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The Man Who Would Be King: The First American in Afghanistan

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The Man Who Would Be King: The First American in Afghanistan Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The Riveting Account of the American Who Inspired Kipling's Classic Tale and the John Huston Movie

In the year 1838, a young adventurer, surrounded by his native troops and mounted on an elephant, raised the American flag on the summit of the Hindu Kush in the mountainous wilds of Afghanistan. He declared himself Prince of Ghor, Lord of the Hazarahs, spiritual and military heir to Alexander the Great.

The true story of Josiah Harlan, a Pennsylvania Quaker and the first American ever to enter Afghanistan, has never been told before, yet the life and writings of this extraordinary man echo down the centuries, as America finds itself embroiled once more in the land he first explored and described 180 years ago.

Soldier, spy, doctor, naturalist, traveler, and writer, Josiah Harlan wanted to be a king, with all the imperialist hubris of his times. In an extraordinary twenty-year journey around Central Asia, he was variously employed as surgeon to the Maharaja of Punjab, revolutionary agent for the exiled Afghan king, and then commander in chief of the Afghan armies. In 1838, he set off in the footsteps of Alexander the Great across the Hindu Kush and forged his own kingdom, only to be ejected from Afghanistan a few months later by the invading British.

Using a trove of newly discovered documents and Harlan's own unpublished journals, Ben Macintyre tells the astonishing true story of the man who would be the first and last American king.

Ben Macintyre is also the author of Forgotten Fatherland, The Napoleon of Crime, and The Englishman's Daughter. He is a columnist for The Times (London), where he edits the Weekend Review section. Macintyre was formerly the paper's bureau chief in New York, Paris, and Washington.

In the winter of 1838, an adventurer, surrounded by native troops and mounted on an elephant, raised the American flag on the summit of the Hindu Kush in the mountainous wilds of Afghanistan. He declared himself Prince of Ghor, Paramount Chief of the Hazarajat, and the spiritual and military heir to Alexander the Great. His name was Josiah Harlan. A Pennsylvania Quaker, Harlan was the first American ever to enter Afghanistan. In The Man Who Would Be King we have the extraordinary true story of the man who inspired Kipling's classic tale.

A soldier, spy, doctor, naturalist, traveler, and writer, Harlan was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, in 1799. At the age of twenty-two, after a failed love affair, he set off on what was to become an amazing twenty-year journey through Central Asia. Among his many exploits, he was variously employed as surgeon to the Maharaja of Punjab, revolutionary agent for the exiled Afghan King, and commander in chief of the Afghan armies. He modeled himself after Alexander the Great and followed in his footsteps across the Hindu Kush, where he successfully forged his own kingdomonly to be ejected from Afghanistan a few months later by the invading British. Harlan retired to the United States, where he raised his own regiment during the Civil War and engaged in a variety of harebrained schemes, including the introduction of the camel to the American West as a viable means of locomotion, and the cultivation of exotic Afghan grapes.

Based on the remarkable discovery of Josiah Harlan's own unpublished journals, The Man Who Would Be King tellsfor the first timethe fascinating story of a political adventurer who personified the imperialistic impulse some sixty years before the Spanish-American War. Colorful, exotic, and highly entertaining, this book is also a cautionary tale that echoes down the centuries as the United States finds itself entangled, once again, with Afghanistan.

"Harlan's real story, told for the first time in The Man Who Would Be King: The First American in Afghanistan, turns out to be so extraordinary even Kipling might have balked at some of its twists and turns . . . Macintyre's riveting, scrupulously researched book should place this remarkable man where he rightfully belongs: in the pantheon of 19th-century American folk heroes."Alexander Frater, The New York Times Book Review

