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Publisher's Summary

Bloomsbury presents Return of a King by William Dalrymple, read by Sagar Arya.

Shortlisted for The Samuel Johnson Prize 2013

In the spring of 1839, Britain invaded Afghanistan for the first time. 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.

On the way in, the British faced little resistance. But after two years of occupation, the Afghan people rose in answer to the call for jihad and the country exploded into violent rebellion. The First Anglo-Afghan War ended in Britain's greatest military humiliation of the 19th century: an entire army of the then most powerful nation in the world ambushed in retreat and utterly routed by poorly equipped tribesmen.

Using a range of forgotten Afghan and Indian sources, William Dalrymple's masterful retelling of Britain's greatest imperial disaster is a powerful parable of colonial ambition and cultural collision, folly and hubris. Return of a King is history at its most urgent and important.

©2013 William Dalrymple (P)2021 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Critic Reviews

"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)

"Enchantingly written.... In Dalrymple’s usual happy style of historical narrative, applied to a fascinating, neat and highly suggestive series of events, this long and involved book will be a great success, and bring the famous story to a large new audience." (Philip Hensher, Spectator)

"Of the books swooped into being by his scholarship (to which he himself has applied the adjective 'obsessive'), this one is the most magnificent.... His account is so perceptive and so warmly humane that one is never tempted to break away.... This book would be compulsive reading even if it were not a uniquely valuable history, which it is, because Dalrymple has uncovered sources never used before." (Diana Athill, Guardian

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