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The Afghans

ISBN: 978-1-4051-8243-0
408 pages
October 2008, Wiley-Blackwell
The Afghans (1405182431) cover image
In the 1960s and 70s Afghanistan was depicted in the media as the romantic haven of nomads and a resort for hashish-smoking hippies; in the 80s it was seen as a country where brave warriors fought against the 'evil' Soviet empire, and in the 90s redrawn as a semi-feudal land ruled by warlords and Islamic fundamentalists. In September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States thrust the country to the fore of international politics. Afghanistan was regarded as a country liberated from an oppressive terrorist regime, and eagerly embracing democracy. Right now, however, it is a country often seen again as a political and military quagmire. The Afghans brings together these different outside perspectives to form one coherent story, telling the dramatic history of the land and peoples of Afghanistan from prehistoric times to the present day.

The book discusses a wide variety of subjects including the Indo-Iranian invasions of the second millennium BC, the Persian Achaemenids, Alexander the Great, the Islamic conquest, the Mongols and the rise of the kingdom of Afghanistan in the eighteenth century. The author pays special attention to more recent developments, including the Soviet occupation of the country and Taliban rule.

For this updated paperback edition, the author has provided a new final chapter covering developments since 2001, including the fall of the Taliban, state building and foreign intervention in the region. The bibliography has also been updated.
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List of Illustrations.


List of Maps.


Up and Down the Hindu Kush.

The Peoples of Afghanistan.

The Early Years.

The Advent of the Indo-Iranian Speaking Peoples.

Archaeology and the Indo-Iranians.

Scythian Horsemen.

Opening up to the West.

The Greeks.

Northern Rulers.

The Reassertion of the Iranian West.

The Advent of Islam.

The Iranian Dynasties.

The Mongols.

Towards the Kingdom of Afghanistan.

The Sadozay Dynasty.

War with Britain.

The Dynasty of Amir 'Abd Al-Rahman Khan.

Changing Afghanistan.

The Years of Communism.

After the Soviets.




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Willem Vogelsang studied ancient Indian and Iranian languages and cultures at Leiden University in The Netherlands. He is currently Executive Secretary of the Research School of Asian, African and Amerindian Studies at Leiden University and curator for Southwest and Central Asia for the National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden. He has worked at various excavations in Syria and Afghanistan, and travelled throughout Afghanistan as a freelance journalist reporting on the Soviet occupation.
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  • Tells the story of the land and peoples of Afghanistan, from prehistoric times to the present day
  • Offers a detailed history, from the Indo-Iranian invasions of the second millennium BC and Alexander the
    Great, through to Soviet occupation, Taliban rule, and the 'war on terror'
  • Includes a new final chapter covering events since 9/11, including the fall of the Taliban, state building,
    and foreign intervention in the region
  • Much description of the contemporary period is based on the author’s own research in Afghanistan
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"[This book] should find a warm welcome from any reader who is interested in the history, culture and peoples of the area that today we call Afghanistan. The country's problems have if anything worsened since the defeat of the Taliban in 2001. A reader of this book, as well as learning a great deal of absorbing interest will be a in a good position to understand why." (Times Literary Supplement, January 2009)

"Vogelsang ... has produced a valuable overview of Afghan history and archaeology...[his] book reminds readers that Afghanistan's rich history and culture warrant far more attention than merely as a refuge for 'evil-doers,' and that its people deserve the interest and support of the West even when globalized conflicts are at stake." (Choice)

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