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Book Talk: Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42

Afghan Studies Book Talk with Author William Dalrymple

Monday, April 29, 2013
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Young Research Library Main Conference Room

The UCLA Program on Central Asia Presents an Afghan Studies Book Talk by 

William Dalrymple

Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42 (Alfred K. Knopf, 2013)  

In the spring of 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 passes and re-established on the throne Shah Shuja ul-Mulk. On the way in, the British faced little resistance. But after little more than two years, the Afghans rose in answer to the call for jihad and Afghanistan exploded into rebellion. The First Anglo-Afghan War ended in Britain’s greatest imperial disaster of the nineteenth century: an entire army of what was then the most powerful military nation in the world ambushed in the snows of the high passes, and there routed and destroyed by simply-equipped Afghan tribesmen.

This first disastrous entanglement in Afghanistan has important lessons for the present. Using a wide range of new sources from Afghan, Russian, Indian and Pakistani archives, including a series of previously untranslated Afghan epic poems and biographies, Return of a King is the definitive analysis of the First Anglo-Afghan War, and an important parable of colonial ambition and cultural collision for our times.

About the Author

William Dalrymple was born in Scotland but has lived in Delhi on and off for the last 25 years. He is the author of seven books about India and the Islamic world, all of which has won major literary awards, including City of Djinns, White Mughals, The Last Mughal, and Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India. He writes regularly for the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books and the Guardian, and is one of the founders and a co-director of Asia-Pacific’s biggest book festival, the annual Jaipur Literary Festival. He is currently the Whitney J. Oates Fellow in Humanities at Princeton University.

Copies of Return of a King will be available for purchase at the event.


Sponsor(s): Center for Near Eastern Studies, Center for India and South Asia