Afghanistan by Thomas Barfield
(Princeton Studies in Muslim Politics)

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 1 Critic Review



Afghanistan traces the historic struggles and the changing nature of political authority in this volatile region of the world, from the Mughal Empire in the sixteenth century to the Taliban resurgence today. Thomas Barfield introduces readers to the bewildering diversity of tribal and ethnic groups in Afghanistan, explaining what unites them as Afghans despite the regional, cultural, and political differences that divide them. He shows how governing these peoples was relatively easy when power was concentrated in a small dynastic elite, but how this delicate political order broke down in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries when Afghanistan's rulers mobilized rural militias to expel first the British and later the Soviets. Armed insurgency proved remarkably successful against the foreign occupiers, but it also undermined the Afghan government's authority and rendered the country ever more difficult to govern as time passed. Barfield vividly describes how Afghanistan's armed factions plunged the country into a civil war, giving rise to clerical rule by the Taliban and Afghanistan's isolation from the world. He examines why the American invasion in the wake of September 11 toppled the Taliban so quickly, and how this easy victory lulled the United States into falsely believing that a viable state could be built just as easily.

Afghanistan is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how a land conquered and ruled by foreign dynasties for more than a thousand years became the "graveyard of empires" for the British and Soviets, and what the United States must do to avoid a similar fate.


About Thomas Barfield

See more books from this Author
Thomas Barfield is professor of anthropology at Boston University. His books include "The Perilous Frontier: Nomadic Empires and China, 221 BC to AD 1757"; "The Central Asian Arabs of Afghanistan"; and "Afghanistan: An Atlas of Indigenous Domestic Architecture".
Published March 29, 2010 by Princeton University Press. 400 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality, Travel. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Afghanistan

The New York Review of Books

A highly revealing map in Thomas Barfield’s new book, Afghanistan: a Cultural and Political History, shows that every spring up to a million nomadic shepherds, from many disparate Afghan tribes, drive their flocks hundreds of miles from the border areas towards the well-watered highlands of the H...

Oct 07 2010 | Read Full Review of Afghanistan (Princeton Studie...

Reader Rating for Afghanistan

An aggregated and normalized score based on 39 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes

Rate this book!

Add Review