Afghanistan. By Angus Hamilton. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. $5 net.
Angus Hamilton, the author of the volume entitled “Afghanistan,” is a serious student of Central Asian politics. His latest book is the result of patient, laborious study, and investigation of the modern historical, political, and geographical conditions of the buffer state between India and Russia. The book is heavy reading, for Mr. Hamilton is not concerned with the usual traveller’s picturesque account of the strange manners and customs of a strange country. He gives us statistics on trade routes, railways, trade movements, trade values, duties, products, population, systems of government, strategic communications, minute descriptions of towns and cities, tables of weights and measures–such data as appeal to the man who wants a thorough working knowledge of Central Asian affairs.
The main subject of discussion in the book is the growth of railway systems to and in Afghanistan. Until recently Russian Turkestan was at a disadvantage from being too remote from its base of supplies. European troops to reach Central Asia had to travel the long route from Moscow to Baku, thence over the Caspian Sea by a twenty-four hours’ passage, and then to the end of their journey by the long Trans-Caspian Railway. This tedious journey is now a thing of the past. The Orenburg-Tashkend Railroad makes the continuous trip from St. Petersburg to Tashkend, 2,400 miles, and joins the southern-central Russian depôts with the bases in Central Asia. Such an advance is, of course, a decided help to Russia in pushing southward. This route, be it noted, is in the direction of the shortest line to India. Were there no international difficulties, as a present, the line could be carried from Kushk, the present terminus of the Murgab Valley division in northwestern Afghanistan, to Herat, the key of India, thence to Kandahar on the southern boundary, and to New Chaman where it would join the Indian system of railways. With this line completed the Anglo-Indian traveller could shorten his journey by seven days’ travel via Calais, Berlin, Warsaw, Baku, Merv, Kandahar, thence into India. He would thus avoid those bad dreams–the horrors of the Red Sea and the monsoon. But for the time being the scheme is an idle dream. Russia will devote herself to strengthening her advantage along the Northern Persian and Northern Afghan border by bringing her railway resources to the edge of the glacis, and, incidentally, by controlling all trade from the north.