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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Story of the North-West Frontier
This is an exciting story of a few of those great men in the British Empire's history who served in India and helped make the North-West Frontier what it is today. This area now forms the boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan and has seen some of the most violent wars and battles in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Each of the young men portrayed in this book served with...
Published on 25 Nov. 2000 by Aussie Reader

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Peter Hopkins is the better book
This is a good and clear analysis but it is not as effective as Peter Hopkin's The Great Game. Charles Allen covers some of the similar terrain, some of the similar issues but spends more time of some of the leading characters. The difference is partly style but mainly its the way the Hopkin's is more effective a providing a grander vision of the Great Game. read this...
Published on 18 Jan. 2013 by peter upton


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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Story of the North-West Frontier, 25 Nov. 2000
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This is an exciting story of a few of those great men in the British Empire's history who served in India and helped make the North-West Frontier what it is today. This area now forms the boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan and has seen some of the most violent wars and battles in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Each of the young men portrayed in this book served with the British East India Company and had seen active service in the Punjab in the 1840's. They were known as 'Henry Lawrence's young men' and this book tells the story of how and why that came to be.
The author, Charles Allen, was himself born in India and he brings to the story the local feel and knowledge of one who has been there. You can sense his passion for these men and this area reflected in the narrative. And what an exciting story he tells! From minor skirmishes to full scale battles, from raids and ambushes to terrifying accounts of the style of fighting practiced by those most cunning of warriors that the British had to fight against. Throughout the story you read about the amazing courage and dignity that these young men had. As a reader you tend to believe that these men actually wanted to do the best for the people of this region regardless of what their hierarchy or the local rulers and princes wanted.
The narrative moves along quickly and draws you into the story as you follow the paths of these men from becoming young officers and learning the ways of the North-West Frontier until their demise and the passing of this era. The author utilises diaries, journals and letters of the participants and the book abounds with individual stories from these 'Soldier Sahibs'. This is a great story and I am sure that readers who love a good book or decent history will find this book a gem.
The author provides a number of black & white photographs and a few maps although I would have liked more maps within the book.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lessons from history loud and clear in this book., 16 Oct. 2000
By A Customer
Anyone offering to assist in the Kashmiri dispute (British Foreign Secretary please note) should read this account of the tribal divisions in the North West Frontier Province in the 19th Century.This book attempts to record the intrusions of the Raj through the eyes of an elite band of British soldiers tasked with trying to extend some sort of authority to the area. The reader is however drawn more to the native players in this game of divide and rule and the extraordinary personal code by which they lived their lives. Allen describes a social anthropological model of venal and barbaric proportions and goes on to document the sometimes brief lives of a few British chaps who got close enough to fathom some of it out.Its a good read.
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hero-Making as History, 6 Feb. 2002
By 
T. Carter Ross (Washington, D.C.) - See all my reviews
In his prologue, Charles Allen lays out the approach he will take Soldier Sahibs. This is not to be read so much as a comprehensive history examining the social issues or complexities of the expansion of British rule out of India and into the North-West Frontier (now partially in Afghanistan and partially in Pakistan), but as a true-to-life "boy's adventure" story. The tale is of John Nicholson (one of Allen's forbearers) and the other Young Men who, under the guidance of Henry Lawrence, help spread the reach of the East India Company.
