Cover image for Afghanistan : a cultural and political history
Title:
Afghanistan : a cultural and political history
Author:
Barfield, Thomas J. (Thomas Jefferson), 1950-
Publication Information:
Princeton : Princeton University Press, [2010]

©2010
Physical Description:
xi, 389 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm.
Summary:
This work traces the historic struggles and the changing nature of political authority in this volatile region of the world, from the Mughal Empire in the sixteenth century to the Taliban resurgence today. The author introduces readers to the bewildering diversity of tribal and ethnic groups in Afghanistan, explaining what unites them as Afghans despite the regional, cultural, and political differences that divide them. He shows how governing these peoples was relatively easy when power was concentrated in a small dynastic elite, but how this delicate political order broke down in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries when Afghanistan's rulers mobilized rural militias to expel first the British and later the Soviets. Armed insurgency proved remarkably successful against the foreign occupiers, but it also undermined the Afghan government's authority and rendered the country ever more difficult to govern as time passed. He describes how Afghanistan's armed factions plunged the country into a civil war, giving rise to clerical rule by the Taliban and Afghanistan's isolation from the world. He examines why the American invasion in the wake of September 11 toppled the Taliban so quickly, and how this easy victory lulled the United States into falsely believing that a viable state could be built just as easily. This book helps the reader understand how a land conquered and ruled by foreign dynasties for more than a thousand years became the "graveyard of empires" for the British and Soviets, and what the United States must do to avoid a similar fate.
Language:
English
Contents:
People and places -- Conquering and ruling premodern Afghanistan -- Anglo-Afghan Wars and state building in Afghanistan -- Afghanistan in the twentieth century : state and society in conflict -- Afghanistan enters the twenty-first century -- Some conclusions.
ISBN:
9780691145686

9780691154411
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Afghanistan traces the historic struggles and the changing nature of political authority in this volatile region of the world, from the Mughal Empire in the sixteenth century to the Taliban resurgence today. Thomas Barfield introduces readers to the bewildering diversity of tribal and ethnic groups in Afghanistan, explaining what unites them as Afghans despite the regional, cultural, and political differences that divide them. He shows how governing these peoples was relatively easy when power was concentrated in a small dynastic elite, but how this delicate political order broke down in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries when Afghanistan's rulers mobilized rural militias to expel first the British and later the Soviets. Armed insurgency proved remarkably successful against the foreign occupiers, but it also undermined the Afghan government's authority and rendered the country ever more difficult to govern as time passed. Barfield vividly describes how Afghanistan's armed factions plunged the country into a civil war, giving rise to clerical rule by the Taliban and Afghanistan's isolation from the world. He examines why the American invasion in the wake of September 11 toppled the Taliban so quickly, and how this easy victory lulled the United States into falsely believing that a viable state could be built just as easily.



Afghanistan is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how a land conquered and ruled by foreign dynasties for more than a thousand years became the "graveyard of empires" for the British and Soviets, and what the United States must do to avoid a similar fate.


Author Notes

Thomas Barfield is professor of anthropology at Boston University. His books include The Perilous Frontier: Nomadic Empires and China, 221 BC to AD 1757 ; The Central Asian Arabs of Afghanistan ; and Afghanistan: An Atlas of Indigenous Domestic Architecture .


Reviews 1

Choice Review

Despite a plethora of books about Afghanistan in the last few years, a good book on the country has not been published since Louis Dupree's 1973 Afghanistan. Maybe the long wait is over. Barfield's new book, from the long and very impressive "Princeton Studies in Muslim Politics" series, comes close to matching Dupree's sweeping sense of Afghanistan's complicated history and culture. An anthropologist, as was Dupree, who personally visited most areas of Afghanistan, Barfield (Boston Univ.) is able to put the bewildering complexity of tribes, ethnic groups, religious sects, warlords, and political feuds that is Afghanistan into a coherent whole that is both readable and informative. Readers looking for new information or insights on the present Afghan quagmire will not find many, nor will they find suggestions on how NATO might extract itself from this difficult situation. However, they will find a well-written, insightful, and informative work on Afghanistan that will be well worth their attention. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. G. M. Farr Portland State University


Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. vii
Prefacep. ix
Introductionp. 1
Chapter 1 People and Placesp. 17
Chapter 2 Conquering and Ruling Premodern Afghanistanp. 66
Chapter 3 Anglo-Afghan Wars and State Building in Afghanistanp. 110
Chapter 4 Afghanistan in the Twentieth Century: State and Society in Conflictp. 164
Chapter 5 Afghanistan Enters the Twenty-first Centuryp. 272
Chapter 6 Some Conclusionsp. 337
Notesp. 351
Referencesp. 359
Indexp. 367