This is the most complete and definitive work I have read on the subject. One of the recommendations on the book flap reads "An extremely detailed study providing as definitive a narrative..". I thought it was the usual blurb but as I went through the book I found this was actually spot on for a change. There's more detail of the war in this book than in any other. The book starts of with a good historical perspective of the situation on the eve of the war. There's a good rundown of the machinations and intrigues that went on in Lahore. The author covers the British view of the infighting going on north of the Sutlej and in a matter of fact way and sticking to the facts he details the various preparations the British made for war. The battles themselves are covered in real heavy detail - and more. There's more though - there's a battlefield guide for each battle at the end of the book. Definitely one for military history fans. Thoroughly recommend it. This is the book to have if you want to read about this war !!
Thank you Mr Sidhu - for a book that clearly gives new insights on the events of 1845-46. The book is a solid work of historical inquiry but is blessed with the personal moments that make history relevant to us in the present. The book is objective and is well balance and does address some of the 'cultural perspectives' of Donald Featherstone and Gough and Innes. My family was involved in both of the Anglo - Sikh wars on the Sikh side and it is great to read factual history that backs the oral history I was brought up listening to. The saddest thing about the book is that once again it is clearly apparent that the 'republican' Sikhs brave in soul and in heart have too a large degree lacked honest leadership when required since 1839 and have often followed those who speak loudest in voice or gesture. But Mr Sidhu as someone who has been interested in these episodes since I was a child I thoroughly recommend your book and cannot wait until the 'The Second Anglo Sikh War is published'. Thank you.
As a self confessed 'Empire' addict to get a new history of the 1st Sikh war is always welcome.I have read lots of histories on the Sikh wars and inevitably they are most written from the British point of view, the wonderful thing about this book is that it comes from a much more Sikh point of view. This gives the book a freshness that has been missing form a lot of the histories I have read before.
The author gives a nice brief description of the background to the cause of the war but the real strength of his book is the chapters outlining each major battle.
For each battle the author gives us an overview of the battles context within the war, a nice break down of the forces involved, a good narrative of the actual battle and then the aftermath of the battle and where this leaves us within the wider war.
The best thing about each chapter is the maps. The author uses modern maps but overlays them with older maps so you can see where the battle and incidents happened within the landscape (if I ever get to see the battle landscapes then this is the book I'm taking!)
This is a well written and researched book that is useful for people who have only just started reading about the Sikh Wars but also bring new insights which would interest the more experienced reader.
This is a wonderful history of the 1st Sikh war and I highly recommend it to anyone with a passing history of the Formation of the British Raj and the Bravery of the Sikh Armies.
This review was first posted on the Army Rumour Service, Book Reviews section [...]
This book is a cracking read. Buy it. Do it now.
The First Anglo-Sikh War is a singular book in that it manages to elicit favorable comments from proper historians, battlefield archeologists and now, from History Poodles like me.
The foreword by Prof. Peter Doyle BSc PhD Cgeol FGS; Battlefield Archeologist; Co-Secretary, All Party War Graves and Battlefield Heritage Group says "With this book in hand, the battlefields of the Punjab come alive again". And Professor Doyle aint wrong. The sleeve reviews are by people of stature in the serious history game.
But for those of us who like to poodle through our history, cherry-picking obscure wars and events, and who get bored easy, this book is also a fascinating page-turner.
It is set in 1845. Just after the horrible retreat from Kabul. So John Company and British Pride weren't exactly screaming from the terraces. We had captured most of India using a simple but effective proposition:
"See things our way and you can keep your Palace and some of your revenue. Oppose us, and you see those Irish guys polishing their bayonets over there? Look. They are waving". Superior military technology and back-stabbing diplomacy, God love us.
I had assumed the Sikh wars were pretty much the same sort of thing. A couple of wars, the Sikhs see things our way then come to be as useful to us as the Gurkha for the next hundred years or so.
My first surprise was my definition of `Sikh'. Having spent time in and around Amritsar as a younger man, I assumed that would be their capital. Wrong again. It was Lahore in Pakistan. They had also nicked Kashmir and hoofed the Afghan out of Peshawar. They had European mercenaries to train their heavy gun crews (who managed to cattle our lads all ends and sides), to drill their huge army and to advise on modern military tactics.
And anyone who knows the Sikh, knows that they are brave, to the point of Gurkha brave (so were the Brits and the Seypoys in this one).
But there was a flaw. The Sikh army had some weird Communist thing going on. The soldiers could `elect' their officers. Or de-elect them. Either through a meeting without biscuits, or an axe through the back of the head. Just so it got the job done, either one worked for them.
Soooo, the more sensible Sikhs saw that their formidable army was actually an undisciplined rabble and more to the point, they could be next for the meeting / axe experience.
And they plotted with Brit political agents to lose the war.
Astonishing not so much because it happened, but because with our well honed ability to miss-read a situation, and the hierarchy of the day ignoring their Spook assets, we almost managed to lose a sub-Continent.
I do hope that has given you a desire to read this book?
And for the weirdo battlefield archeologists among you, Sidhu has done a fab Guide at the end. With this book in hand, a decent GPS and the ability to say "Sorry about Koh-i-Noor but Cawnpore makes us quits, eh? Any chance of a chai and a bedi?" You might walk the battlefields of the Punjab and truly make them come alive again.
