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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Man Who Would Be King

The Man Who Would Be King

The First American in Afghanistan

Ben Macintyre

Farrar, Straus and Giroux


The Man Who Would Be King is the riveting story that inspired Kipling's classic tale and a John Huston movie

In the year 1838, a young adventurer, surrounded by his native troops and mounted on an elephant, raised the American flag on the summit of the Hindu Kush in the mountainous wilds of Afghanistan. He declared himself Prince of Ghor, Lord of the Hazarahs, spiritual and military heir to Alexander the Great.

The true story of Josiah Harlan, a Pennsylvania Quaker and the first American ever to enter Afghanistan, has never been told before, yet the life and writings of this extraordinary man echo down the centuries, as America finds itself embroiled once more in the land he first explored and described 180 years ago.

Soldier, spy, doctor, naturalist, traveler, and writer, Josiah Harlan wanted to be a king, with all the imperialist hubris of his times. In an extraordinary twenty-year journey around Central Asia, he was variously employed as surgeon to the Maharaja of Punjab, revolutionary agent for the exiled Afghan king, and then commander in chief of the Afghan armies. In 1838, he set off in the footsteps of Alexander the Great across the Hindu Kush and forged his own kingdom, only to be ejected from Afghanistan a few months later by the invading British.

Using a trove of newly discovered documents and Harlan's own unpublished journals, Ben Macintyre's The Man Who Would Be King tells the astonishing true story of the man who would be the first and last American king.

The Man Who Would Be King

Josiah Harlan's hunt for a crown began with a letter. A grubby, much-handled, unhappy letter, it followed the young American merchant seaman from Philadelphia to Canton,...

Praise for The Man Who Would Be King

“Ben Macintyre approaches history the way a fine novelist approaches the world. He sees things that have always been there, ripe with resonance, but have always been overlooked in their fullness. Then he articulates them brilliantly, and suddenly we see the world more clearly and intensely. The Englishman's Daughter, though based on literal history, is as true as art.” —Robert Olen Butler on The Englishman's Daughter

“A poignant love story set against the backdrop of war, tragedy, treachery [that] turns into a page turning mystery and a spy story worthy of Deighton or le Carré.” —Lyn MacDonald, The Times (London) on The Englishman's Daughter

“An unusually poignant work of history.” —Rosemary Herbert, The Boston Globe on The Englishman's Daughter

“A gripping, illuminating story.” —Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times on The Englishman's Daughter


Reviews from Goodreads

Ben Macintyre

Ben Macintyre is the author of several books, including The Englishman's Daughter (FSG, 2002). A senior writer and columnist for The Times of London, he was the newspaper's correspondent in New York, Paris, and Washington D.C. He now lives in London.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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