Why I Need Alexander Burnes, and You Do Too 354

‘Murray’s book is a terrific read. He has done full justice to the life of a remarkable British hero, without ignoring his faults’ — Peter Oborne, Daily Mail

‘An important re-evaluation of this most intriguing figure’ — William Dalrymple

‘This is a fascinating book … his research has been prodigious, both in libraries and on foot. He knows a huge amount about Burnes’s life and work’ —Allan Massie, The Scotsman

‘If you are a fan of the Flashman series of books, you will be gripped by the story of this British spy’ —Hannah Ferret, The Sun

This blog has been going for over ten years now and has never asked for money or taken advertising. In that time I have continually campaigned on a whole variety of issues, though chiefly human rights, Scottish independence, against war, and on the need for a profoundly more equal society. I have travelled the length and breadth of the UK and around the world to speak at literally hundreds of public meetings, and have appeared in numerous videos and documentaries. My primary purpose has always been as much to promote debate and the ability to think well outside the increasingly narrow box which society prescribes, as to convert to my own precise views.

And I have been paid for almost none of it. I do it entirely because I believe in it. I have never asked readers for cash to keep this blog going. I have never asked for a fee to speak in a good cause.


But I do ask you, now, to buy my book. I ask you to do this to get the book itself (and buy more for Christmas presents!) but also as a recompense to pay for any of my work you have enjoyed on this blog, or elsewhere, over the past decade. Sikunder Burnes is the result of eight years of unfunded hard work, and manuscript research in England, Scotland and India. It is, I believe, worth every penny it costs. I appreciate it is expensive, and I have no difficulty whatsoever if you prefer to buy the electronic version which is a great deal cheaper.

It is the story of the fascinating life of a man both caught up in, and attempting to shape, an astonishing period of Scottish, British, Indian, Pakistani, Kalati, Afghan, Uzbek, Iranian and Russian history. As I hope you would expect from me, it even bursts out from such a broad canvass into all kinds of unexpected intellectual directions, many of which surprised me too!

My preference would be for you to buy it from a bookshop if you can, because bookshops need support. Otherwise you can order it from thehive.co.uk (where it is currently cheaper) or from Amazon. Doubtless other online options are available. Unfortunately we live in a country where some people cannot afford a book, and in that case you would much oblige me by asking for it from your local library.

To tax your patience further, I should be most grateful if you could do a couple of other things. Firstly, once read leave a review of the book, on Amazon, Goodreads, or any other available forum. Please note that I am not asking you to puff the book – I should be very grateful if you could leave completely honest reviews.

Secondly, it would be very helpful if you could leave comments below on your experience of buying the book. If online, was it in stock, how quickly did it come and what did you pay? If in a bookshop, did they have it on a shelf, did they appear to have heard of it, did it have to be ordered in and how long did that take etc.? Library feedback is also most welcome. We will keep this page permanently available for comment on the blog, renamed The Sikunder Burnes Page. Your views on the book are also very welcome here.

Frankly, I do need the revenue from the book to keep going because at the moment finances are very tight. But it means more to me than that, in that it represents a step towards a new career direction where a shunned whistleblower might be permitted to work.

Please do buy, and enjoy, Sikunder Burnes.

Read Sikunder Burnes – the first 9 chapters for FREE!

Buy Amazon Hardback
Or Buy Kindle ebook
Or Buy Google Play Books
Or Buy Kobo ebook

UPDATE We are no longer selling signed editions from this blog, as we have run out. I have also finally given in and started accepting subscriptions to keep the blog going; its very success keeps making it more expensive to run.

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354 thoughts on “Why I Need Alexander Burnes, and You Do Too

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  • Habbabkuk

    ” Plus cha change plus ch’est la fucking meme chose. N’eshe pas?”


    (Unless you’re referring to your own drivel, of course, in which case it’s Oui)

  • Born Optimist

    There are not many blogs worth reading regularly and yours is definitely one of those. I would suggest it is time you had a donations button on your page. Whether this generates sufficient income to cover the costs of other blogs I do not know but such a button certainly encourages me to make a small contribution whenever I find material that is of interest. There may be lots more individuals out there with a similar attitude.

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    Good to see that barrister Henry Brougham’s dogged defense of Queen Caroline against her accusers was the first mentioned entry from young Alexander’s diary in Craig’s book..

    He must have loved Brougham’s dismantling of Signor Non-Recordo aka Theodore Majocchi. a humble forerunner of Bliar and Co.

    Helped set Burnes on his radical, anti-monarchical course.

