Dr. Schuyler Jones, CBE




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Research Materials Relating to Afghanistan

The purpose of the information which follows is to provide the library researcher with bibliographic references to published materials on Afghanistan, including that region of Afghanistan known as Nuristan, which, in the 19th century was known as ‘Kafiristan’.  The bibliographic references listed, mostly English-language publications but also major works in other languages, were gleaned from libraries in Edinburgh, London, and Oxford between the years 1960-1970 and Oxford, 1985-1990 by Schuyler Jones.

A second aim of the references listed is to provide information on the economic system known as transhumance, which is arguably not, as some writers have suggested, merely a variation of pastoral nomadism.

A brief introductory selection of bibliographies relating to Afghanistan

Akram, Mohammed. Bibliographie Analytique de l’Afghanistan. I Ouvrages parus hors de l’Afghanistan, Paris, 1947

Billimoria, N. M. Bibliography of Publications on Sind & Baluchistan, Second Edition, Revised & Enlarged. Karachi, 1930

Jones, Schuyler. Afghanistan, vol. 135 (in) World Bibliographical Series, Oxford, 1992

McLachlan, K. & William Whittaker. A Bibliography of Afghanistan: A working bibliography of materials on Afghanistan with special reference to economic and social change in the twentieth century, Cambridge, 1983. This publication is something of a disappointment as none of the entries are annotated and the work generally suffers from inept editing.  

Wilber, Donald N. Annotated Bibliography of Afghanistan, 3rd Edition, New Haven, 1968

 Additionally, the Area Handbook for Afghanistan, published under the auspices of The American University in Washington, D.C. (Fourth Edition, 1973) contains a bibliography which provides a useful starting point for research. The Area Handbook Series (this one is designated DA Pam 550-65) is “designed to be useful to military and other personnel who need a convenient compilation of basic facts about the social, economic, political, and military institutions and practices of various countries.”  A revised volume entitled Afghanistan: A Country Study (1986) was edited by Richard F. Nyrop.

In 1906 Angus Hamilton published an ambitious and remarkably comprehensive 562 page volume entitled Afghanistan (Heinemann, London) which amounts to an economic, historical, geographical, and political survey of the entire country. Louis Dupree did more or less the same thing (see below) nearly 70 years later for the 20th century.

 Many books about Afghanistan contain extensive bibliographies which serve to guide further research, e.g.:

 Arbeitsgemeinschaft Afghanistan. Afghanistan. Ländermonographie. Liestal, (1986)

 Amstutz, J. Bruce. Afghanistan: The First Five Years of Soviet Occupation (1986)

 Dupree, Louis. Afghanistan. (1973, 1978, 1980).

 Edelberg, Lennart & Schuyler Jones. Nuristan, (1979)

 Fraser-Tytler, W.K. Afghanistan: A Study of Political Developments in Central Asia (1950).

 Jones, Schuyler. Men of Influence in Nuristan: A Study of Social Control and Dispute Settlement in Waigal Valley, Afghanistan. (1974)

 For an intriguing study of the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan see:

The Soviet-Afghan War: How a Superpower Fought and Lost. This book, published by the University Press of Kansas in 2002 , was written by the Russian General Staff (!) 

Russian-language books, articles, and reports on Afghanistan, covering historical and scientific research, are legion. Few of these have been translated into English. An extensive bibliography of Russian-language publications on Afghanistan was published in Moscow in 1965: Bibliografiya Afghanistana, Literatura na russkom yazyke. Akademiya nauk SSSR, Institut narodov Azii, Sostavitel T.I. Kuhtina, Izdatel'stvo "Nauka", Glavnaya redakciya vostochnoi literatury, Moskva, 1965.  

The historical studies by Russian writers that have appeared in English, such as A History of Afghanistan (Moscow, 1982, written by several authors) are heavily flavored with Soviet political themes. The above-mentioned book, published when the Soviets were fighting a war in Afghanistan, describes Russian-Afghan relations as rising to new heights of good-neighborliness and goes on to say “Their close friendship and revolutionary solidarity serve as a sound basis for the steady promotion of these relations.” Another booklet reflecting the Soviet point of view is by Leonid Teplinksy. Entitled USSR-DRA: Good-neighborliness and Fraternal Friendship, it sets out to emphasize the close historic, economic, and diplomatic ties with Afghanistan at a time when the Soviets had been waging war in that country for four years.

The Central Asian Research Centre in London published a short Bibliography of Russian Works on Afghanistan in 1956. This 12 page document lists approximately 150 Russian language publications which had appeared "...up to the end of October 1956". The compiler added that "All subsequent Russian books and articles on Afghanistan will be entered in the Bibliographical Note of [the] Central Asian Review." A further note at the end of the bibliography reports that "An analysis of Soviet publications on Afghanistan was contained in [the] Central Asian Review, Vol. IV, No. 2."

In 1956 the Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) published Afghanistan in their Country Survey Series. This volume was edited by Donald N. Wilber. It remains an excellent source of information about Afghanistan and contains a very useful bibliography. In 1962 HRAF Press brought out an edited version of this earlier work under the title Afghanistan, its People, its Society, its Culture as part of a new series entitled Survey of World Cultures. Unfortunately, whereas the earlier volume contained 501 pages, the new volume was reduced to 320 pages, an achievement attained by removing much of the most useful and valuable information.  

