A large part of that is the little-known British military expedition to Tibet under Colonel Francis Younghusband from India in 1904 which bulldozed its way past the Tibetan forces to seize the capital, Lhasa.
The invasion was launched from India because of worries over Russian influence and eventually gained a number of concessions from Tibet, nominally under Chinese control at the time, but historians have questioned whether it was worth the effort in the first place.
Selling original photographs showing that invasion and the aftermath is definitely worth it: top lot of the day at the Henry Aldridge November 11 sale was the £22,000 (estimate £7000-10,000) for an exceptional archive of more than 500 photographs, may unpublished, that dated from 1904-10 of Tibet, China and Mongolia.
They were the personal property of Lt Col RC MacGregor of the Indian Medical Service. The archive shows the latter stages of the Younghusband expedition and culminates c.1910, and includes the Dalai Lama’s exile from the British.
Seven albums of photos range from the gory to the mundane facts of military occupation.
Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge says: “You see an officer playing golf on the Tibetan plains, with a chap holding his clubs, another of Indian regiments playing polo, tug-of-war and a three-legged race, then on the flipside you go over to some absolutely brutally horrific photos of men being beheaded, dogs eating the bodies of them. It is all sides.
“They were bought by a British scholar - without a doubt these will be used for academic research. They will put a completely different perspective on things.”
By a strange coincidence, a separate vendor brought in an unrelated later 1910-11 album of images of Tibet which sold for £3800 to a client in Germany in the same sale. They were taken by Captain Duncan Macdonald Cochrane Church, medical officer of the 120th Rajputana Infantry.
“MacGregor was the civil surgeon in Tibet at that time, and the man who took over from him was actually Church,” said Aldridge.
Good results bring more consignments
In August 2013 Henry Aldridge & Son sold for £10,000 an album with more than 140 photos from the 1904 invasion which came down by descent through the family of Captain William Charles Hayman, ADC to Younghusband.
Aldridge added: “These latest consignments were very probably because of the first Tibet result a few years ago. We did extremely well with those and we had a selection of photos from Younghusband over about a year, and so as a consequence people start searching on the internet and see you’ve got some very good prices for things, so give you a call.”