And what a tale it is: culture clashes, petty bureaucrats, noble savages. Allen draws heavily upon the letters, diaries and reports of the principle heroes of the tale, leading to a history that is drenched in Victorian stereotypes and ideals. With this caveat in mind, however, Allen does a great job of bringing the modern reader into the world walked by Nicholson and his compatriots. The writing draws in the reader with fantastic tale after fantastic tale, starting with a brief biography of Nicholson and of the East India Company and ending with the lifting of the siege of Delhi during the Sepoy Rebellion. There are lots of vignettes highlighting life in the service of "John Company" and the British Empire and the inevitable culture clashes that occurred across the subcontinent.
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59 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fact is stranger than fiction, 6 May 2002
By A Customer
Having read various fictional accounts of the Indian (Sepoy) Mutiny and of 19th century India, with all the feel of "Boys Own adventure" that they tend to contain, to find that many of these things really did happen, and in a fashion that does shows that some of the fictional action did not stray overmuch from the fact, is quite startling. The Lawrence Brothers, and Henry Lawrence's "Young Men" are shown here, with warts and all, the glamour stripped off. And yet what they did, despite the petty jeaousies, and the scandals still comes through. These are not the paladins of Victorian romance, but the real men, hard to the point (sometimes beyond the point) of brutality. Arrogant, self possessed men who believed in what they did, and in many instances played fast and loose with the tribesmen of the Frontier. To judge them by modern standards is to deny their own background and the situation they found themselves in. The book also touches on the murky world of The East India (John) Company, and how these men had to act as soldiers, policemen, and politicians as they strove to protect John Company's market share.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A detailed slice of history rendered with modern readability, 23 Oct. 2000
By 
R. Lloyd "richardhlloyd" (Surrey, England) - See all my reviews
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Having recently rediscovered an interest in the North West Frontier of British India, this book proved a timely publication from my point of view. Charles Allen faithfully charts the detailed history of a fifteen year period in which a handful of extraordinary Englishmen, Irishmen and Scotsmen, extended Britain's tenuous hold over large tracts of northern India and what is now Pakistan; this aggrandisement achieved through a mixture of missionary zeal, political cunning, and a degree of personal energy and daring which almost defies belief. The picture which emerges is of nothing so much as some sort of cell of latter-day Knights Templar - warrior monks, fanatical in their service to the cause. The detailed and interwoven careers of this handful of larger than life characters are skilfully related in a gripping narrative, enlivened by a highly accessible and wryly modern turn of phrase. The story is an astonishing one, insofar as it reveals a prevailing British culture and attitude totally dedicated to duty, God and Empire, which in the 150 years since has become so alien and outmoded, that today's Britons would find it utterly and mind-bogglingly unreal. It is, nonetheless an inspiring book, in terms of charting raw human courage, achievement and endeavour - whatever the background or the propriety of the motivations as we may judge them in today's more politically correct times. Best of all, the verbatim accounts and extracts paint a brilliantly vivid and technicolor picture of the nature of the extraordinary Pathan tribes who still populate this wild frontier. Again, almost unbelievable in their endless propensity for making war and plotting treachery. The very worst and most savage of enemies, and the most illogically loyal and truest of friends. Strangely fascinating to the British warrior-monks who interacted with them, the Pathan represented the complete antithesis of all their Christian, civilising beliefs. And yet many of this select group developed a quite profound degree of respect and, it seems to me, affection, for their most worthy and ferocious opponents.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sikh collapse after Ranjit Singh, 16 Nov. 2006
By 
Sarakani (Harrow United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
It is about the men who commanded the NW Indian territories on behalf of the East India Company and principally about one hero called John Nicholson. Despite the subtitle, this book is a great deal more than short biographic narratives about the men. It is the seam of their environment that provides half the interest consisting of geographical descriptions, the attitudes of Indians and how the British and "Indians" conducted their business.