I was a tad reluctant to get this book at first, fearing that it wouldn't contribute to what I had already read about the first Sikh conflict with the Anglos (and their supporting subordinates). Having read it, I'm glad that I did. This is plainly the best book published on the subject to date. Amarpal does a wonderful job in narrating the individual battles that made up the conflict, weaving in insightful contemporary/near contemporary accounts from eye witnesses. Although I paid less attention to the second part of the book (covering what I would describe as battlefield details), it is still good to know that this information is available. If you are going to buy a book on the subject - get this one. Historically, the events it covers are monumental in terms of the impact they have had on the Sikh community, especially in relation to its subsequently lost sovereignty. Something that continues to affect them to this day. Recommended reading for any Sikh interested in their history.
Amarpal S. Sidhu's First Anglo-Sikh War is a superb book. Anyone with an interest in C19th military history, in India, in Sikhism, in the British Army, in the Indian Army and its historic roots in British India should read it. Sidhu writes clearly and well, his account is balanced and very well researched. The publisher has served Mr Sidhu well, with beautifully clear plans of the battlefields showing the deployments superimposed on present-day features. I would have liked the book to be sewn but that is too much to hope for in what must be quite a small print run, at least the perfect binding is robust and the plates do not pop out at the first opening. A large proportion of the book is devoted to detailed descriptions of what remains to be seen today. I have visited these battlefields and without local knowledge or language did not see a tenth of what Mr Sidhu lists. (I did see the curious museum of the Sikh Wars, in which over-enthusiastic and unsupervised workmen had splashed whitewash over all the exhibits. Paintings, weapons, artefacts - all splattered. The poor curator must have cried when he or she went back into their exhibition hall.) I want to go back armed with what will be a very well-thumbed copy of 'Sidhu'. Very helpfully he gives GPS coordinates so that you can maximise your time on site but also follow the campaign virtually, on Google Earth or a similar online resource. This is huge fun and very very informative. (Remember you get height readouts whenever you require them, e.g. checking how far one river bank dominates the other.) And if all that were not enough, there is a superb collection of illustrations, extremely well chosen, nicely reproduced, and in colour! A wonderful, beautiful book. When I see Sidhu and fine publisher Amberley advertising the follow-up on the Second Sikh War I shall be placing my advance order sight unseen. I hope that Mr Sidhu has a long life as he has a very rich military history to explore in the Indian subcontinent and personally I can't get enough of books of this quality. A 'Sidhu' on each of the Afghan Wars, those will be books to read! The book has not been well publicised - I am very keen on this subject and I am surprised to have come across it by chance, normally I would have picked up a flyer in a specialist journal like that of the Victorian Military Society, or been notified by one of a number of specialist booksellers. Presumably there won't be more if this one doesn't sell, so I would suggest anyone who shares my enthusiasm should make sure their friends know of it. Let us hope that Mr Sidhu now does for India's campaigns what Mike Snook has been doing for Africa - clear modern accounts intelligently reappraising Victorian campaigns with plenty of information for those keen enough to visit the locations, and for those who wish to follow them on the computer. Five stars? Not enough. You will love this book!
The First Anglo-Sikh War is one of those conflicts that are often overlooked by historians and authors. There are few books that deal with the campaign in any real depth and it is frequently found relegated to a chapter or two within the wider subject of Indian campaigns. One reason for this may be the relative lack of readily available material that exists for academics to examine compared to other conflicts. However, it appears the author of this title has overcome this obstacle and unearthed a substantial amount of research. It is, therefore, refreshing to see a new book that examines the First Anglo-Sikh War in greater detail to previous publications.
The book begins with the usual preface and introduction – the latter of which deals with the build-up to the war and its causes. Following this we see the book split into two main sections. The first examines the war itself, including the beginning of operations, and its battles: Mudki, Ferozeshah, Bhudowal, Aliwal and Sabraon. For each of the battles there is an analysis of the opposing forces, the battlefield and casualties in addition to an account of the battle itself and the aftermath. The first section ends with a brief description of the ensuing, but temporary, peace up to the outbreak of the Second Anglo-Sikh War.
If that wasn’t enough for the reader the second half of the book acts as battlefield guide for the potential war tourist. Each of the five battlefields, mentioned above, are again considered this time examining them as they were in the past and as they are today. Mentions are made of the various war memorials and graves as well as other associated key features. For each of these a navigational reference is given to aid the visitor to accurately pinpoint them – a very welcome addition to a battlefield guide! Even if you are not able to visit the battlefield sites yourself this section of the book will be of great interest as it adds to the overall understanding of the campaign.
In addition to being very well researched the book is also very well written. Each page and chapter flawlessly flows into the next being a joy to the reader. Previous works have tended to be heavily reliant on British sources but this book also manages to include much from the Sikh point-of-view offering the reader a much more balanced account of the war and ultimately a more accurate portrayal of events. It is also well illustrated with maps of the battlefields as well as contemporary images and photographs of the battlefields today. This is an excellent book which deserves a five out of five star rating!
This is a book that I would recommend to anyone interested in the first Anglo-Sikh war. Readable, balanced and with an eye for important matters of terrain and communication, not just hardware and 'brave deeds'. I look forward to the author's account of the second conflict.