Beyond the Khyber Pass: The Road to British Disaster in the First Afghan War

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New Rich in adventure, intrigue and treachery, this is the story of the British failure in Afghanistan in the 1840s, as England competed with czarist Russia for strategic ... advantage in Central Asia. Waller relates how the womanizing ways of garrison troops in Kaul (amid a xenophobic, deeply religious society where such behavior was punishable by death) was the "last straw" that caused the tribal chiefs to abandon their bloody feuds and declare a holy war against the infidel invader. The war found the vaunted British square formation, cavalry and artillery virtually useless in the high mountain passes where most of the fighting took place. The great set piece of the book is the awesome description of the near destruction of the 4500-man British Kabul garrison and its 12, 000 camp followers as they attempted to fight their way to Peshewar. This first-rate history by the author of Gordon of Khartoum captures the savage grandeur of the First Afghan War. Photos not seen by PW. Copyright 1990 Reed Business In Read more Show Less

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Rich in adventure, intrigue and treachery, this is the story of the British failure in Afghanistan in the 1840s, as England competed with czarist Russia for strategic advantage in Central Asia. Waller relates how the womanizing ways of garrison troops in Kaul (amid a xenophobic, deeply religious society where such behavior was punishable by death) was the ``last straw'' that caused the tribal chiefs to abandon their bloody feuds and declare a holy war against the infidel invader. The war found the vaunted British square formation, cavalry and artillery virtually useless in the high mountain passes where most of the fighting took place. The great set piece of the book is the awesome description of the near destruction of the 4500-man British Kabul garrison and its 12,000 camp followers as they attempted to fight their way to Peshewar. This first-rate history by the author of Gordon of Khartoum captures the savage grandeur of the First Afghan War. Photos not seen by PW. (June)
Library Journal
The Khyber Pass, Kabul, ``Bokhara'' Burns--these are storied names and places in what Rudyard Kipling dubbed ``the great game.'' The struggle for control of the gateway to the heart of Asia preoccupied both Russia and Britian in the 19th century, but the massive tragedy at Kabul (Britain's single greatest setback in Victoria's reign), was a reminder that there were other players in the game, too. Waller provides a splendid re-creation of the First Afghan War, told with verve and flair; he knows the terrain (and the relevant sources) at first hand. Exciting, gripping reading, this is also a solid addition to the literature on the British in India and Afghanistan. For general readers as well as specialists.-- James Casada, Winthrop Coll., Rock Hill, S.C.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780292790735
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press
  • Publication date: 2/29/2000
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 365

Table of Contents

Preface
Prologue
Pt. I Cossacks, Kings and Companymen
1 Alexander Burnes, Imperial Outrider 3
2 Ranjit Singh, Lion of the Punjab 14
3 Shah Shuja, Restless Exile 23
4 Mohan Lal, Loyal Company Servant 30
5 Dost Mohammed, Emir of Afghanistan 37
6 Bokhara 47
7 Fath Ali Shah, Persia's King of Kings 54
8 A Hero and a Fugitive: A Study in Contrast 63
9 Contest for Peshawar 74
10 Politicians and Bureaucrats 84
11 Alexander Burnes, Humble Petitioner 92
12 Imperial Jousting in Kabul 98
13 Eldred Pottinger, Hero of Herat 110
Pt. II All the Queen's Horses and All the Queen's Men
14 To War 121
15 March to Kabul 132
16 Staff and Distaff 152
17 Fraying Around the Edges 163
18 Turmoil in the Punjab; Danger Beyond the Hindu Kush 170
19 Gathering Clouds 180
Pt. III Disaster and Retribution
20 Uprising 193
21 Desperation 205
22 Disintegration 215
23 Treachery 225
24 Retreat 236
25 An Army Dies 248
26 Captivity 256
27 Finale 268
Epilogue 280
Notes and References 293
Bibliography 309
Index 315
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