There are some gripping accounts of bloody battles on horseback, with bits being chopped off and we can see that films like Gladiator are the tip of the iceberg when it came to hand to hand horseback combat before the 20th century. The men and horses were brave and some of them knew what they wanted and how to get it. This is particularly true in how the violent Pakhtun tribes in Pakistan were bought to heel. As aliens, the British succeeded in creating order (as they were neutral) between parties like Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus who could easily foment religious rivalry between themselves. The British had an art to how they brought about law and order and we can see it was no small accomplishment.

There is a certain amount of bigotry and imperialism in operation which is quite clear, but these were the days before the British became complacent and divorced themselves from Indian culture at the beginnings of the 20th century, which eventually created the independence movement that lead to partition.

Sikhs today feel left out of a homeland that was owed to them by the British. This is a book that shows how loyal Sikhs were to the British and the background to their territorial claims.

Charles Allen is a fine author and this book deserves praise. The war in it and many quotations make the book quite gripping and one hopes some people today are made of the same stuff as certain aspects of the men described - though not all of those aspects.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Forgotten Heroes of Empire, 14 Jun. 2015
We live in an age that tries to ignore that Great Britain ever had an empire, by doing so we ignore the many of our countrymen who fought and died for our country. This is very much a story about some of the greatest of those men. We see life on the North West Frontier through the eyes of Sir Henry Lawrence, Sir John Lawrence, Henry Daly, William Hodson, Herbet Edwardes, James Abbot and the great John Nicholson. These are the men who helped build, secure and save the British Empire in India. They were deeply patriotic, believing in their country, willing and often being required to lose life and limb for it. Their ideals may not be our own, but you will find it difficult to fail to admire the personal dangers and risk they took doing their duty.

At its heart this is a story of courage and duty. These men, often young and inexperienced to begin with, were required to govern huge expanses of territory, made up of various tribes, with different languages, different religions, believing in a code of honour that to modern eyes would be considered barbaric, almost completely on their own. They achieved success through often nothing more than the sheer force of character.

A word of warning to prospective readers, if you believe that Britain should consider their time ruling India to be some sort of national disgrace, you will dislike this book. The author quite clearly admires the young men who make up this story, not so much for what they did, then at least for how they did it. Only the reader who accepts the reality that the British were simply just one new addition to the hundreds of different tribes in India, who had fought, ruled and invaded each other for millennia will you enjoy this book.

I am always very wary of clear factual errors, they rather make me doubt the author's thoroughness. The book claims Lord Roberts died of old age in Waterford, he in fact died of pneumonia in St Omer, France whilst visiting troops as a Field Marshal at the start of the Great War and therefore is recognised as have died in service as a wartime casualty even if he was 82. For this reason I deduct a star, an error so easily checked should never be made.

Still if you are interested in the British Raj or wish to seek a greater understanding of today's Pakistan and India, then you should read this book
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heros Galore, 27 Dec. 2011
By 
John O' Keeffe (Ireland) - See all my reviews
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Fascinating account of the British Officers and administrators who tamed India's North West frontier, the current boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan from master storyteller Charles Allen. Mind you, I think you have to have a real interest in the subject to follow this meticulously researched and detailed account which follows the fortunes of a gallant and heroic group of individuals from 1839-1857. Allen captures the drive,stoicism and sacrifices of these men as they confronted enormous challenges in one of the most remote and savage areas on the planet. Also gives a great insight into how the British marshalled and controlled large expeditionary forces with the use of relatively low numbers of crown forces. The Afghans are obviously always there in the background and portrayed as dangerous and cunning adversaries. Although the story is set over 150 years ago the parallels to today's seemingly endless conflict in the same region are striking and one wonders if the region is any less volatile today. A very good read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Neglected History Brought to Life, 2 Sept. 2012
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An era of history now sadly neglected and ignored by many is brought to life by the author often using the words of the protagonists themselves or eye witnesses both major and minor; using the eye witness accounts of a then junior officer who later became the most celebrated soldier in the world is also a nice touch. This work gives a good overview of the British reordering of what became the north west frontier, its many unique features, the unique people who moulded it and there critical roll in saving 'British' India in the mutiny. The legendary Victorian hero John Nicholson dominates much of the book and his brooding, energetic, uncompromising and mesmeric personality leaps from the page. My only 'complaint' is the book is not particularly long and I could have certainly read more about the careers and incidents of the lives of 'Lawrence's Young Men'.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Peter Hopkins is the better book, 18 Jan. 2013
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This is a good and clear analysis but it is not as effective as Peter Hopkin's The Great Game. Charles Allen covers some of the similar terrain, some of the similar issues but spends more time of some of the leading characters. The difference is partly style but mainly its the way the Hopkin's is more effective a providing a grander vision of the Great Game. read this first and then read The Great Game.
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Soldier Sahibs: The Men Who Made the North-West Frontier
Soldier Sahibs: The Men Who Made the North-West Frontier by Charles Allen (Paperback - 21 Jun. 2012)
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