The Limits of Empire presents the first comprehensive history of the Great Pukhtun Revolt of 1897 on the North-West Frontier of British India—one of the biggest revolts against the British in sub-continental and British Imperial history. Through pioneering archival and field research—including the use of rare documents drawn from archives in India, Pakistan and London, and Pukhtun oral history accounts previously not referenced in writings on the Frontier—it challenges the official British Imperial account of events surrounding the revolt and the region, and its uncritical acceptance within historiography.
The author provides a fascinating account of the lived historical realities of this frontier region. Evidence of sub-imperialism, such as secret telegrams hidden from the upper echelons of the British government and public, helps to document the contrasts between the local regional and colonial perspectives as well as manipulations of major imperial policy failures. Rare examples of Pukhtun oral histories further our knowledge of how colonialism actually functioned on the North-West Frontier, and how resistance to it thrived and ultimately prevailed.
Reconstructing the untold story of the 1897 war, this is a meticulous and critical historical analysis that reveals the operations of, and resistance to, empire at its margins. It offers fresh insights into the nature of colonial defence and expansion in India, Pukhtun resistance, and provides a new context for understanding the limits of empire.
This book will be invaluable for students and scholars of history, and those interested in contemporary conflicts in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Sameetah Agha is Associate Professor of Modern World History, Social Science and Cultural Studies, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York.
List of Abbreviations
List of Figures and Tables
1. MAPPING THE FRONTIER
The Making of an Imperial Geography
2. CONSTRUCTING THE 1897 REVOLT
Military Failures and Imperial Explanations
3. THE MAIZAR ATTACK
Imperial Cover-Up and the Politics of Occupation in North Waziristan
4. THE UPRISING IN SWAT
Local Politics and Imperial Entanglements
5. THE DELIBERATE CREATION OF THE 'BLACKEST DAY'
Sub-imperial Politics and Imperial Defence
The Limits of Empire