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Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42 Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Dalrymple shows in this book that the 'Great Game', popularized by Rudyard Kipling in his novel 'Kim', was actually the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Alexander Burnes, the dashing Scottish intelligence officer, was sent out to Central Asia as a spy to gather information on the threats, which were non-existent then, from Czarist Russia to British interests in India. Burnes did his work and wrote a successful book on the subject which were read by the Russians. As a result, they get suspicious and send Yan Vitkevich, a Polish adventurer and explorer, to Bukhara and then on to Kabul to gather their own intelligence on this question. Thus, the hawkish paranoia in Calcutta and London ended up making a non-existent threat a reality. So, the Great Game begins and still goes on, a full 170 years after it began.
Burnes and his brilliant Indian assistant and intelligence chief, Mohan Lal Kashmiri, give excellent advice to Calcutta and London on the state of affairs in Central Asia and the course to be followed, which was to support Dost Mohammed Khan as the Amir of Afghanistan. But policy was made by George Eden, William Mcnaghten and Claude Wade.Read more ›
Among the more interesting story lines was how the British and Russian power structures were willing to ignore or refute what their envoys actually inside Afghanistan were telling them. Time after time, those governments made strategic blunders, allowing bureaucrats or aristocrats who had never set foot in the country to decide on diplomatic or military matters with profound implications for everyone involved. Even readers with strongly cynical or jaded attitudes toward politics may sometimes find it difficult to understand the amount of deceit, deception, and fragile loyalties inherent in Afghan affairs, but it was and may still be, essential to how they hold on to their own identity as a mainly tribal structure constantly under fire from some global power.Read more ›
The British had the choice of two alternative viewpoints and strategies. They chose the wrong one mainly because of wholly inept leadership under Lord Auckland; he in turn entrusted the actual invasion to poor leaders, partly on the basis of class distinctions.
The purpose of the invasion was to re-instate one of the candidates for king; they chose the wrong candidate. As is well known the British forces, again ineptly led, tried to leave the country once it became obvious that their mission had failed. One person was allowed to escape back to India. What is not so well known is that a second British force under a General Pollock returned to Afghanistan with the sole purpose of taking revenge, which he did. Kabul and Jalalabad were destroyed. The King that the British had rejected reclaimed his throne. Hamid Karzai the current Afghan leader is a descendant of Shuja the deposed King.
Whilst well researched the book is far too long. Much of the endless pieces of individuals correspondence could have been included in an appendix. I would have rated a shorter more concise book much more highly
One wonders at the incompetence of the British - how did they manage to acquire and keep an empire?
Dalrymple has done much original research for this book and has uncovered previously unknown facts.
The book - like all Dalrymple's writings - is exciting, entertaining and informative.
I am not sure that there are lessons for today in this history, but the reader should make up his or her own mind about that.
I read the Kindle version. The pictures and maps do not come out well but otherwise the reading experience was fine.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As someone who has read Dalrymple's earlier works, I wasn't really surprised that this book lived up to all the hype and turned out to be a wonderful read. Read morePublished 12 days ago by wilmerdon
This book, which tells the story of the first, failed, British military expedition in Afghanistan is excellent because it also tells us so much about that country's history (and... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Narzul Patrick
This book takes a complex period in Afghanistan's past and re-tells the story better than it has ever been told making judicious use of sources on all sides of the conflict. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Kiskaman
Brilliant writing based on objective research like what we have come to expect from William Dalrymple. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Mirza Yawar Baig
I bought this book as a history about the First Afghan War of 1839-1842, a conflict most people are not aware of. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Phil Historian
If you want the future, look to the past. This is a place we need to stay out of and if you read this book you will get some idea of why. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Kanaka Maoli
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