    • bevin

      Brougham, the Lord Chancellor in the Whig cabinet responsible for the bloody special tribunals used to crush the Labourers’ revolts of 1830 was only Caroline’s defender nominally. A political opportunist he actually advised her to compromise with the King “which” to quote George Spater ” would have involved Caroline giving up most of her rights as well as leaving the country. He was opposed to any acts of the Queen that associated her with disreputable reformers.”
      It was William Cobbett and Alderman Wood whose advice Caroline followed, thus making her cause that of the people at large. Brougham’s true legacy was the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, the Workhouse and the shameful treatment of the poor and vulnerable which is the key ingredient of Thatcherism.
      Brougham is the real forerunner of Bliar and Company. Just as the rigging of evidence presented to Parliament in favour of the 1834 Act was carried out with his blessing.

      • Trowbridge H. Ford

        Just your usual hatred of the man.

        Read my first volume of his biography of her trial, stating on p. 329, especially the notes involving coverage in The Times. Cpnsult y article in the Bulletin of Historical Research about its coverage.

        Cobbett and Wood, my ass.

        Brougham’s greatest achievement was getting the Lords to finally adopt the Reform Acts.

        He was also instrumental in stopping the slave trade, ending slavery, ending automatic imprisonment of debtors, seeing that Peel’s Tories abolished the Corn Laws, etc.

        Brougham was so successful in the establishment of Liberalism that the Reform Club adopted him as its leading member though he never joined it because it was too meek.

        Ignorant, anonymous trolls like you are why it is so difficult to persuade the average person about what is going on.

    • Sharp Ears

      Thanks for those links Macky. The Canary sings beautifully. There are excellent investigative journalist there.

      A majority of ten for Theresa! She will have to watch her step. Hope Jeremy’s getting primed up.

    • Republicofscotland

      Thank you Macky, for those interesting links, Theresa May, doesn’t have her troubles to seek, and to pile more pressure onto her fledgling tenure.

      The councils of Maidenhead and Windsor, are threatening legal action, over a possible third runway, rather bizarrely, the PM’s own constituency is included in those areas, and already letters have arrived, at 10 Downing street, seeking Theresa May’s resignation.

      However, do not be fooled by the Tories apparent meltdown, unlike Labour, the nasty party tend to have an accord, on most things, I’m sure May will find a compromise to save her tenure, and boost her appeal, to those of that persuasion, in the process.

        • Republicofscotland

          No not at all, I was referring to Theresa May, and her constituency, in the context, that, she was, and probably still is a strong proponent, against a third runway at Heathrow.

          She now finds herself in a bit quandary, over the third runway, in my opinion, as does her party.

        • Habbabkuk


          I don’t think you can be a proponent (strong or otherwise) AGAINST something.

          It’s not English, is it – but perhaps you are translating from your native Gaelic?

        • Republicofscotland

          Good Evening Habb.

          I suggest, you clear the dust from your old college lexicon, and recap, on the meaning of the word proponent.

          However, if you cannot be bothered to do so, here is a online definition.


          You are, correct in your assumption that the word “proponent”, is not of a English origion – according to the link, its origins lie in the Latin language, possibly Northern Italy.

          Alas there is no mention of Gaelic, which is a pity.

    • giyane

      Macky. Cameron has a lot to be grateful for, not least because in his final moments in power he wasn’t shafted by a wooden stick like his Libyan friend.

      • Macky

        Wasn’t shafted precisely because he agreed to & enabled the shafting of perfidious Albion’s new Libyan “friend”; note how DC made a sharp exit the very day after that Parliamentary report in HMG role in the destroying of Libya came out.

      • Sharp Ears

        Giyane. Horribly, it was a bayonet for Gaddafi.

        Alistair Burt, a former FCO Minister responsible for MENA, a professed ‘Christian’ and a member of the CFoI, proposed the same treatment for President Assad.

        ‘Burt insisted the British government “knew exactly what would happen if there was not a strike against Assad over chemical weapons. He goes on. And the only thing that would deflect this man and this regime is if they fear they are going to end up in a storm drain with a bayonet up their backside. If they don’t fear that, they will go on killing as many people as they need to stay in power.”‘

        Nice man.

        • Macky

          It was the fifth anniversary of that gruesome murder, captured on phone footage & flashed around the MSM , last week, and a certain resident contrarian here was busy demonising Assad & war-mongering against Syria, exactly like he had done five years earlier against Gaddafi & Libya; you would think after what has happened since to Libya, that the only reason he would now agitate against Syria, is because he wants exactly the same result, the complete destruction of Syria as a functioning State.

