Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42

Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42


By (author) William Dalrymple

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  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Format: Hardback | 560 pages
  • Dimensions: 165mm x 236mm x 46mm | 1,043g
  • Publication date: 16 April 2013
  • ISBN 10: 0307958280
  • ISBN 13: 9780307958280
  • Edition statement: New ed.
  • Illustrations note: 32 PP OF 4-C
  • Sales rank: 46,863

Product description

From William Dalrymple--award-winning historian, journalist and travel writer--a masterly retelling of what was perhaps the West's greatest imperial disaster in the East, and an important parable of neocolonial ambition, folly and hubris that has striking relevance to our own time. With access to newly discovered primary sources from archives in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia and India--including a series of previously untranslated Afghan epic poems and biographies--the author gives us the most immediate and comprehensive account yet of the spectacular first battle for Afghanistan: the British invasion of the remote kingdom in 1839. Led by lancers in scarlet cloaks and plumed helmets, and facing little resistance, nearly 20,000 British and East India Company troops poured through the mountain passes from India into Afghanistan in order to reestablish Shah Shuja ul-Mulk on the throne, and as their puppet. But after little more than two years, the Afghans rose in answer to the call for jihad and the country exploded into rebellion. This First Anglo-Afghan War ended with an entire army of what was then the most powerful military nation in the world ambushed and destroyed in snowbound mountain passes by simply equipped Afghan tribesmen. Only one British man made it through. But Dalrymple takes us beyond the bare outline of this infamous battle, and with penetrating, balanced insight illuminates the uncanny similarities between the West's first disastrous entanglement with Afghanistan and the situation today. He delineates the straightforward facts: Shah Shuja and President Hamid Karzai share the same tribal heritage; the Shah's principal opponents were the Ghilzai tribe, who today make up the bulk of the Taliban's foot soldiers; the same cities garrisoned by the British are today garrisoned by foreign troops, attacked from the same rings of hills and high passes from which the British faced attack. Dalryrmple also makes clear the byzantine complexity of Afghanistan's age-old tribal rivalries, the stranglehold they have on the politics of the nation and the ways in which they ensnared both the British in the nineteenth century and NATO forces in the twenty-first. Informed by the author's decades-long firsthand knowledge of Afghanistan, and superbly shaped by his hallmark gifts as a narrative historian and his singular eye for the evocation of place and culture, "The Return of a King" is both the definitive analysis of the First Anglo-Afghan War and a work of stunning topicality.

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Author information

WILLIAM DALRYMPLE is the author of seven previous works of history and travel, including "City of Djinns, " which won the Young British Writer of the Year Prize and the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award; the best-selling "From the Holy Mountain;""White Mughals, " which won Britain's most prestigious history prize, the Wolfson; and "The Last Mughal, " which won the Duff Cooper Prize for History and Biography. He divides his time between New Delhi and London, and is a contributor to "The New York Review of Books" and "The New Yorker."

Review quote

Praise for William Dalrymple's "Return of a King" "More than timely . . . The author's deep research provides a whole new take on almost every aspect of the story. Mr. Dalrymple is a skilled storyteller and fills important gaps, mining new sources. . . . Mr. Dalrymple's writing is sly, charming and clever. His histories read like novels. [His] book delights and shocks." --Michael Fathers, "The Wall Street Journal" "The British humiliation in the so-called First Anglo-Afghan War . . . has been told often before but perhaps never so well as by Dalrymple. . . . An absorbing and beautifully written account of a doomed effort to control an apparently uncontrollably population." --"Booklist "(starred review) "By turns epic, thrilling, and utterly appalling, at once deeply researched and beautifully paced, "Return of a King "should win every prize for which it's eligible. Yet William Dalrymple has done more than write a brilliant work of history; in these pages he also holds up a distant mirror to the West's more recent, and comparably disastrous, military incursions into Afghanistan. . . . A magnificent and shocking story . . . It is difficult to do justice to the evenhandedness, vivid writing, and extensive scholarship supporting every detail of "Return of a King."" --Michael Dirda, "Bookforum" "["Return of a King"] brings new insights and extends earlier ones to a wider public. . . . Dalrymple lets the action play out relentlessly and compellingly, yet has endnotes, glossary, bibliography, and index of a high scholarly standard. . . . The author's attentiveness to Afghan voices means the local people become real personalities, rather than ciphers. . . . [Dalrymple's] commitment to the historical project is so clear and his writing so attractive." --Elizabeth Gaigent, "Times Literary Supplement" (London) "A masterful history . . . And as the latest occupying force in Afghanistan negotiates its exit, this chronicle seemsm