Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History

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Princeton University Press, Mar 29, 2010 - History - 408 pages
6 Reviews

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.

 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - neddludd - LibraryThing

Reading this fascinating book is like registering for a survey course in the History of Afghanistan. However, this is a double-edged sword in that returning to read it is not necessarily a pleasure ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - BlackSheepDances - LibraryThing

Ever since The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and Three Cups of Tea, I’ve found Afghanistan to be a strangely compelling region. In those books, there was a different sense of the humanity of ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
People and Places
17
Conquering and Ruling Premodern Afghanistan
66
AngloAfghan Wars and State Building in Afghanistan
110
Afghanistan in the Twentieth Century State and Society in Conflict
164
Afghanistan Enters the Twentyfirst Century
272
Some Conclusions
337
Notes
351
References
359
Index
367
Copyright

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About the author (2010)

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.

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