Afghan Frontier: Feuding and Fighting in Central Asia by Victoria Schofield

By Victoria Schofield

"Every rock, each hill has its story", Winston Churchill wrote of the North-West Frontier, and this is the whole tale of those turbulent lands. opposed to a historical past of the background and geography of the area, the writer paints a bright photograph of this impressive position. Drawing on written documents, soldier's letters, memsahibs' journals, tourists' stories and primary hand adventure, Victoria Schofield unravels the historical past of the North-West Frontier layer by way of layer.

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Gradually, as their knowledge of the land increased, the British came to realise just how inaccessible the Pamirs were and the fear of invasion by that route receded; however, they were always concerned that the Russians would be able to stir up trouble in an area so close to India. After a series of political crises between Britain and Russia in the late nineteenth century, the Pamirs were taken as the point of departure in fixing the northern Frontier between the great empires of the world, joining, it was believed at the time, Russia, China and Britain.

The hills on the other hand are barren and not self-supporting for the hardy population which they breed. Above all they are difficult of access and easy to defend. When we speak of them as hills, it does not mean rolling downs on which tanks or cavalry can operate, but the worst kind of mountain-warfare you can imagine. There are steep precipices, narrow winding valleys, every vantage point commanded by another, and innumerable refuges and routes of escape. It is this country that makes the Frontier problem.

The roof of the world Higher than the Alps piled upon the Pyrenees, the Pamirs form one of the highest mountain ranges in the world; it is not for nothing that they are called ‘the roof of the world’. This rocky tableland is at one of the most inaccessible points in the north of the Indian sub-continent; so it was only geographical ignorance which made the British fear the Pamirs as one of the most direct of the invasion routes for the Russians. One of the great nineteenth-century explorers, Captain Francis Younghusband, who became famous for his travels throughout the area, mapped the mountains and passes.

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