Return of A King

Return of A King

The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42

eBook - 2013
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Examines the mid-19th-century Afghan war as a tragic result of neocolonial ambition, cultural collision and hubris, drawing on previously untapped primary sources to explore such topics as the reestablishment of a puppet-leader Shah, the conflict's brutal human toll and the similarities between the war and present-day challenges.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2013
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780307958297
Branch Call Number: Overdrive eBook
Characteristics: 1 online resource (xxxviii, 515 p., [32] p. of plates) : ill. (chiefly col.), maps


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Feb 16, 2020

While I am a huge fan of Dalrymple's books, I found this one to be a bit tedious - perhaps because this period of history was fraught with some many missteps by the English, Russians, Afghanies, and others. The multitude of different tribes, fluid allegiances, and changing strategies make it difficult to follow the action. Almost two centuries later, it is still difficult to understand what is happening in Afghanistan.

May 07, 2014

Some pretty heavy reading, goes into a lot of depth and history on Afghanistan. Probably more for someone from that area of the world, or for someone studying the history and culture of he area.

Mar 03, 2014

Send to Fleetwood library please.

Feb 02, 2014

Utilizes a wide variety of first-hand sources and superb research to present to the reader a compelling and moving narrative. The beginning of the book can be somewhat dry as we are introduced to the various factions and key characters, but once the first campaign sets out the pace quickens. Composed of a balanced mix of politics, military struggles, and the lot of the various tribes and civilians, both Afghan and Firangi (foreigner). Obvious parallels to the current state of affairs are explored at the conclusion.

Jul 18, 2013

Author recommended by Hugh Hewitt


Add a Summary
Jul 18, 2013

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.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further


Subject Headings


Find it at Arapahoe Libraries

To Top