So, yesterday the first chapter of the dissertation was ‘approved’ by my supervisor. A cursory history of Afghanistan. And I can safely say, what a basketcase. (Afghanistan, not me… Well, maybe not.)
It’s never really been ‘stable’. No one really knows when it all started. (Most people are all about 1747, but Louis Dupree reckons 1880.) I’m inclined to disagree with Dupree, even though his book (amazon.com) is truly astonishing in scope. It has (separate) chapters on flora and fauna.
I really want to meet a Marco Polo sheep.
There was a brief period, in the middle of the twentieth century, when there was scope for long term stability, but then the Cold War happened. William Blum has my favourite summing-up of the Cold War:
The remarkable international good will and credibility enjoyed by the United States at the close of the Second World War was dissipated country by country, intervention by intervention. The opportunity to build the war-ravaged world anew, to lay foundations for peace, prosperity and justice, collapsed under the awful weight of anti-communism.
Onwards, Ever Onwards
And so, from the history, which stretches back to an ancient Sasanian word, “Abgan,” I’m moving into more modern times. Specifically, the period between the fall of the Taliban (or 9/11, or some other arbitrary date I can find a Best Defence for) and the “Drawdown” this July. I’m looking at the effect that the conflict has had on the opium trade. So I’ll be reading a lot of UNODC/CIA reports (yay!), and trying to formulate a thesis around that.
As for the process of history compiling, it was a lot of hard work, and spending a lot of time bogged down reading about things that I didn’t really need to know about. Trouble is, I’m interested in everything. So I spend a lot of time wandering down interesting, albeit unnecessary, rabbit holes.
But I now fully understand the importance of context and historical background. Not that I didn’t before, but, I guess it’s one of those things that you don’t really fully appreciate until you do it yourself.
Mostly for me, by way of a “this went well, this didn’t,” type of exercise.
I spent too long reading about stuff that wasn’t specifically relevant, not enough time reading about stuff that was pertinent. (But that’s mostly to do with the failings of the library than anything else.)
In terms of things that went well, I was pleased with the writing and editing process. I only wrote twice as much as actually ended up in the manuscript. (I still remember the RMA essay. 12,000 (ish) words for a 2,500 essay. (Thanks, Rummy. :-p)
My initial hypothesis would be that there has been very little impact, directly on farmers. But that is only really from the briefest of overviews. Feel free to brutally correct me, that’s partly why I’m writing this blog.
I enjoyed the process of compiling the history, and I think I’ll enjoy the project as a whole. I guess only time will tell.
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