"An intriguing historical footnote teased into epic. As he did with The Napoleon of Crime (1997), London Times columnist Macintyre finds an unlikely hero in a 19th-century American who defied convention and got himself in hot water for his troubles. The man in question was a young Pennsylvania Quaker, Josiah Harlan, who left his comfortable home and made his way to India. There, in the dusty streets of Peshawar, he made the acquaintance of an exiled Afghan potentate who promised him endless wealth and power if only Harlan would lead an army to Kabul and overthrow the usurper. (The potentate added that he would have done so already, but he was 'concerned for the safety of the harem, which he could hardly take into battle.') That was apparently all Harlan needed to hear, and in no time he was charging around in the highest elevations of the Hindu Kush, where he planted an American flag. Long before the arrival of the English in Afghanistan, Harlan was living the fine life of a pale god; in the end, he bore many titles: 'Prince of Ghor, Paramount Chief of the Hazarajat, Lord of Kurram, governor of Jasrota and Gujrat . . . Chief Sirdar and Commandant of the invincible armies of Dost Mohammed Khan, mighty Amir of Kabul, Pearl of the Ages, and Commander of the Faithful.' Macintyre reasonably suggests that Harlan's adventures in Afghanistanwhich ended thanks to British perfidyinspired Rudyard Kipling's great story 'The Man Who Would Be King,' save that the real-life tale's denouement was far less interesting: after scandal-tinged service as a Union officer in the Civil War, Harlan wound up in San Francisco practicing medicine without a license and presumably bragging to whomever would listen about his 'sojourn of eighteen years amongst the Pagan and Mohamedan communities of the East.' Fascinatingand most entertainingfrom start to finish."Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"While many know Sean Connery as 'The Man Who Would Be King,' few know 19th-century maverick Josiah Harlan, whose adventures probably inspired John Huston's version of Kipling's tale. But the research of British journalist Macintyre gives readers both Harlan's story and a thought-provoking perspective on the history of superpower intervention in Afghanistan . . . While mapping Harlan's adventures, Macintyre entertains readers with odd episodes (e.g., Harlan visiting an Afghan sauna fueled by burning night soil) and myriad ironies (e.g., Freemason Harlan trading secrets with an old Rosicrucian sorcerer in an Afghan cave). Harlan's story alone is fascinating, but its resonance with modern-day strugglesHarlan urging the British to try 'fiscal diplomacy' (i.e., gold) instead of 'invading and subjugating an unoffending people'makes it compelling."Publishers Weekly

Review:

"While mapping Harlan's adventures, Macintyre entertains readers with odd episodes...and myriad ironies. Harlan's story alone is fascinating, but its resonance with modern-day struggles...makes it compelling." Publishers Weekly

Review:

"Macintyre...tells this story with zest, aplomb, and just a touch of sadness. Harlan was an unusual combination of romanticism and hardheaded practicality, and his encounters...make for a thrilling real-life yarn." Booklist

Review:

This book illustrate[s] what the...American-European public has begun to learn about Afghanistan...: that its multiethnic, often warring society is at once remote and continually and perilously involved with the West." Library Journal

Review:

"...London Times columnist Macintyre (The Englishman's Daughter, 2002) finds an unlikely hero in a 19th-century American who defied convention and got himself in hot water for his troubles. Fascinating-and most entertaining-from start to finish." Kirkus Reviews

Synopsis:

The riveting story that inspired Kipling's classic tale and a John Huston movie

The true story of Josiah Harlan, a Pennsylvania Quaker and the first American ever to enter Afghanistan, has never been told before. Soldier, spy, doctor, naturalist, traveler and writer, Josiah Harlan wanted to be a king, with all the imperialist hubris of his times. In an amazing twenty-year journey around Central Asia, he was variously employed as surgeon to the Maharaja of Punjab, revolutionary agent for the exiled Afghan King, and then commander-in-chief of the Afghan armies. In 1838, he set off in the footsteps of Alexander the Great across the Hindu Kush and forged his own kingdom, only to be ejected from Afghanistan a few months later by the invading British.

Using a trove of newly-discovered documents, Harlan's own unpublished journals, and with a revised Preface detailing the unexpected discovery of Harlan's descendents, Ben Macintyre tells the astonishing tale of the man who would be the first and last American king.

Synopsis:

The Riveting Account of the American Who Inspired Kipling's Classic Tale and the John Huston Movie

In the year 1838, a young adventurer, surrounded by his native troops and mounted on an elephant, raised the American flag on the summit of the Hindu Kush in the mountainous wilds of Afghanistan. He declared himself Prince of Ghor, Lord of the Hazarahs, spiritual and military heir to Alexander the Great.

The true story of Josiah Harlan, a Pennsylvania Quaker and the first American ever to enter Afghanistan, has never been told before, yet the life and writings of this extraordinary man echo down the centuries, as America finds itself embroiled once more in the land he first explored and described 180 years ago.

Soldier, spy, doctor, naturalist, traveler, and writer, Josiah Harlan wanted to be a king, with all the imperialist hubris of his times. In an extraordinary twenty-year journey around Central Asia, he was variously employed as surgeon to the Maharaja of Punjab, revolutionary agent for the exiled Afghan king, and then commander in chief of the Afghan armies. In 1838, he set off in the footsteps of Alexander the Great across the Hindu Kush and forged his own kingdom, only to be ejected from Afghanistan a few months later by the invading British.

