With the exception of two short periods of direct British intervention during the Anglo-Afghan Wars of 1839-42 and 1878-80, the history of nineteenth-century Afghanistan has received little attention from western scholars. This study seeks to shift the focus of debate from the geostrategic concern with Afghanistan as the bone of contention between imperial Russian and British interests to a thorough investigation of the sociopolitical circumstances prevailing within the country. On the basis of unpublished British documents and works by Afghan historians, it lays the groundwork for a better understanding of the political mechanisms at work during the early Muhammadzai era by analysing them both from the viewpoint of the center and the pierphery.
'No future historian of nineteenth century Afghanistan will wish to write about that country without first reading this book. Her excellent review of ethnographic studies gives confidence in her judgement and her conclusion is balanced. A convincing picture of the techniques of tribla management emerges, carefully adapted to the different circumstances of each group This is a book which can be read at two levels: first as major collection of information about the reign of Dost Muhammad, superseding all previous versions and secondly as a very sophisticated examination of what it meant to rule what for simplicity may be termed "a tribal state". Either way it should certainly be read.' - M.E. Yapp, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society