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The Tartan Turban:
A New Biography of Ranjit Singh’s American Colonel, Alexander Gardner





THE TARTAN TURBAN: IN SEARCH OF ALEXANDER GARDNER, by John Keay, Kashi House, New Delhi, 2017. English, hardcover, pp 353, $29.95. ISBN-10: 1911271008; ISBN-13: 978-1911271000.

Imagine spending thirteen years fighting and travelling in disguise in the deserts of Inner Asia, then another thirteen years as an officer in the Army of the Sikh Kingdom, the last of the subcontinent’s great empires.

How would you convince a disbelieving Western audience? Suppose, too, that while 'long separated from the world' you had acquired a reputation for conduct utterly unacceptable in civilised society. How would you justify it? However much you protested, many would reckon you a scoundrel and liar.

Lively reminiscences - such as saving the city of Lahore in 1841 by single-handedly killing 300 invaders - and numerous scars would not impress them, nor would the eccentricities of old age. The most you could hope for would be an impartial, if remote, vindication.

Gardner's story, like Marco Polo's, changed people's understanding of the world. The urge to contest or authenticate his account contributed to the scientific and political penetration of a vast chunk of Asia. Readers will see the whole region, from the Caspian to Tibet, in a new light and gain a fresh perspective on its last years under native rule.

John Keay's narrative histories of the subcontinent, the East India Company (“EIC”) and China are widely regarded as standard works. His 'India: A History' (now in its second edition) has sold over 200,000 copies and the 'EIC' book has been in print for over 25 years.

He is also the author of the Royal Geographical Society's 'History of World Exploration'. As a fellow, and now consultant, of the Royal Literary Fund, his prose is rated 'exquisite' (Observer). For his literary contribution to Asian studies he was awarded the Royal Asiatic Society's Sykes Medal in 2009. Most of his books have also been published in the US and India.

Alexander Gardner first featured in Keay's 'The Explorers of the Western Himalaya', which the ‘Irish Times’ described as 'a book to be bought, treasured and never ever lent'.

Forty years and twenty books later, Keay's credentials for writing about Gardner both as a scholar and writer are unrivalled.

Keay's new biography of Ranjit Singh's American Colonel -- The Tartan Turban -- is due to be released shortly, specifically on July 3, 2017.

[Courtesy: Amazon. Edited for]
September 6, 2016


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