Review of ‘Return of a King’

I have been reading (via Nook E-reader) ‘Return of a King’ The Battle for Afghanistan by William Dalrymple   for a while in little bits between reading other things. It is about the First Anglo-Indian Afghan war in 1839-42 over 400 pages with even more notes and bibliography at the end. As well as a Author’s note about links with the current Afghan war.

“Sir Jasper Nicholls ‘I would not have counselled that invasion for any honor which could have been conferred on me.’ After all the waste and destruction of an expensive and unnecessary war of dubious legality, with the honor and reputation of British arms tarnished and British authority undermined; after spending £15 million [well over £50 billion in modern currency], exhausting the Indian treasury, pushing the Indian credit network to the brink of collapse and permanently wrecking the solvency of the East India Company; after losing maybe 40,000 lives….” page 466

I enjoyed reading this deep insightful report of an early war, William has gone to great length to use Afghan sources as Indian and British ones. He shows both sides of a complex situation and the complex personalities behind the war and its execution. The Anglo-Indian army and its British officers do not come out with any honor or wisdom as mistake after mistake led to war and then disaster followed by a brutal revenge campaign.

“The Afghan sources also present us with a mirror which allows us in the words of Alexander Burnes’s  cousin Bobbie Burns, ‘To see ourselves as others see us.’  ‘To Afghan eyes the western armies were remarkable for their heartlessness, for their lack of any basic values of chivalry and especially for their indifference to civilian casualties.” Page 496

Well worth reading for a insight into 19th century politics and how history often repeats itself as those in charge fail to heed the lessons of the past.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s