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A Journal of the First Afghan War

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The first Afghan War of 1838-1842 witnessed one of the greatest defeats ever inflicted upon the British by an Asian enemy--the retreat from Kabul. On January 6, 1842, a British force that, with its followers numbered some 16,000, marched out of Kabul under an illusory safe conduct; one week later, nearly all of them- -men, women, and children--lay dead along the ninety mil The first Afghan War of 1838-1842 witnessed one of the greatest defeats ever inflicted upon the British by an Asian enemy--the retreat from Kabul. On January 6, 1842, a British force that, with its followers numbered some 16,000, marched out of Kabul under an illusory safe conduct; one week later, nearly all of them- -men, women, and children--lay dead along the ninety mile route, some killed by the Afghan enemy, the rest frozen to death in the snow. Of all the participants in the tragedy, none has told the story better than Lady Sale. This is her journal. One of the few witnesses who survived the massacre, Florentia, Lady Sale, was the wife of second-in-command at Kabul, Sir Robert Sale. Her journal begins in September 1841 when the whole position of the British, and the butterfly social existence they led in the Kabul cantonments, was menaced both by Afghan intrigue and by the incompetence of their own command. The journal ends a year later, with the rescue of Florentia by her husband from nine months of captivity in Afghan hands. In the intervening period she had witnessed battle, murder, and sudden death, had been exposed to freezing cold and burning heat, had endured vermin-infested lodgings and incessant earthquakes--all recorded with a laconic imperturbability and an occasional flash of sardonic humor.


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The first Afghan War of 1838-1842 witnessed one of the greatest defeats ever inflicted upon the British by an Asian enemy--the retreat from Kabul. On January 6, 1842, a British force that, with its followers numbered some 16,000, marched out of Kabul under an illusory safe conduct; one week later, nearly all of them- -men, women, and children--lay dead along the ninety mil The first Afghan War of 1838-1842 witnessed one of the greatest defeats ever inflicted upon the British by an Asian enemy--the retreat from Kabul. On January 6, 1842, a British force that, with its followers numbered some 16,000, marched out of Kabul under an illusory safe conduct; one week later, nearly all of them- -men, women, and children--lay dead along the ninety mile route, some killed by the Afghan enemy, the rest frozen to death in the snow. Of all the participants in the tragedy, none has told the story better than Lady Sale. This is her journal. One of the few witnesses who survived the massacre, Florentia, Lady Sale, was the wife of second-in-command at Kabul, Sir Robert Sale. Her journal begins in September 1841 when the whole position of the British, and the butterfly social existence they led in the Kabul cantonments, was menaced both by Afghan intrigue and by the incompetence of their own command. The journal ends a year later, with the rescue of Florentia by her husband from nine months of captivity in Afghan hands. In the intervening period she had witnessed battle, murder, and sudden death, had been exposed to freezing cold and burning heat, had endured vermin-infested lodgings and incessant earthquakes--all recorded with a laconic imperturbability and an occasional flash of sardonic humor.

31 review for A Journal of the First Afghan War

  1. 4 out of 5

    Fraser Sherman

    3.5. Florentia Sale was the wife of a British officer stationed in Afghanistan. At the time of this book, Britain/Afghanistan relations were going south (England turned off the cash spigot it was using to buy support and backed a loser in the internal power struggles), the incompetent Elphinstone was in charge of British forces and as things heated up, the British military made mistake after mistake. Eventually they took a powder back to India with horrific loss of life on the way — as the intro 3.5. Florentia Sale was the wife of a British officer stationed in Afghanistan. At the time of this book, Britain/Afghanistan relations were going south (England turned off the cash spigot it was using to buy support and backed a loser in the internal power struggles), the incompetent Elphinstone was in charge of British forces and as things heated up, the British military made mistake after mistake. Eventually they took a powder back to India with horrific loss of life on the way — as the introduction to the book notes, having a vast array of servants, spouses, kids and mistresses traveling with them didn't lead to efficiency. The slow collapse is recorded in Sale's diary. An interesting look at a disastrous military event.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Wise_owl

    This book was a fascinating read, sometimes and exciting one, and always one that placed you into a historical context. I first heard about this particular book through 'Flashman' a book I didn't really like, but whose placement in a certain historical context got me interested in this journal of a Military Officers wife during the 'route from Kabul' during the first Anglo-Afghani war. Lady Sale, as I understand it, became something of a legend in England for her part in the conflict, one she her This book was a fascinating read, sometimes and exciting one, and always one that placed you into a historical context. I first heard about this particular book through 'Flashman' a book I didn't really like, but whose placement in a certain historical context got me interested in this journal of a Military Officers wife during the 'route from Kabul' during the first Anglo-Afghani war. Lady Sale, as I understand it, became something of a legend in England for her part in the conflict, one she herself seems to think overblown. The image of this straight-laced, properly 'Victorian' woman is given through in every page of the diary. The only thing that seems perhaps out of place at all is the disdain she shows for other military men, those whose action(or in many cases inaction) she holds responsible for the route itself. It's a fascinating bit of history, and interesting as well for those who want a bit more Afghani history, if from an immensely biased viewpoint. Though who aren’t into historical journals probably won't like it as much, so if the topic and/or journals aren't to your forte I'd say stay away.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Wes F

    An older, re-published book on the experiences of the wife of one of the key British officers in the First Anglo-Afghan War. Interesting perspective, though good to combine it with other well-researched historical accounts (like the recent book by William Dalrymple, Return of a King).

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ike

  5. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa Norhausen

  6. 5 out of 5

    Greg

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

  8. 4 out of 5

    Raymond

  9. 4 out of 5

    Todd

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Diamond

  11. 4 out of 5

    Joost Perreijn

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rick

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ben

  14. 5 out of 5

    Constantine

  15. 5 out of 5

    Scott

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mary Kate

  17. 4 out of 5

    BookDB

  18. 5 out of 5

    Douglas Beck

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas

  20. 5 out of 5

    Yasmin

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ladybird

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lgold

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dominik Stepan

  24. 5 out of 5

    David S

  25. 4 out of 5

    ZM

  26. 5 out of 5

    Whichcord

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Perkins

  28. 5 out of 5

    David

  29. 5 out of 5

    Oliver Gmuender

  30. 4 out of 5

    شاه پور

  31. 4 out of 5

    Brendan Kyle Jure

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