Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan | Mechanics' Institute

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Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan
William Dalrymple

Renowned travel writer, historian, and journalist William Dalrymple, speaks on his newest bookReturn of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, a definitive analysis of the First Afghan War which began in 1839 by the British military and ended in their devastating defeat.

Return of a Kingis the definitive analysis of the First Afghan War, told through the lives of unforgettable characters on all sides and using for the first time contemporary Afghan accounts of the conflict. Dalrymple's masterful retelling of Britain's greatest imperial disaster is a parable of colonial ambition and cultural collision, folly and hubris, with striking relevance for our times.

In 1839, the British invaded Afghanistan for the first time. Led by lancers in scarlet cloaks and plumed shakos, 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. At first, the British faced little resistance. But after two years of occupation, the Afghan people mounted a violent rebellion that led to Britain's greatest military defeat in the nineteenth century: an entire army of the then-most powerful nation in the world routed by under-equipped, poorly organized tribesmen.

“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

William Dalrymple is the author of seven acclaimed works of history and travel, including City of Djinns, which won the Young British Writer of the Year Prize and the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award; the best-selling From the Holy Mountain; and White Mughals, which won Britain's most prestigious history prize, the Wolfson. He also received the Duff Cooper Prize for The Last Mughal. Dalrymple is also a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, TLS, and The Guardian.

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