Thursday, June 20, 2013

Photographs from the Younghusband Expedition to Tibet

In the city bazaar, Lhasa, September 1904.
Neg 1083/14(428), (c) The British Library.

In 1904, the British government in India sent an army into Tibet to force the Dalai Lama to open trade relations with British India. This military incursion was also grew out of British fears of the influence of Russia in Central Asia. The army was headed by Francis Younghusband, and was euphemistically known as the 'Younghusband expedition'. One of several British officers on the expedition was Frederick Marshman Bailey, a young lieutenant. Bailey was also a keen photographer, and documented the progress of the expedition from Sikkim into Tibet, all the way to its final destination in Lhasa.

The nitrate negatives of Bailey's photographs are now held at the British Library, where they are currently being digitized by IDP. Several hundreds are already online, and can be found by searching on the IDP website for the pressmark Neg 1083. The subjects of the photographs include landscapes, buildings and people, including many portraits of Tibetans as well as Bailey himself. Bailey liked to photograph animals, including the elephants that were part of the expedition, Tibetan dogs, goats and antelopes -- the latter often after they had become hunting trophies. The photographs of Lhasa show the city as it was in 1904, ranging from panoramic views of the Potala Palace to busy street scenes like the photograph above.

After the Younghusband expedition, Bailey was appointed Trade Agent to Tibet, and was stationed at Gyantse. He also travelled extensively in Central Asia, China and India, and the photographs from these travels will be digitized along with those from Tibet.

1 comment:

  1. This promises to be rich vein — can't wait to see more photographs from the Younghusband expedition. Any pictures of the aftermath of the battle of Karo La? The whole incident was to Britain's great shame and, I contend,a prescient and enablement for Tibet's loss of autonomy 46 years later. Good to air this history.