(b. June 1, 1892, Paghman, Afg.--d. April 25, 1960, Zürich, Switz.), ruler of Afghanistan (1919-29) who led his country to full independence from British influence.
Born in 1892, the son of Amir Habibullah and Sarwar Sultanah, the Ulya Hazrat - queen. When Amir Habibullah was assassinated in Jalalabad in February 1919, Amanullah Khan was governor of Kabul and in possession of the arsenal and the treasury. He was crowned in Kabul over the prior claims of his uncle Nasrullah, whom he denounced as a usurper and an accomplice in the murder of his father. King Amanullah (he assumed the title of king in 1926) was an ardent reformer and contemporary of like-minded rulers, Muhammad Reza in Iran and Kemal Ataturk in Turkey. He demanded a revision of the Anglo-Afgha agreements concluded by Amir Abdur Rahman which left Britain in charge of Afghanistan's foreign relations in exchange for protection from unprovoked Russian aggression and a subsidy in money and military materiel.
British reluctance to accept a change in the status quo led to Afghan armed attacks, culminating in the start of the third Anglo-Afghan war on May 3, 1919. Britain was war-weary and in no condition to wage war on the Indian frontier and, after lengthy negotiations in Rawalpindi, Mussoorie, and Kabul, peace was restored, leaving Afghanistan free and independent from British control .
King Amanullah became a national hero and turned his attention to reforming and modernizing his country. He established diplomatic and commercial relations with major European and Asian states, founded schools in which French, German, and English were the major languages of education, and promulgated a constitution which guaranteed the personal freedom and equal rights of all Afghans. He built a new capital, named Darulaman (Dar al-Amen - Abode of Peace), which include a monumental parliament and other government buildings as well as villas of prominent Afghans. Social reforms included a new dress code which permitted women in Kabul to go unveiled and encouraged officials to wear Western dress. Modernization proved costly for Afghanistan and was resented by the traditional elements of Afghan society. The Khost rebellion (q.v.), a tribal revolt in 1924, was suppressed and Amanullah felt secure enough to travel to Europe in December 1927.
Upon his return he faced increasing opposition and, in 1928, an uprising of Shinwari tribesmen, followed by attacks of the Kodamani and Kuhistani forces of Habibullah Kalakani (q.v.), forced the reformer king into exile. After an unsuccessful attempt at regaining the throne, he crossed the Indian border on May 23, and settled in Italy and Switzerland until his death on April 26, 1960. He was buried in Jalalabad at the side of the tomb of Amir Habibullah.