|Number of Pages
It was a turbulent period in British Imperial history, the 1830s and 1840s. It was a time when the British Empire sought in every way to block the Russians from extending their influence into Asia.
The French and the Russians had entered into crucial alliances with Egypt and Persia. In China, the British Empire was in a confrontation over the Opium trade. In this troubled period, the possibility of Russia strengthening its influence over Afghanistan was perceived as a very serious threat.
To counter this, Lord Auckland, the Governor-General of India, listening to the idea of advisers who had no actual experience of Afghanistan, decided to institute a change of regime there. Return Of A King: The Battle For Afghanistan recounts how they decided to reinstall the former ruler Shah Shuja on the throne in place of Dost Mohammed.
The British representative in Afghanistan, Alexander Burnes, advised against this move, pointing out that Dost Mohammed was well established in Kabul and that it would be easier to strike an alliance with him. But he was ignored, and British troops entered Afghanistan and reinstalled Shah Shuja on the throne.
Within two years, the Afghans rose in rebellion and the British were driven out of Kabul. In fact, the British troops were completely destroyed by the Afghan rebels, resulting in one of the worst military humiliations the British Empire ever suffered. The British soon retaliated by launching another invasion. The Army of Retribution, as it was called, indulged in plunder and slaughter and rape, to retaliate for the humiliation they suffered.
Return Of A King: The Battle For Afghanistan is the result of extensive research by the author, with access to new sources, including works in Persian and Urdu that he got from second hand bookshops. He also referred to public and private archives in Afghanistan.
This vivid reconstruction of the conflict goes beyond just the history. The author draws many parallels to the contemporary Western invasion of Afghanistan, led by NATO forces.
About William Dalrymple
William Dalrymple is a British historian and author.
Other books by Dalrymple include White Mughals, City Of Djinns, Begums, Thugs & White Mughals - The Journals of Fanny Parkes, and The Age of Kali.
William Dalrymple was born in 1965 in Scotland. A historian who studied at Trinity College and Ampleforth College, he has spent a lot of time in India. He divides his time between London, Edinburgh and his farmhouse near Delhi. He has won numerous awards for his books and his TV shows. These include the Sunday Times Young British Writer award for City of Djinns, and the Grierson Award for Best Documentary Series at BAFTA in 2002 for Stones of The Raj and Indian Journeys, a show he wrote and presented