Lecture on British colonial administrators in Afghanistan
Abstract of the talk:
Colonial knowledge played a key role in shaping the practices of colonial rule in South Asia and across the British empire as a whole. This lecture pays particular attention to the ways in which the Afghan polity was constructed for British colonial administrators throughout the nineteenth century. This knowledge informed policy choices and cast Afghanistan in a separate legal and normative universe. The talk considers the genesis of this knowledge and how it was built, refined, and warped by an evolving colonial state. Beginning with the disorganised exploits of nineteenth-century explorers, and ending with the strategic logic of the militarised ‘scientific frontier’ the talk offers insights into the origins of contemporary foreign policy expertise and the forms of knowledge that inform interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere today.
Martin J Bayly is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the International Relations Department at LSE, where he has taught International Relations since 2014. Having joined the Department as an LSE Fellow his latest research project, funded by the British Academy, will be hosted by the Centre for International Studies for the duration of 2016-2019. His research interests concern empire and International Relations in South Asia, with a particular emphasis on knowledge and expertise as a product of the colonial encounter. His first book, Taming the Imperial Imagination, published by Cambridge University Press in 2016, provides a new history of Anglo-Afghan relations in the nineteenth century showing how the British Empire in India sought to understand and control its peripheries through the use of colonial knowledge. The book was awarded the Francesco Guicciardini Prize by the International Studies Association for best book in historical international relations 2018. His current research concerns the origins of modern international thought amongst South Asian intellectuals in the early twentieth century. His work has appeared in The Review of International Studies, The European Journal of International Relations, The British Academy Review, and elsewhere. Prior to joining LSE he taught at King’s College London where he also completed his PhD. He holds an MPhil in International Relations from St Antony’s College Oxford and a BA in Politics from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.