our knowledge of such events by focusing on places and times less studied by historians, both of empire and South Asia.” – Prof. Matthew A. Cook, North Carolina Central University

“We can draw implications from Frank Wallis’ explanation of these British expansions on the frontiers of their empire in this region in order to understand better the present and future politics of the United States on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.” – Prof. Michael Fisher, Oberlin College

“Wallis’ contention that the very nature of the imperial frontier facilitated and encouraged imperial expansion is compelling and well argued. His close attention to internal British debates about territorial expansion and policies towards independent Indian and Afghan states is an important corrective to simplistic theoretical ideas of the meaning, purpose, reason, and idea of empire. With such a detailed examination grounded in in-depth research in British sources Wallis is able to elucidate the important distinction between public proclamations of imperial policy and the private opinions that actually motivated intervention, conquest, and annexation.” – Prof. Mitch Numark, California State University-Sacramento

Table of Contents

Commendatory Foreword by Matthew A. Cook
Prologue by Kaushik Roy
1. Imperialism
2. Afghanistan I
3. Afghanistan II
4. Sind I
5. Sind II
6. Gwalior and the Limits of Imperial Hubris
7. Punjab I
8. Punjab II
9. Conclusion

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