William Dalrymple - Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42


A cautionary tale of 19th-century imperial hubris that still resonates today

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Join prizewinning historian William Dalrymple (The Last Mughal), for a masterly retelling of the first Afghan war, perhaps the West's greatest imperial disaster in the East: an important parable of neocolonial ambition and cultural collision, folly, and hubris, which continues to resonate into the 21st century.  Followed by a book sale and signing. 

With access to previously untapped primary sources, William Dalrymple gives us the most immediate and comprehensive account we have had of the spectacular first battle for Afghanistan. We see the British invade the remote kingdom in 1839, reestablishing Shah Shuja on the throne — this time as their puppet — and ushering in a period of conflict still unresolved today. We see the Afghan people rise to the call for jihad against the foreign occupiers in 1841, poorly equipped tribesmen routing an entire army of what was then the most powerful military nation in the world: more than 18,000 British troops retreated from Kabul through treacherous mountain passes, and only one man made it through to Jellalabad. Dalrymple illuminates the similarities between what the British faced in Afghanistan nearly two centuries ago, and what NATO faces there today. The Return of a King is both the definitive analysis of the first Afghan war and a work of stunning topicality.

William Dalrymple is the author of seven previous works of history and travel, including City of Djinns, which won the Young British Writer of the Year Prize and the Thomas Cook Travel Book award; the best-selling From the Holy Mountain; White Mughals, which won Britain's most prestigious history prize, the Wolfson; and The Last Mughal, which won the Duff Cooper Prize for History and Biography. He divides his time between New Delhi and London, and is a contributor to The New York Review of Books and The New Yorker.

Read: Book Excerpt: 'The Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42'

Previous Appearances by William Dalrymple at Asia Society:

Interview: William Dalrymple and the 'Very Attractive' World of the Late Mughals

Performance: The Last Mughal, in Words and Music- William Dalrymple and Vidya Shah

Performance: Nine Lives - In Search of the Sacred in Modern South Asia – Featuring William Dalrymple, Paban Das Baul and the Bauls Of Bengal, Shah Jo Raag Fakir, Susheela Raman and Chandu Pannicker Theyyam Dance Group.

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Event Details

Mon 22 Apr 2013
6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
725 Park Avenue (at East 70th Street), New York, NY
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$10 members; $12 students with ID/seniors; $15 non-members
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