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

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

by John H. Waller

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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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Random House Publishing Group
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1st ed

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