Using a trove of newly discovered documents and Harlan's own unpublished journals, Ben Macintyre tells the astonishing true story of the man who would be the first and last American king.

About the Author

Ben Macintyre is the author of three books, most recently The Englishman's Daughter (FSG, 2002). A senior writer and columnist for The Times of London, he was the newspaper's correspondent in New York, Paris, and Washington D.C. He now lives in London.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780374201784
Subtitle:
The First American in Afghanistan
Author:
Macintyre, Ben
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Location:
New York
Subject:
Middle East
Subject:
History
Subject:
Historical - U.S.
Subject:
Adventurers & Explorers
Subject:
Afghanistan
Subject:
Middle East - General
Subject:
Americans
Subject:
Americans - Afghanistan
Subject:
Afghanistan History 19th century.
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Series Volume:
1173
Publication Date:
20040421
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Includes 8 pages of black-and-white illu
Pages:
368
Dimensions:
9.00 x 6.00 x 1.23 in

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Asia » Afghanistan
History and Social Science » World History » Afghanistan and Pakistan
History and Social Science » World History » Asia » General

The Man Who Would Be King: The First American in Afghanistan Used Hardcover
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$9.50 In Stock
Product details 368 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780374201784 Reviews:
"Review" by , "While mapping Harlan's adventures, Macintyre entertains readers with odd episodes...and myriad ironies. Harlan's story alone is fascinating, but its resonance with modern-day struggles...makes it compelling."
"Review" by , "Macintyre...tells this story with zest, aplomb, and just a touch of sadness. Harlan was an unusual combination of romanticism and hardheaded practicality, and his encounters...make for a thrilling real-life yarn."
"Review" by , This book illustrate[s] what the...American-European public has begun to learn about Afghanistan...: that its multiethnic, often warring society is at once remote and continually and perilously involved with the West."
"Review" by , "...London Times columnist Macintyre (The Englishman's Daughter, 2002) finds an unlikely hero in a 19th-century American who defied convention and got himself in hot water for his troubles. Fascinating-and most entertaining-from start to finish."
"Synopsis" by ,
The riveting story that inspired Kipling's classic tale and a John Huston movie

The true story of Josiah Harlan, a Pennsylvania Quaker and the first American ever to enter Afghanistan, has never been told before. Soldier, spy, doctor, naturalist, traveler and writer, Josiah Harlan wanted to be a king, with all the imperialist hubris of his times. In an amazing twenty-year journey around Central Asia, he was variously employed as surgeon to the Maharaja of Punjab, revolutionary agent for the exiled Afghan King, and then commander-in-chief of the Afghan armies. In 1838, he set off in the footsteps of Alexander the Great across the Hindu Kush and forged his own kingdom, only to be ejected from Afghanistan a few months later by the invading British.

Using a trove of newly-discovered documents, Harlan's own unpublished journals, and with a revised Preface detailing the unexpected discovery of Harlan's descendents, Ben Macintyre tells the astonishing tale of the man who would be the first and last American king.

"Synopsis" by ,
The Riveting Account of the American Who Inspired Kipling's Classic Tale and the John Huston Movie

In the year 1838, a young adventurer, surrounded by his native troops and mounted on an elephant, raised the American flag on the summit of the Hindu Kush in the mountainous wilds of Afghanistan. He declared himself Prince of Ghor, Lord of the Hazarahs, spiritual and military heir to Alexander the Great.

The true story of Josiah Harlan, a Pennsylvania Quaker and the first American ever to enter Afghanistan, has never been told before, yet the life and writings of this extraordinary man echo down the centuries, as America finds itself embroiled once more in the land he first explored and described 180 years ago.

Soldier, spy, doctor, naturalist, traveler, and writer, Josiah Harlan wanted to be a king, with all the imperialist hubris of his times. In an extraordinary twenty-year journey around Central Asia, he was variously employed as surgeon to the Maharaja of Punjab, revolutionary agent for the exiled Afghan king, and then commander in chief of the Afghan armies. In 1838, he set off in the footsteps of Alexander the Great across the Hindu Kush and forged his own kingdom, only to be ejected from Afghanistan a few months later by the invading British.

Using a trove of newly discovered documents and Harlan's own unpublished journals, Ben Macintyre tells the astonishing true story of the man who would be the first and last American king.

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