Taming the Imperial Imagination
Colonial Knowledge, International Relations, and the Anglo-Afghan Encounter, 1808–1878
by Martin J. Bayly
(Cambridge University Press, 2016)
This book marks a novel intervention into the debate on empire and international relations, and offers a new perspective on nineteenth-century Anglo-Afghan relations. Martin J. Bayly shows how, throughout the 19th century, the British Empire in India sought to understand and control its peripheries through the use of colonial knowledge.
Addressing the fundamental question of what Afghanistan itself meant to the British at the time, he draws on extensive archival research to show how knowledge of Afghanistan was built, refined and warped by an evolving colonial state.
This knowledge informed policy choices and cast Afghanistan in a separate legal and normative universe. Beginning with the disorganised exploits of 19th-century explorers and ending with the cold strategic logic of the militarised 'scientific frontier', this book tracks the 19th-century origins of contemporary policy 'expertise' and the forms of knowledge that inform interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere today.
This book was awarded the Francesco Guicciardini Prize for best book in historical international relations 2018, awarded by the historical IR section of the International Studies Association.