      • Habbabkuk


        “.. shafted by a wooden stick like his Libyan friend.”

        Those who did the deadly shafting were probably inspired by the practices of the Supreme Guide’s own torturers.

        Sowing and reaping, so to speak.

  • Martinned

    Why would he need to balance the budget? Pretty much his and May’s first act in office was to stop worrying about the budget so much, and that’s about the only sensible thing they’ve done so far.

    • Republicofscotland

      I was referring to income and expenditure, and the shortfall predicted, by the think tank, who claim there could be a substantial economic downturn, triggered by Brexit.

  • Rita Balneaves

    Hi Craig

    Visited Waterstones and Blackwells Edinburgh. Waterstones say will have in on 31st October and Blackwells say they have ordered 6 copies (hopefully demand will be such that they will have to order more) which they will shelve either under Scottish history or biography but happy to consider author’s wishes to shelve elsewhere. Suggest prominent window display and also New Reads!

      • nevermind

        You might want to arrange a public reading of one or other poignant/ salacious paragraphs, somewhere for when it starts to cause ripples.
        Dare I suggest a tearoom/coffee house tour, you would not need to drink the stuff necessarily….

    • kief

      So much overlap in bookstore categories. Current events could be in one of several including non-fiction. I once was directed by a clerk when asked about the location of Reagan’s DUTCH…..’I think that’s in Occult.’

  • fwl

    Asked at a branch of Waterstones today. They hadn’t heard of the book, not in stock not in any other local branches and not in their warehouse. Can order and expect 2-3 weeks.

    Obviously important for publisher to ensure stocks in Waterstones to tie in with any publicity dates.

    I shall ask at a local indie.

      • craig Post author

        Thanks fwl. That is very worrying. I am afraid it is difficult for an independent publisher like Birlinn to get attention in Waterstones. Not quite sure what I can do about it. If the mainstream media start to review that will help, but by and large they are pretty hostile towards me.

        • fwl

          Publisher should have a relationship with Waterstones. Your book is on their website at waterstones.com. They deliver free for orders over £20 or you can arrange to collect at a local store. Strangely the site offers the hardback at £25 or £30. Is there one price for SNP buyers and another for everyone else?

          • fwl

            Push hard for a mention in the Bookseller, and reviews in The London Review of Books and the New York Review of Books. Try academic historical journals and maybe that Lobster web site. Let the mainstream catch up in due course. Use all your contacts to figure out where to send review copies. You may be better placed to do this than your publisher. Good luck.

          • craig Post author

            fwl I have given the publisher a long list of places it should be reviewed, including many journals. There is I think a problem that publishing margins are so tight that there is a limit on how many review copies the publisher is prepared to invest in, and how many personnel hours they are prepared to devote. I think it is probably fair to say that they are cautious about the commercial potential of the book. I am grateful they are publishing and hope to prove them wrong, but you over-estimate my ability to influence the publisher.

          • fwl

            Finally, its not easy to find you on your own publisher’s web site. I had to search your name. If your published this week there should be a fan fare, a blog item, news piece etc but you don’t seem to be in their list if authors under M (after all the very many Macs). Give them a shake up and help them. Write some content for them and try an organize signings and local press and radio.

          • kief

            I always thought books had high profit margins. What is the cost of a single book on a 10,000 copy run? Certainly that low margin goes out the window with a required textbook from a college bookstore. That’s where margins go stratospheric. Your book sounds like a perfect candidate for college courses.

          • fwl

            Suggest who might review it. If publishers are busy, or think they are in essence doing you a favour do the work for them and prove them wrong. Everything and anything can be sold. The Great Game was / is a best seller. Maybe what sells is the magic hand ( wind) of the establishment, but with energy you can make up for that. Radios, local papers and magazines all need help to fill space. On line, academic and local could all work for you. Mainstream might tag along later.

        • craig Post author


          Murder in Samarkand contained more truth on the situation in Central Asia, and the UK government’s attitude to the war in terror, than any study by an academic. It is included on zero academic courses in the UK. It is a central text in many international relations courses in Germany, Russia, Pakistan and Brazil to my certain knowledge, and I presume elsewhere too, but zero in the UK.

          I don’t think you understand the subtle organics of establishment exclusion.

          • kief

            I believe professors design their courses and select research material. I do understand the subtle beast of exclusion, and that often is a coordinated effort that can be overruled by independent-minded academics whom I’m sure are part of your network.

          • Anon1

            “It is included on zero academic courses in the UK.”

