• Return of a King

  • The Battle for Afghanistan
  • By: William Dalrymple
  • Narrated by: Sagar Arya
  • Length: 20 hrs and 17 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (57 ratings)

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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
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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

What listeners say about Return of a King

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Tragic story excellently told

It took me just a bit to get into it, but once I did I couldn't wait to listen again. I knew the basics but the details of the first Anglo Afghan war are fascinating, complex, tragic, and incredibly interesting.

As a side note, stay for the research acknowledgements at the end. It not only shines a light on the extent of Dalrymple's thoroughness but also illustrates how dangerous the area remains.

1 person found this helpful

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Sagar Arya is amazing! And this story needs to be heard.

This book is mindblowing. And the presentation is masterful, to say the least. I want to hear more!

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Great book about the origins of the Great Game

The story is a page turner and the reading spirited and a good match to the story.

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Learned a lot about Afghanistan’s history

I always love to know about the history of different countries and relate it to the present situation. In case of Afghanistan it was fascinating to learn historical events and kudos to the hard work of the author and all who contributed.
If you like history you will love listening to this book and can relate it to the present fate of the country.

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Well documented but not dreary.

I listened to this book during the last days of the latest western occupation of Afghanistan which made the experience particularly poignant.
Listening the book the numerous mistakes made by the British in the nineteenth century seemed so similar to those made in the twenty first that it was depressing.
Still it is a book well worth listening too, because it manages to be informative without being boring thanks also to a sapient use of the fonts which, at times, are frankly amusing.

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Wonderful story from every aspect

I liked everything about this book except for some performance issues like sudden interruptions which caused the listener to lose the track of story. Otherwise everything has been fascinating.

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unmatched

The best book I've read out of many about the First Anglo Afghan War. Very applicable to the American war in Afghanistan. Must read for any politician regardless of country who might have interest in an occupation of Afghanistan

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  • A. J. Taylor
  • 05-12-21

Excellent and Well Researched

For anyone interested in early 19th Century history, the history of the Great Game, history of Afghanistan or the British in India this is a must have. Well researched & an excellent story in which the author went to extreme lengths to understand the history & appreciate Afghani society & culture. I recommend this book.

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  • Omer
  • 11-05-21

A window to the past which also serves as a mirror for the present

The way the book is written just draws the reader in and of course the narration is flawless with perfect representation of emotion and tones.

After reading the Anarchy this showed a stark contrast to the “successes” of the company in India compared to the humiliation in Afghanistan.

As they say “History repeats itself”.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mrs. G. Moynihan
  • 11-03-21

A great account

Brilliant narration and a great account. I feel for all Afghans and Afghanistan, they just want and deserve honesty and a fair chance.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Chantal
  • 06-21-22

Fantastically well researched, a bit dull

Lots of characters made the ddtory hard to get into but a while in that fsdes. However, the narrator did an awful job with the UK accents making a complicated story very hard to follow. So it became a chore to read this to the end. I think this book would be better with another narrator or on paper

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  • Melissa Pinder
  • 05-28-22

An unbiased and very thoroughly researched book

Another masterpiece by Mr Dalrymple. Most of the events mentioned in this book were part of our school's history lessons growing up in Afghanistan. for a very long time now, I've been searching for a well researched book about the second Anglo Afghan wars but haven't really succeeded in finding one. hope I can get some recommendations in the reviews' section.

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  • dean
  • 12-15-21

Narrator not good

Narrator is not very good. Good book but better to read yourself. It is just a series of articles from other books put together and edited to make sound like one story.

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  • Nikhil Ghodke
  • 12-11-21

Thorough and still entertaining

The book goes into very detailed analysis of historical events based on actual recorded historcal correpondence... I found the parts about Ramjith Singh and Kohinoor to be adding even more depth to the story. recommended!

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  • Rodney Wetherell
  • 05-11-21

Story of devastation, entertainingly told.

I knew roughly what Dalrymple's book was about, but was not prepared for the story of incompetence and ignorance, on the part of the British in India, which led them into a hopeless mire in Afghanistan. The Afghan leaders were no strangers to torture and murder themselves, and had the chance to eliminate many of the hated British generals and top bureaucrats. Dalrymple has told the story in great detail, using Afghan sources for the first time, and the result is a masterwork indeed. Sometimes I lost track of who was who, among the Shahs and Emirs, Generals and Governors-General, but the story swept splendidly on - yet vengeance played a huge part in the events, on both sides. The narrator was excellent.

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  • Shaun
  • 07-02-22

Boggling scale and complexity

Again, the author has managed to combine amazing detailed research into heart felt tales of true history.