John Keay introduced by William Dalrymple

 

Famously portrayed in 1864 dressed in a tartan suit with a splendid matching turban, Alexander Gardner was a 19th century Scots-American traveller, adventurer and mercenary who lived a life many found too outrageous to believe. ‘Gordana Sahib’ became the first American to visit Afghanistan in the 1820s after fighting his way across the deserts and mountain passes of Central Asia. He eventually emerged to take up service under Maharaja Ranjit Singh in his Sikh-ruled Punjab, becoming an actor in a pivotal bloodbath in South Asian history that resonates to this day. Using original material, including newly discovered papers by Gardner himself, John Keay’s investigative biography The Tartan Turban: In Search of Alexander Gardner takes readers on a quest from the American West to the Asian East to unravel ‘the greatest enigma in the history of travel’.