            Why should it be? It is a personal account not an academic work.

            I am sure it is referenced in some of the central texts in the countries you mention, but I doubt it is used as a central text. If it is then those universities deserve not to be taken seriously.

            On a related point, are we now going to start seeing conspiracies everywhere if your book doesn’t sell?

          • Trowbridge H. Ford

            I used my biography of Dicey in my courses on Irish, Northern Irish, and British international politics because I thought his flip-flops in the UK were quite relevant to current difficulties.

          • craig Post author

            What utter nonsense., Anon1. There are a very great many personal accounts taught on university courses, particularly in the field of diplomacy an international relations. One Russian professor at the Moscow Academy, himself a retired ambassador, tells his students it is the most realistic description of diplomatic operations he has ever seen.

            Do you get some kind of pleasure from attempting to be personally wounding?

          • Anon1

            I am sure it is well used in Moscow but it is not an academic text. This is nothing personal. Whatever its merits, it simply is not an academic text.

            As to the “subtle organics of establishment exclusion”, must you keep seeing conspracies everywhere? Establishment exclusion, MSM exclusion, academic exclusion, bookseller and reviewer exclusion…

            Where does it all end, Craig?

            Perhaps you are just a not terribly well-known writer who was once ambassador to a not terribly well-known country who doesn’t deserve to be better known or appreciated than anyone else.

        • craig Post author

          “Suggest who might review”. fwl I have given them long lists of publications and possible reviewers. Will you stop your panglossian witterings?

  • Habbabkuk

    Does Mr Corbyn really have any lessons to give to PM May on firm policy?

    I refer of course to the Mr Corbyn who, after an entire political career spent opposing the EEC/EC/EU, expressed lukewarm support for Remain while conspicuously not exerting himself for the cause.

    The man is an utter fraud (as readers of Private Eye will already be aware).

    • Republicofscotland


      Yes of course, it is a open secret that Jeremy Corbyn, is indifferent, to Britain’s membership of the EU, but that, is neither here nor there, for the time being, as Corbyn, and Labour are not in government.

      However Corbyn is the leader of the opposition party, and he would be grossly failing in his duties, if he did not hold the PM to account, over her farcical stance, regarding Brexit.

      Theresa May’s stubborn inability, to answer any of Corbyn’s important questions on Brexit, is in itself damning.

      • Habbabkuk

        “However Corbyn is the leader of the opposition party”

        So the rumour has it, ELIE.

        Which means that his deplorable vacillation was very much “here or there” in the run up to the referendum.

        Demanding sight of the govt’s negotiating position, or criticising it, when Mr Corbyn suddenly (but lukewarmly and perhaps not very convincingly) reversed his long-standing position on UK membership of the EU is chutzpah of a very high order 🙂

  • Habbabkuk


    Those are not ramifications, ELIE, they are speculations. A learned gent like yourself should be able to distinguish the two.

    • Republicofscotland


      You really are in desperation mode tonight, aren’t you? Trying to nitpick, I guess you’ve found your true level.

      Anyway to answer you, nitpick, I did preceed “ramifications”, with the word “possible.”

    • kief

      OOS can be good news but it doesn’t always means it was in stock in the first place. Might I submit that Ebooks are the Publisher’s friend due to cost, and circulation from that media will determine the hard copy quantity available to old schoolers.

      • craig Post author

        Kief, true.

        Mind you I have it both on Kindle and as a book. The Kindle experience is fine for novels, but I find it very unsatisfactory where you want to be able to flip to footnotes, bibliography, index, maps and illustrations in this book, all of which are far simpler to get at in the hard copy.

          • Alcyone

            Ahh Ba’al I was wondering where you’ve been all this time, missing out on this vibrant thread. Shove your googling up your apologetic arse. Even Mary will google you under the desktop.

            Craig said Kindle did not lend itself “to flip to footnotes, bibliography, index, maps and illustrations in this book, all of which are far simpler to get at in the hard copy.” Rather obvious I’d say.

            The fake came back with “Absolutely correct. PDF is a nightmare.” Craig did not mention pdf at all, if your little lizard brain can process that. Stick to the knitting ol’ boy. I’ll leave it to you poor little scavengers trying to rip Craig’s work on free pdf files. Doubtless the very large majority of visitors here are upright citizens who will happily buy the book (or KINDLE) and are thereby honourable. Enjoy the evening you two cheapskates.

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    I went through the whole process with my publisher Barry Rose, starting with my biography in 1985 of that vastly overrated A. V. Dicey. Got hundreds of pamphlets about the books which I mailed to anyone and anybody.

