The Influx of Stout Thews and Thighs: Afghan Labor Migration to British India, c. 1850-1930

War Dance of the Afghan Coolies

Today, the global Afghan diaspora contributes billions of dollars to the economy of Afghanistan. Many of those settled abroad rely on manual labor and remit much of their earnings to their families. This paper examines the history that phenomenon. Using archival documents, Warner reveals how Afghan manual laborers who traveled to British India in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century played an important role in imperial development projects as laborers and contractors. These seasonal migrants not only helped build the Raj, but also helped mitigate regional economic decline.

H William Warner is a Ph.D. Candidate in the History Department.He focuses on modern South Asian history with special attention to migrations and diasporas. His dissertation concerns the Afghan diaspora in British India and relies on research at the National Archives of India.