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LAL, Mohan.

Life of the Amir Dost Mohammed Khan of Kabul:

With his Political Proceedings towards the English, Russian, and Persian Governments, including the Victory and Disasters of the British Army in Afghanistan.

Published: London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1846

Stock code: 71629

Price: £3,750

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First edition. A remarkably well-preserved set of this highly desirable work. Perhaps the key source for political and diplomatic background to the First Afghan War. Mohan Lal was “Bokhara” Burnes’s most important intelligence operative, travelling extensively in Persia and Afghanistan and running a string of agents for the British. In 1841, as the situation in Kabul became critical, Lal tried to warn Burnes of the fact that he was the focus of rising discontent, but the Englishman foolishly believed that he would be able to talk his way out of the situation. Lal escaped the ensuing bloodbath, continuing to supply information from the Afghan capital. In 1844 he visited Scotland to return some papers to the Burnes family, the Montrose Review describing him then in glowing, if condescending, terms; “He is a very handsome man, of 28 years; and, when arrayed in the costly and gorgeous costume of his country, affords a favourable specimen of the Asiatic. But this is the least of his merits: his countenance beams with intelligence, and his intercourse with Europeans has enabled him to adapt himself, with perfect tact, to all their habits and modes of thinking, so that he can sustain with ease and propriety his part in any general conversation. We understand he has been urgently recalled to London …” He remained in London for some time, the present work being written there and dedicated with permission to Queen Victoria, but he never received the recognition from the British government that he felt he deserved. As a result of his service in Muslim countries, he had been excommunicated by the Kashmiri Pandit community, eventually converting to Islam, he died an isolated and embittered man in Delhi in 1877.

2 volumes octavo. Publisher’s forest green fine combed cloth, title gilt to spines, blind panelling and central lozenge to the boards, mid-cream surface-paper endpapers. 19 lithographic portraits, printed on India paper and mounted. Very slightly rubbed, some off-setting from the plates, but overall a superb set in the original cloth.

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