1st Edition

Edge of Empire
The British Political Officer and Tribal Administration on the North-West Frontier 1877–1947

ISBN 9780754668381
Published May 28, 2011 by Routledge
268 Pages

USD $160.00

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Book Description

Britain's often rather ad hoc approach to colonial expansion in the nineteenth century resulted in a variety of imaginative solutions designed to exert control over an increasingly diverse number of territories. One such instrument of government was the political officer. Created initially by the East India Company to manage relations with the princely rulers of the Indian States, political offers developed into a mechanism by which the government could manage its remoter territories through relations with local power brokers; the policy of 'indirect rule'. By the beginning of the twentieth century, political officers were providing a low-key, affordable method of exercising British control over 'native' populations throughout the empire, from India to Africa, Asia to Middle East. In this study, the role of the political officer on the Western Frontier of India between 1877-1947 is examined in detail, providing an account of the personalities and mechanisms of colonial influence/tribal control in what remains one of the most unstable regions in the world today. It charts the successes, failures, dangers and attractions of a system of power by proxy and examines how, working alone in one of the most dangerous and lawless corners of the Empire, political officers strove to implement the Crown's policies across the North-West Frontier and Baluchistan through a mixture of conflict and collaboration with indigenous tribal society. In charting their progress, the book provides a degree of historical context for those engaging in ambitious military operations in the same region, seeking to increasingly rely on the support of tribal chiefs, warlords and former enemies in order for new administrations to function. As such this book provides not only a fascinating account of key historical events in Anglo-Indian colonial history, but also provides a telling insight and background into an increasingly seductive aspect of contemporary political and military strategy.



Christian Tripodi, King's College London, at the Joint Services Command and Staff College, UK.


'This book is a valuable history of a hitherto largely romanticized, but little understood part of the imperial edifice of British India. Tripodi’s deft handling of the subject matter makes the work both highly accessible and highly entertaining.' American Historical Review 'In sum, this is a well-researched and lucidly written monograph... The writer is to be congratulated on producing such an interesting and informative text, one which is worthy of a wide audience.' English Historical Review 'Christian Tripodi, already the ’go-to guy’ on imperial frontier politics, points out in his excellent and prodigiously well-researched book Edge of Empire that one should be wary of reading across too readily from one historical period to another... Nonetheless, beside the politicals, to which this book gives such vivid intellectual life, our current crop of experts seems as peripheral as highly paid adventure tourists. If current practitioners of politics in Afghanistan sincerely wish to be more than that, they should make space in their packs for this fine book - one that is also a really good read.' The RUSI Journal 'Christian Tripodi offers no solutions, but does offer credible views which support the contention that the British experience is relevant and can offer lessons to those dealing with today’s threats... Tripodi has a demonstrable and commendable policy of sourcing all his assertions, and the depth of his research is beyond reproach.' Asian Affairs 'Tripodi’s archival research is extensive... The book is enriched by highly detailed footnotes that provide a trove of additional information. He provides a detailed study of a complicated subject and succeeds in producing a work accessible to nonspecialists that simultaneously presents arguments specialists will find intriguing.' The Historian 'This fascinating book is of added interest because many of the methods of governance it discusses were subsequently used by the government of Pakistan in the Khy