    Barry wouldn’t have it any other way, trying to buck the traditional legal and academic establishments when it came to what was published.

    Never forget my meeting with Professor Ian Christie of UCL back in the early 1980s, and he immediately said, “Oh, Mr. Ford, you are the new Chester New.” a Brougham biographer who never finished his own work. I replied, Oh, no, I am starting from scratch, as I don’t like his work at all.”

    That was the end of my work for the establishments, as Christie even refused to attend a joint panel he chaired when I gave a paper on Brougham.

    Rose ended up, losing 700,000 pounds trying to buck the professors. I even offered to give up my tenure, and manage the promoting of books at a most modest salary, nut he wasn’t interested. It was his business.

    At least he put together indexes and biographies for my books which even Cambridge won’t do now in many cases.

    Publishing books now is much harder than writing anything serious from scratch.


  • Hieroglyph

    I’ll buy it. If nothing else, the fact that Craig visited Assange, straight after giving evidence to the security committee, is worth 25 pounds of anyone’s money. That genuinely made me laugh. Some investigation required though. Amazon is evil, I avoid if possible (often, it’s not).

  • Alcyone

    Craig, for a change I find myself in broad agreement with fwl, and I note the ‘sore point’. It’s a shame. But this next 6 months is your window to shift gear and press ahead. After all, what’s most important for you presently, apart as always from family? In that context, do you think you can find a better guide/sounding board than Dalrymple in this situation? I am a team player, which means I appreciate wise counsel. The more experienced and successful, the better. You should simply not be in this situation of having to listen to fwl’s witterings, should you. Pick up that phone first thing tomorrow morning, wish him a Happy Diwali and then get to the point Besides, the . One thing leads to another. Leverage the hell out of the fucker’s contact book. Whether it be a friendly reviewer or five in the mainstream media or …..well to think of it, that IS the silver bullet. The other is I hope you’re dealing with people at the right level in the publisher. The owner needs to give somebody a kick up their lazy white arses. How dare they behave like bureaucrats, like the rest of the wonderful New Europe which you love so much. I long learnt in whatever business, not to take no for an answer. Besides, your publisher should really be on the back-foot for the state of their supply chain, no? I would call for an urgent meeting with the Owner and CEO.

  • Old Mod Jon

    It is lovely to see this finally published, and I shall be most happy to buy a couple: one for me, and perhaps one for my local library. I am not sure what is better: order it from a local bookshop to support them (though they mightn’t sell many books and may be unlikely to reorder it) or to do the same at Waterstones (where it might sell moderately well across their stores, and they might start to order it as a stock item).

    Would be very happy to order a signed copy too Craig, perhaps if you can get a PayPal/Stripe/etc widget set up somewhere? Do let us know when this will be possible.

    • Alcyone

      I have often wondered why you have deserted us Jon? Hope you’re well!? Far fewer bunfights and a (mostly) welcome wider readership. Not so sure about some of the trans-Atlantic variety though. Not sure what they are going to lump us with next month–The Devil or The Deep Blue Sea.

      Please keep leaning on Craig on the resident paypal option, be it buy or donate. I don’t understand his hesitation even though he has explained he doesn’t want to be under pressure on turning out posts. So, the book is an ideal test-of-the-waters. Given the volume of silent visitors, this would be low-hanging fruit and with disintermediation, higher gains.

    • Squonk

      Hi Jon – Good to hear from you!

      There should be a “Buy Now” type link within next few days for signed copies. Craig is just getting things ready his end..

  • Dourani

    Hi Craig,

    Will you be signing any copies, if so when and where (and would there be any reduction when buying directly from you). Thanks a lot.

    • Alcyone

      Dourani, what do you think, is this a ‘souk’? You want to pay Craig less for his signing? I mean I know times are hard but is there no such thing as embarrassment or class in these times? Have you read his blog entry above carefully? I’ll ask you the Paxman question: “Do you have no compassion?” Honestly!

    • craig Post author


      I am hoping once sales and reviews get going I shall get invited for some signings, book festivals etc. I hope in a few days to sell signed copies through this site. They will be at list price, with free postage. But will happily sign any copy if you catch me at any other kind of engagement.

  • giyane

    Please enlighten me. Can I buy a Kindle version and read it on my desktop please? Most mobiles are too large to carry around up a ladder in one’s pocket. Where would I put a Kindle?. I learned how to eat a digestive biscuit whole to avoid making crumbs in the chauffeur limo.

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