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Last on

Fri 29 Mar 2013 06:03 BBC Radio Scotland

Duration:
30 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 21 November 2011

On November 2nd 1841, the brilliant young Scots explorer Alexander Burnes is about to pay the penalty of regime change in Afghanistan. He's held on too long to blow the whistle on his bungling superiors and the people he's betrayed are coming for him. The result will be the disastrous British retreat from Kabul of January 1842. From Montrose to Burnes murder in Afghanistan, Dr Mark Jardine traces the fascinating story of Burnes' role in the 'Great Game' to control Central Asia, a government coverup and a grieving family's desire for justice for their fallen son. Key to the story is the role of Mohan Lal the brilliant Kashmiri friend and colleague of Burnes who brings Sir Alexander's last secret diaries all the way from Kabul to the family doorstep in Scotland. Lal has confidential information that's almost too hot to handle. He must decide what to do with it.

It's a story of espionage at the edge of Empire and the massacre of an entire army, which involved dodgy dossiers, reputations trashed, military incompetence and the scandalous sex lives of British officers that drove the Afghans to revolt. Unfolding the revelations are William Dalrymple, the travel writer, Craig Murray, the former ambassador to Uzbekistan, historical experts on Burnes and Mohan Lal, Dr Nadine Andre and Professor Michael Fisher and Mark's fellow Scots historian Dr Louise Yeoman.

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