Connecting Histories in Afghanistan: Market Relations and State Formation on a Colonial Frontier

Connecting Histories in Afghanistan: Market Relations and State Formation on a Colonial Frontier

Connecting Histories in Afghanistan: Market Relations and State Formation on a Colonial Frontier

Connecting Histories in Afghanistan: Market Relations and State Formation on a Colonial Frontier

Synopsis

Most histories of nineteenth-century Afghanistan argue that the country remained immune to the colonialism emanating from British India because, militarily, Afghan defenders were successful in keeping out British imperial invaders. However, despite these military victories, colonial influences still made their way into Afghanistan. Looking closely at commerce in and between Kabul, Peshawar, and Qandahar, this book reveals how local Afghan nomads and Indian bankers responded to state policies on trade.

British colonial political emphasis on Kabul had significant commercial consequences both for the city itself and for the cities it displaced to become the capital of the emerging Afghan state. Focused on routing between three key markets, Connecting Histories in Afghanistan challenges the overtly political tone and Orientalist bias that characterize classic colonialism and much contemporary discussion of Afghanistan.

Excerpt

This book situates nineteenth-century Afghanistan in the context of British Indian colonialism. the general focus is commerce, mainly how local actors including Afghan nomads and Indian bankers responded to state policies regarding popular and lucrative commodities such as fruit and tea. Within those broad commercial concerns, specific attention is given to developments in and between the urban market settings of Kabul, Peshawar, and Qandahar. the colonial political emphasis on Kabul had significant commercial consequences for that city and its economic connections to the two cities it displaced to become the sole capital of the emerging state. the Kabul hypothesis therefore represents a colonial political strategy, and its effects on Kabul-Peshawar and Kabul-Qandahar economic relations are the subject of this book.

There are two basic conclusions to be drawn from the work as a whole. the first runs against standard interpretations of nineteenth-century Afghanistan. in most renditions of this period, Afghanistan remains immune from colonialism emanating from British India due to the outcomes of the two AngloAfghan wars of 1839-42 and 1878-80. the two conflicts are usually interpreted simply as either exceptional “failures” for the British imperial invaders or predictable “victories” for the local Afghan defenders. the basic point made in what follows is that despite the military results of the two wars, Afghanistan is in fact a colonial construct in political, economic, and intellectual terms, at least. However, it will also be made clear that Afghanistan’s colonial moorings in British India by no means denied agency to local actors. a secondary conclusion derived from the facts of colonialism’s determining influence on Afghanistan is that the development of a relatively strong state in the late nineteenth century signaled the beginning of intensifying market hardships for most Afghans.

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