Posted by: Christian | August 11, 2009

Ashraf Ghani’s PhD Dissertation

Academic Reading Recommendation #4

There are a range of criticisms leveled at Ashraf Ghani as he makes his run for president of Afghanistan. But nobody denies that he has a first rate intellect. That leads to my reading recommendation for today. It’s 483 pages, front to back (rather big). It’s hard to find (only the libraries at SOAS, Columbia and Nebraska shelve it). However, a helpful little فرشته at Columbia University, who has free access to Columbia dissertations, sent it my way. I made some improvements (i.e., OCR-ing it so you can search the text). I’ll host it here as a PDF download (13MB):

Ashraf Ghani, Production and Domination: Afghanistan, 1747-1901. PhD Dissertation, Columbia University (1982). Download PDF.

Happy anthropological-historical reading.


  1. Would you consider “The Graveyard of Empires” label to be accurate? I was wondering what your opinion is on this well worn phrase. My research so far has not supported this view. It seems something of a modern invention. Just wondering how you see it?

    I would appreciate your comments. Thanks.

  2. I’m not Christian, but I can tell you that just about every empire that tried to conquer the area that is modern-day Afghanistan succeeded before the Soviet Invasion.
    Someone had a pretty effective quote on it, but I’m lapsing on who (but probably was Josh Foust). I guess you could argue that the British didn’t “conquer” Afghanistan, but they made it an effective puppet state for the three decades before WWI. So yeah, not really a graveyard at all.

  3. The area now known today as Afghanistan is closer to Toynbee’s “Roundabout” metaphor than the “Graveyard” metaphor.

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  5. The problem with Afghanistan always seemed to be less to conquer it, than having (more than just a few) Afghans do exactly what you want.

    By the way, تشکر to Christian and the فرشته.

  6. It was not Afghanistan, but what is presently Pakistan, where Alexander retreated. river jehlum.

  7. thanks for sharing this christian… i look forward to reading it.


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