In the spring of 1839, the Army of the Indus invaded Afghanistan for the first time. Nearly 20,000 troops—including 14,000 East India Company sepoys, accompanied by 38,000 Indian camp followers-poured into the country and re-established Shah Shuja ul-Mulk on the throne. But after two years of occupation, the country exploded into violent rebellion as the Afghan people rose in answer to the call for jihad.
The East India Company troops retreated through mountain snow drifts and were utterly routed by Afghan tribesmen—it was the greatest military humiliation of the nineteenth century. 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.
‘Magnificent … So perceptive and so warmly humane … This book would be compulsive reading even if it were not a uniquely valuable history Diana Athill, Guardian
‘Gripping piece of narrative history, impossible to put down once you have started Mukund Padmanabhan, Hindu
A researcher par excellence…he has the insight of a historian…a writer of exceptional dexterity Pavan K. Varma, Business Standard , “Arguably the most important work in Dalrymple’s impressive oeuvre
Somnath Barabyal, Sunday Guardian
Dalrymple, probably the best known British historian of India, has written eight acclaimed books on a wide variety of subjects, but this is the book he was born to write Fiammetta Rocco, Economist