As far as I am aware, the world’s largest repository of research materials on Afghanistan is to be found in the Bibliotheca Afghanica, the Schweizerisches Afghanistan-Archiv in Liestal, Switzerland, which is under the direction of Paul Bucherer-Dietschi. This institution issues occasional publications and a card-index of its holdings for subscribers which is updated regularly. This remarkable institution is the work, over many years,  of its Director.

Address: Dr. Paul Bucherer-Dietschi, Director, OB. BURGHALDENWEG 31, CH-4410 LIESTAL, SWITZERLAND.  Information available from the internet by carrying out a search for Bibliotheca Afghanica. 

          In Germany the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen has published articles and bibliographies of German-language publications relating to Afghanistan, e.g., Mitteilungen, vol. 4, No. 9/10, 1954. Address: Charlottenplatz 17, Stuttgart, Germany.

          In Austria the Akademische Druck-u. Verlagsanstalt in Graz launched in 1974 a quarterly publication under the title Afghanistan Journal. This was the brain-child of Karl Gratzl whose tireless efforts kept the journal going for nine years. Published from 1974 to 1982, the journal was aimed at an international audience of scholars with articles published in English, French, and German. Its purpose was to provide a forum for current research (historical, archaeological, anthropological, botanical, etc.) in Afghanistan. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 marked a decline in international interest in Afghanistan just at the moment when, personally speaking, I would have expected an increase. Rising publication costs combined with the fact that no new research could be carried out in Afghanistan eventually meant the demise of this most laudable undertaking. 

For researchers embarking on a study of the history of Afghanistan there is a handy introductory reference work by M. Jamil Hanifi entitled Historical and Cultural Dictionary of Afghanistan, published in 1976. Beyond that there are literally dozens of 19th and 20th century histories of the country. Most of those found in American and European libraries were written by British and American authors. The best known historian from Afghanistan itself is undoubtedly Mohammed Ali who is known in the west primarily because so many of his books appeared in English.

Those seeking a basic grounding in Islam and Islamic history – arguably an essential for any understanding of an Islamic nation – should consult Muhammad at Mecca and Muhammad at Medina by W. Montgomery Watt and A History of the Arab Peoples by Albert Hourani.  For those in a hurry to acquire some background knowledge of Islam the volume Muhammad, Prophet & Statesman by W. Montgomery Watt is a valuable source by one of Europe’s foremost Islamic scholars. An earlier work which first appeared in 1937 but which was revised and reprinted a number of times during the following thirty years is Philip K. Hitti’s History of the Arabs from the Earliest Times to the Present.

More recently we have the essential reference work entitled The Concise Encyclopaedia of Islam, Revised Edition (2001) by Cyril Glasse and two excellent volumes by Karen Armstrong: Muhammad, A Biography of the Prophet and Muhammad, a Prophet for Our Time. Finally, the serious scholar will require the remarkable three volume work by Marshall G.S. Hodgson entitled The Venture of Islam, Conscience and History in a World Civilization; Volume One, The Classical Age of Islam; Volume Two, The Expansion of Islam in the Middle Periods; Volume Three, The Gunpowder Empires and Modern Times.

In the general field of archaeology and art The Crossroads of Asia, edited by Elizabeth Errington and Joe Cribb, 1992, contains two bibliographies, one technical and one general, that are worth consulting. In 1973 Norman Hammond edited the volume South Asian Archaeology  which includes studies relating to what might be called 'greater Afghanistan'. See also The Art of Afghanistan by Jeannine Auboyer, 1968, for a bibliography of nearly 340 references divided into 19th and 20th century decades according to date of publication, i.e., Before 1921, From 1921 to 1929, From 1930 to 1939, From 1940 to 1949, from 1950 to 1959, and Since 1960.

An ambitious geographical study of Afghanistan was undertaken by Johannes Humlum and published in Copenhagen in 1959 under the title of La géographie de l’Afghanistan, Etude d’un pays aride. The bibliography contains sections on maps, statistics, periodicals, books, reports, etc. in a number of European languages.  The author was a member of the Third Danish Expedition to Central Asia (1947-1954).

The year 1972, remarkably enough, saw the publication of two detailed studies by two different authors of a single bazaar in Afghanistan: Bazaar-e-Tashqurghan, ethnographical studies in an Afghan traditional bazaar by C-J Charpentier (in English), and Un bazaar d’Asie Centrale, Forme et organization du bazaar de Tashqurghan (Afghanistan) (in French), both containing useful bibliographies.

Foremost in the field of linguistics in regard to Afghanistan and neighboring regions are the names of Georg Morgenstierne, Georg Buddruss, and Gérard Fussman. With Professor Morgenstierne leading the way, these scholars have produced an impressive body of published reports that will serve to guide and inform their successors for generations to come.

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This site was last updated 04/20/09                                         Copyright 2004 by Dr. Schuyler Jones, CBE