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The Maturation of Afghan Historiography

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 March 2013

Amin Tarzi*
Middle East Studies, Marine Corps University, Quantico, Va.; e-mail:


The fate of Afghanistan's written history has been interconnected with the progression and regression of the Afghan state's ability to live with its past as much as with its present. Afghan historiography, in both the official and unofficial versions, has generally sought to “prove” or “disprove” the official versions of Afghanistan's evolving national narrative rather than be, in the words of Edward H. Carr, “a continuous process of interaction between the historian and his facts, an unending dialogue between the present and the past.” Despite unprecedented freedoms of expression and exposure to international methods of research, post-Taliban Afghanistan still seems far from coming to terms with its past. One particular trend continues to haunt the country as it tries to move forward in deconstructing or reinventing its history: official Afghan narratives continue to downplay or ignore the violent and divisive period commencing with the 1973 coup that ended the country's monarchical system.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013

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1 Carr, Edward Hallett, What is History? (New York: Vintage Books, 1961), 35.Google Scholar

2 Gharjistani, Muhammad ʿIsa, Kala Minarha dar Afghanistan (Qom: Ismaʿiliyan, 1993), 246.Google Scholar Gharjistani relied on sources such as Muhammad Yusuf Riyazi's ʿAyn al-Waqaiʿ and Fayz Muhammad Katib's Siraj al-Tawarikh.

3 Misdaq, Nabi, Ahmad Shah Durrani (1722–1772): Founder and First King of Modern Afghanistan (Delhi: Irfan Cultural Center, 1997).Google Scholar

4 For example, see Daulatabadi, Basir Ahmad, Shinasnamah-yi Afghanistan (Qom: Shahid, 1992), 243.Google Scholar

5 Kakar, Muhammad Hasan, Afghan, Afghanistan wa Mukhtasar-i az Kushishhay-yi Afghanha barayi Tashkil-i Dawlat dar Hindustan, Fars wa Afghanistan (Kabul: Kabul University Press, 1978), 811.Google Scholar For Kakar, the area of pre-Durrani Afghanistan was between Kabul and Ghazni in the north and the Indus River in the south.

6 “Afghanistan Compact” is a seventeen-page document to chart Afghanistan's progress up to the end of 2010 that was agreed on by Afghanistan and its international backers after the London Conference on Afghanistan (31 January–1 February 2006), (accessed 22 March 2012).

7 Afghanistan National Development Strategy 1387–1391 (2008–2013) (Kabul: Afghanistan National Development Strategy Secretariat, 2008), 11.

8 Frud Bezhan, “New Afghan Textbooks Sidestep History,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (20 February 2012),

9 Ron Synovitz, “Afghanistan: Amnesty Bill Could Threaten Faith in Democracy,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (2 February 2007),