Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan (Paperback)
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Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan (Paperback)

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£12.99
Paperback 608 Pages
Published: 30/01/2014
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SHORTLISTED FOR THE SAMUEL JOHNSON PRIZE 2013'As taut and richly embroidered as a great novel . . . a masterpiece' Sunday Telegraph'Dazzling' Sunday Times | 'Magnificent' Guardian | 'Sparkling' Daily TelegraphA towering history of the first Afghan War by bestselling historian William Dalrymple.

In the spring of 1839, Britain invaded Afghanistan for the first time. Nearly 20,000 British and East India Company troops poured through the high mountain passes and re-established on the throne Shah Shuja ul-Mulk.

On the way in, the British faced little resistance. But after two years of occupation, the Afghan people rose in answer to the call for jihad and the country exploded into violent rebellion. The First Anglo-Afghan War ended in Britain's greatest military humiliation of the nineteenth century: an entire army of the then most powerful nation in the world ambushed in retreat and utterly routed by poorly equipped tribesmen.

Using a range of forgotten Afghan and Indian sources, William Dalrymple's masterful retelling of Britain's greatest imperial disaster is a powerful parable of colonial ambition and cultural collision, folly and hubris. Return of a King is history at its most urgent and important.

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN: 9781408831595
Number of pages: 608
Weight: 544 g
Dimensions: 198 x 129 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

This sorry saga has been recounted many times, but never that I can recall as well as by Dalrymple. He is a master story-teller, whose special gift lies in the use of indigenous sources, so often neglected by imperial chroniclers - Max Hastings, Sunday Times

Enchantingly written . . . In Dalrymple’s usual happy style of historical narrative, applied to a fascinating, neat and highly suggestive series of events, this long and involved book will be a great success, and bring the famous story to a large new audience - Philip Hensher, Spectator

Of the books swooped into being by his scholarship (to which he himself has applied the adjective “obsessive”), this one is the most magnificent . . . His account is so perceptive and so warmly humane that one is never tempted to break away . . . This book would be compulsive reading even if it were not a uniquely valuable history, which it is, because Dalrymple has uncovered sources never used before - Diana Athill, Guardian

Brilliant . . . Those who have read his White Mughals and The Last Mughal will know what to expect: a readable style, a deep humanity and, above all, an extraordinary skill in evoking the lost worlds of Mughals and Afghans . . . His pen-portraits are a masterpiece . . . Return of a King is much the fullest and most powerful description of the West's first encounter with Afghan society - John Darwin, New York Times

A major contribution to the historiography of south-west Asia and of the British empire . . . Return of a King will come to be seen as the definitive account of the first and most disastrous western attempt to invade Afghanistan. Dalrymple's afterword should be put on college syllabuses on both sides of the Atlantic - Sherard Cowper-Coles, New Statesman

Splendid and absorbing . . . William Dalrymple tells this tragic story with verve, skill, and - unexpectedly in the circumstances - some humor. Using unknown or underused sources from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, he recounts the tale from both sides, shifting the scenes, using eyewitness accounts, quoting at length heroic epic poems . . . A fine book - David Gilmour, New York Review of Books

William Dalrymple is a master storyteller, who breathes such passion, vivacity and animation into the historical characters of the First Anglo-Afghan war of 1839-42 that at the end of this 567-page book you feel you have marched, fought, dined and plotted with them all: once I had finished I turned straight back to the beginning - Independent

Brilliant . . . even 170 years later, the events described in Return of a King still have the power to shock - and so they should. It is to be hoped that any future British leader contemplating intervention in Afghanistan, or any other part of the Muslim world, will read Dalrymple's book - Financial Times

Mr. Dalrymple's writing is sly, charming and clever. His histories read like novels . . . This latest book delights and shocks as he points the finger at both sides for their deceit treachery and cruelty . . . Magnificent - Wall Street Journal

Definitive . . . Return of a King, like a great classical tragedy, grips the reader's attention from start to finish . . . not just a riveting account of one imperial disaster on the roof of the world; it teaches unforgettable lessons about the perils of neocolonial adventures everywhere - Piers Brendan, Literary Review

By turns epic, thrilling, suspenseful, and utterly appalling, at once deeply researched and beautifully paced, Return of a King should win every prize for which it's eligible - Bookforum

Dazzling . . . Dalrymple is a master storyteller, whose special gift lies in the use of indigenous sources, so often neglected by imperial chroniclers . . . Almost every page of Dalrymple's splendid narrative echoes with latter-day reverberations - Max Hastings, Sunday Times

Outstanding . . . Dalrymple has emerged as a superb historian of the British Raj . . . He excels at character, scene setting, and shifting between multiple points of view . . . His use of sources is stunning, particularly the trove of Persian-language material - epic poems, court histories and other accounts - he found in Kabul. No other western historian has given such a complete account of the other side - National

William Dalrymple's phenomenal achievement is to combine a steady overview of his broad canvas with a magpie's eye for detail and a film-maker's sense of when to shift the mood and focus. His writing is ebullient, but his conclusion is timely and grave. Any attempt to subjugate Afghanistan must, as one witness of that first invasion noted, be 'temporary and transient and terminate in catastrophe' - Intelligent Life

A powerful account of Britain's deluded occupation . . . A superlative achievement - Scotland on Sunday

Dalrymple is something of a secret national treasure; a travel writer and narrative historian of Britain's relations with India . . . an enthralling, definitive account - The Lady

Masterful . . . Dalrymple makes an important contribution by including recently discovered Afghan accounts of the war - Washington Post

This hefty and extraordinary book may be [Dalrymple's] masterwork . . . Dalrymple's assiduous scholarship and travel-writer's ease with language makes this not only an incredibly well-researched book, but something of a page-turner - Big Issue

This is vintage Dalrymple: warp-speed historical narrative, meticulously researched . . . My only regret reading this wonderful history is that it was not published a decade earlier - Evening Standard

Dalrymple is a writer who can make the most recondite historical issues come alive and with each successive book he becomes a more entertaining and enlightening companion . . . Return of a King is simply quite brilliant - Alexander McCall Smith, New Statesman, Books of the Year

Probably the best known British historian of India . . . this is the book he was born to write - Economist

Sensationally good . . . Dalrymple writes the kind of history few historians can match . . . Drawing on Afghan, Russian, and Indian sources, [Dalrymple] tells a truly epic story of imperial ambition and hubris with profound lessons for our own times . . . I doubt that I'll read a better written or more important history book all year - Scotsman

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“Empire building and white elephants.”

I first came across the 19th Century Afghan War in Philip Hensher's The Mulberry Empire, when the lead character finds himself standing on a plain of skulls, this book will tell you how they got there.
However, I... More

Paperback edition
Helpful? Upvote 72

“TORTUOUS”

A very detailed history that was tedious to read and very depressing in content (as it reveals just how incompetent that the political and military leaders of the time were, and how the same defects reappear time... More

Paperback edition
Helpful? Upvote 57

“Historians delight”

William Dalrymple is an intelligent articulate author who retells the story of Britain’s first invasion of Afghanistan in a way that keeps the reader hooked. He has researched so many new sources in order to improve... More

Paperback edition
Helpful? Upvote 47

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