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Description - Soldier Sahibs by Charles Allen

SOLDIER SAHIBS is the astonishing story of a brotherhood of young men who together laid claim to the most notorious frontier in the world, the North-West Frontier, which today forms the volatile boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Known collectively as 'Henry Lawrence's young men', each had distinguished himself in the East India Company's wars in the Punjab before going on to make his name as a 'political' on the Frontier - Herbert Edwardes, who 'pacified' Bannu; John Nicholson, a forebear of the author who became the terror of the Sikhs as 'Nikkal Seyn'; 'Uncle' James Abbot of Hazara, and many others. Drawing extensively on their journals, diaries and letters, as well as his own recent travels in their footsteps, Charles Allen, acknowledged master story-teller of imperial history, weaves the individual stories of these soldier sahibs into an extraordinary tale that climaxes on Delhi Ridge in 1857, when the brotherhood came together to 'save' India.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780349114569
ISBN-10: 0349114560
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 127mm x 25mm)
Pages: 384
Imprint: Abacus
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 1-Nov-2001
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Book Reviews - Soldier Sahibs by Charles Allen

UK Kirkus Review » The North West Frontier of India, carved out of the Punjab and formally designated a Province in 1901, was a product of British strategic imagination, a heavily defended 450-mile-long frontier zone designed to fortify the Raj against Russian expansion into India from the central Asian steppes. The area first had to be made safe from the fearsome, independent Pathan tribesmen whose homeland it was. And the 'pacification' of these tribes was the job of the eponymous 'Soldier Sahibs' of the book's title, young men with a taste for adventure like John Nicholson, James Abbot and Herbert Edwardes, all veterans of the Sikh wars of 1846-49 and proteges of Sir Henry Lawrence, Commander of the East India Company's Bengal Army and Administrator of the Punjab. These men became Political Officers with the task of establishing civil order, military lines of communication and strategic intelligence-gathering centres (commonly known as 'political agencies') throughout the North West Frontier region between 1849 and 1857 when the Indian Mutiny put a temporary end to their endeavours. However their legacy lives on today in the way the NWFP stabilizes the still-volatile frontier between Pakistan and Taliban-controlled Afghanistan: this book, based on their diaries, letters and journals as well as the author's own travels in the region, chronicles and celebrates their achievement. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » Unsung heroes of the Raj get treated to an extended fanfare. In the mid-19th century, the British army dispatched a corps of soldiers to the Punjab, India's far northwestern frontier, to fight the feared "Pathans" and other enemies of the empire's progress. The majority of their officers were young men scarcely in their 20s whose bravery under fire became the stuff of legend. Focusing on half-a-dozen or so of these junior leaders, Allen (who is descended from John Nicholson, the youngest of the lot) offers an approving view of their work as they battle mustachioed brigands and revolutionary firebrands-such as Shahwali Khan (the feared Jafir of the Dagger Hand) and Jehandad Khan of the Tanoli (whose men were "brave and hardy and accounted the best swordsmen in Huzara"). Although young, the British officers assumed positions of great responsibility, challenging for men with much more experience; a 25-year-old named Harry Lumsden, for instance, commanded a force of 3,500 Sikh fighters, while a 29-year-old named Herbert Edwardes led an even larger army of Afghans into combat. Allen attributes these young men's willingness to fight and die on the distant frontiers of empire to patriotism and religious fervor ("We have to make a leap of imagination from our own faithless age," he sniffs, "back to an era when the promise of the Heavenly Kingdom for those who had fought the good fight was still very real"), overlooking the possibilities for profit and advancement that followed a pitched battle-to say nothing of thrill-seeking and other less exalted motives for serving the crown. Though uncritical in his admiration for British arms, Allen provides a rousing and informative yarn that will appeal to fans of "Lives of the Bengal Lancers "and "Gunga Din". (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Charles Allen

Charles Allen was born in India, where six generations of his family served under the British Raj. He is the author of several classic books on colonial and imperial history.

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