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The Story of the Malakand Field Force - An Episode of the Frontier War

4.7 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1604502237
ISBN-10: 1604502231
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 212 pages
  • Publisher: Arc Manor (May 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1604502231
  • ISBN-13: 978-1604502237
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,536,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jetpack on September 18, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a review of the free Kindle version of the Sir Winston S. Churchill report of the Indian Frontier War of 1897. Churchill got himself leave as a cavalry officer so he could report on this for a newspaper. Imagine doing that now!

This was only 114 years ago, but it reads as from another planet. The discussion of whether the cavalry should use lance or sword, even the discussion of the length of the spear.

Churchill's full force defense of burning Afghan villages is very interesting with our 21st century morals.

Churchill also didn't think highly of the residents of the Swat Valley (Part of Pakistan now) or the Afghans. He takes plenty of opportunities to talk about how they are barbarians. Even says outright that the elderly are killed once they can't pull a trigger!

The first hand details of the battles are quite remarkable. You have to give Churchill credit in that he did think that native troops should be eligible for the Victoria Cross, though he does think the heart of a British/Indian unit is the Brits, of course.

No maps, but well worth reading for any fan of history. You also miss out on the casualty reports.
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It is always interesting to read one of the first works of a great author, and certainly this is a fine example. In the Malakand Field Force, Churchill presents--as always--as much of himself as he does of the subject at hand; he also presents the society that he was brought up in, and for the modern reader that can be half the matter at hand. While the excruciating late-Victorian racial condescension drips from every page and chart, you also get to hear Churchill setting forth his very strong sense that people are what they make of themselves, and that (for instance) soldiers other than those born in Britain ought to be eligible for the Victoria Cross--after all, no matter their race, their bravery and contributions were no less.

But then back to polo and how it helped build those lieutenants into the young men they were. Oh, and they had the Maxim gun...

Overall, a fine historical piece and the free version for the Kindle suffers only slightly from a few hard-to-read charts.
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The Story of the Malakand Field Force, by Winston Churchill, is a primary history source of great interest for its analysis of the sociology of what is now the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region and its description of frontier warfare at the end of the 19th century. At the outset of the punitive military campaign launched by the Malakand Field Force, Churchill was in his mid twenties, a cavalry officer serving in India. Afraid of missing the adventure, he took six weeks of leave from his unit to follow the force as a press correspondent. His observations about the tribesmen are of considerable value even now, a century later, but his racial and nationalistic chauvinism is unattractive to a modern reader.

The sociological analysis focuses on what we would now call non-cooperative survival strategies or a lack of social capital. It would be hard to improve on the quality of Churchill's writing, so I will provide a series of quotations:

* "The abundant crops which a warm sun and copious rains raise from a fertile soil, support a numerous population in a state of warlike leisure. Except at times of sowing and of harvest, a continual state of feud and strife prevails throughout the land. Tribe wars with tribe. The people of one valley fight with those of the next. To the quarrels of communities are added the combats of individuals. Khan assails khan, each supported by his retainers.

* Every tribesman has a blood feud with his neighbor. Every man's hand is against the other, and all are against the stranger."

* "The weapons of the nineteenth century are in the hands of savages of the Stone Age."

* "The strong aboriginal propensity to kill, inherent in all human beings, has in these valleys been preserved in unexampled strength and vigor.
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First I must say that I am a "Churchillophile". I got the free kindle edition to use for reference and to reread. In this book, WSC gives us more insight and understanding of what Americans and the rest of the world are up against in Afghanistan than any of todays military experts and news pundits.

Chapter III particularly tells us first hand what kind people are in that far country on which we of the Western World are trying to impose our values and/or political theories. The Malakand Pass, though located in Northern Pakistan, was in country like the heart of where the fighting, unrest, and resistance to change are going on today. Remember that Churchill published these words in 1898. A more prescient work on Afghanistan and what we face there could not have been written by an Edgar Rice Burroughs or a J Verne. And we do not want to doubt Churchill's prescience; all we need do is check his nearly unheeded writings and speeches of the 1930s regarding the rising Nazi menace.

After reading this work, we can see that these are the same people faced today as those faced by the Malakand Field Force in 1897 with one great exception; today's Taliban are much better armed than were the foes faced by Sir Bindon Blood and Lt. WSC. His understanding of the value of the superior firepower of the British with breech loading and some repeating rifles against the muzzle loaders of the Pashtun opposition led him to push in WWI for use of tanks against an entrenched enemy using machine guns.

The book is a good story and interesting read in its entirety, written by a young man who volunteered for the fight partly because he was bored with playing polo in India. He personally expected to make his name publicly known with this book--and succeeded in doing so.

Read Chapter III !
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