The New Student's Reference Work/Afghanistan
Afghanistan (äf-găn′ĭs-tän′), is a mountainous country of south Central Asia governed by a hereditary monarch called an amir. The present ruler is Habibullah Khan. The government is under the supervision of Great Britain which contributes to it an annual subsidy. It is frequently spoken of as the “buffer state” between British India on the east and Turkistan, the province of Russia to the north of it.
Afghanistan was a part of the empire of Timur the Great and after changing masters several times became independent in 1747. In 1838 the British sent an army into Afghanistan to place on his throne the Amir Shah Shuja who had been driven into exile in India. In 1841 the British suppressed a revolt in Afghanistan and have ever since been the real power there. In 1879 the English resident and his officers and escort were massacred by the Afghans. For this severe revenge and firmer hold were taken by the English. Under the amir there is a council with governors for the separate provinces.
The army comprises about 68,000 foot soldiery, with 7000 horses and 350 guns. The mounted levies are for the most part, the retainers of the great chieftains or of the latters’ wealthier vassals.
The population, mainly Mohammedan, is estimated at 5,900,000. It is very mixed and rather discordant in character. The majority are Persians. The Afghans are a brave race; but although apparently frank and open-hearted are cruel and treacherous.
The total area (see map of Asia) is 250,000 square miles. There are practically no navigable rivers and but one railway. Travel on the few high-ways is carried on by camels and ponies. Besides these, the domestic animals are goats, dogs, horses and a few cattle and sheep.
The climate varies greatly from regions where snow never falls to regions where it seldom melts. The trade is mainly with British India. Exports are largely horses, cattle, hides, tobacco, grain, pulse, fruits, vegetables, asafoetida, madder, the castor oil plant, spices, wool; imports, sugar, tea, cotton goods and dyes. There are two harvests: wheat, barley, peas and beans sown in autumn and reaped in summer; rice, millet and corn sown in spring and reaped in autumn. The other principal crops are almonds, pomegranates, figs, grapes, peaches, quinces, cherries, apricots and plums.
The minerals include copper, lead and iron with small quantities of gold and there are precious stones, including lapis lazuli. The manufactures include clothes, silks, felts, carpets and various articles made from goat’s and camel’s hair and sheepskin.