Reading between the lines, 1839-1939 : popular narratives of the Afghan frontier

Malhotra, Shane Gail (2013). Reading between the lines, 1839-1939 : popular narratives of the Afghan frontier. PhD thesis The Open University.



In 'Reading Between the Lines', I investigate the literary representations that, building on the influential writings of Mountstuart Elphinstone and WaIter Scott, created an 'Afghanistan of the mind' over a century of British engagement. Using the quantitative methodologies of book history, my thesis sheds light on the public responses to three successive Anglo-Afghan wars, and the reception of the writings to which these gave rise. By this means, I trace the rise and fall of readers' interest in Afghanistan through six studies of individual authors. The first chapter examines the media storm around the writings of Florentia Sale, eyewitness to the disasters of the First Anglo-Afghan War, whose bestselling Journal was published by John Munay. Chapter two considers John William Kaye, and his journalistic and fictional reshaping of the war, culminating in his authoritative History. The third chapter considers George Alfred Henty's use of Afghanistan and the Second Anglo-Afghan War in his historically-based adventure stories for boys, which is contrasted with the more subtle imaginative representations in Rudyard Kipling's 'The Man Who Would Be King' and Kim, explored in chapter four. Investigating literary responses in the 1920s and 30s, I study two relatively unknown authors, to demonstrate the pervasive urge for eyewitnesses to the Third Anglo-Afghan War and its aftermath to tell their story. In chapters five and six, Martin Louis Alan Gompel1z (pseud. Ganpat) and Alice Pennell (nee Sorabji), are scrutinized through a detailed biographical, bibliographical and textual study, using material from Blackwood's and John MU11'ay archives, giving the most complete account of their writings to date. Using these six authors, and the success or failure of their writings, I critically examine the various influences of the press, publishers, and book trade on the rise and fall of public appetites for narratives of Afghanistan.

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