Why I Need Alexander Burnes, and You Do Too 364

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

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  • Catherine Wooldridge

    Bought a copy today, of which they had two, at Waterstone’s Dundee. Already engrossed in your excellent writing Craig. Thank you.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    My girlfriend is going to be pissed off that I ask her to use her dosh to buy me a book that we shall be discussing.
    Never said I was a totally fair guy – but – I can be helpful at times.

    Cheers and I am sincerely looking forward to a good read.

  • Cynndara

    This looks like an excellent Christmas gift for my Little Brother. I found it easily on Barnes & Noble (as I live in the U.S. I wanted to purchase here, and I avoid Amazon on principle) at a completely reasonable price. On the down side, I cannot access the nine free chapters listed above, which I would like to do in order to verify the general tone of the writing before I buy. I am mystified by the Google Play directions, which seem to indicate that it’s buy first, try later. I will try Amazon for that!

  • T. Dayle E. Brewer

    Sikunder Burnes is here! I ordered the book April 22/18 from Kenny’s Books in Galway via Amazon. It was taking a very long time to arrive so, after an email exchange with Laura Jacobsen at Kenny’s she very kindly offered to send a replacement, which arrived today June 26, Priority Aeropost no less! So here is a little shout out to Laura and the good folks at Kenny’s Books (www.kennys.ie). Service! I thought it had been scrubbed from the dictionary. P.S. Watching Argentina v Nigeria right now, but read the first line of the preface and nearly pissed myself! Thanks Mr Murray. TD.

  • Alan Stephenson

    Hi, ordered and paid for signed first edition of Sicunder Burns on 14/08/2018. No acknowledgement or book received yet. Just wondering if there is a problem?

  • steve

    Just bought a copy – I’ve felt like reading a good history book for ages now so you were pushing an open door. Look forward to getting it…alas from Amazon….[guilty feelings for exploited workers…]

  • Cheryl Perry

    Used Hive for the 1st time to order Sukunder Burnes . It arrived in 2 days . I shall always use Hive from now on instead of Amazon for books. . Havent started it yet but am eagerly awaiting the chance .

    I thoroughly enjoyed Murder in Samarkand & The Catholic orangemen of Togo .Both were extremely interesting , informative & very honest . Great reads .

  • Fred

    Loved this book, the shockin endin really got me as I had come to like Burnes. The kind of book I will read again next year, so a double-dunt!

  • Agustín F. Pozuelo

    I bought the ebook from Kobo, avoiding the G & A giants. I am enjoying it greatly. I would really get the hardback but my small apartment is crammed.

  • Skye Mull

    I am now simultaneously reading Murder in Samarkand, The Catholic Orangemen of Togo, and Sikunder Burnes. (Maybe not the best approach to reading!)
    Craig is a brilliant historian and author and deserves a much wider readership.
    However, despite our often corrupt U.K. government and politicians, I do wish that Craig would campaign for a Federation of the British Isles rather than Scottish independence……. a course which can only lead to complexities far greater than we have already seen with Brexit.

    • Skye Mull

      Murder in Samarkand is a remarkable story and very readable. This seems to be the only place I can comment on it as the other related threads are closed.
      But why, Craig, did you choose a book cover illustration with soldiers and a military armoured vehicle? These have no connection whatsoever with the narrative, and you probably lost many potential readers who would have mistaken the book for one of battle in the field.
      I wish I’d read this book years ago!

  • Sophie Langdon

    Hello Craig – I have just succeeded in ordering your book from Hive, as you suggested. All fine, took a while to find it – putting your name in the search at first, yielded no useful results. Then, with the title, it came up. Otherwise all fine.
    Looking forward to reading your book. Thank you!

  • Paul Short

    Got the book for myself for Xmas (2019). Had to use Amazon – in the NE of Scotland there’s not much other choice for almost anything unless you live in Aberdeen or Inverness – and another online site did not have it in stock. Mostly read e-books but this one I want in paperback; really looking forward to it. Also subscribe a bit each month. Keep up the good work.

  • Felix Enke

    Hey, I just wanted to mention that the site you linked under “buy the book” seems broken, at least the link is going nowhere.

    Going to buy it on Amazon or some retail shop.

    I wish you all the best and all the strength you need.


  • Jesús Martínez

    Dear Mr Murray

    As a Catalan I am acutely aware of the disadvantages that minority languages face, also in the context of the Internet. That is why I have always avoided supporting English-language websites, not because of any prejudice against English, but because I thought that my money was needed supporting other efforts and sources of information.
    I have to admit that not contributing to your website has required a degree of determination to stick to my policy, because the temptation to click on that button has sometimes been very strong. I am glad, therefore, to be able to support you by buying your books. I have bought two copies of your “Sikander”, one for myself and one for a friend.

    Keep the good work. Yours is a necessary voice in this world of disinformation.

    Kind regards


  • Paul Tucker

    Hello Craig
    I just bought ‘Sikunder’, paperback for £17.99 from Amazon. There were 14 copies left (paperbacks). It should arrive tomorrow.I tried to buy it from the Scottish seller at top of page but was put off by 3 attempts to by-pass paying by Paypal and pay by Debit card!

    Meanwhile I am rivetted by ‘Murder in Samarkand’ and noticed the quote from Flecker’s “Hassan” at the beginning. This verse play won’t be familiar to many but my father loved it and managed to do it on BBC2 in the eighties. He was Rex Tucker and had directed Ralph Richardson previously, noting that Richardson was a friend of Basil Dean, a theatre impresario who held the sole rights to Hassan. There had been no production of “Hassan” since the original one in the ’20’s, and Deane was very possessive about the play. Richardson persuaded him to allow the TV production with himself as Hassan, John Gielgud as the Caliph, Nyree Dawn Porter and Corin Redgrave as
    the doomed lovers. It was my father’s swan song and would have been erased from memory had not the video editor saved 2 copies before the master tape was destroyed! The theme of artists straying into the harsh realities of power politics is particularly relevant today as you will know very well.
    Thank you for the brilliant work you are doing on your website which is inspiring and which I am also reading.

  • Dilys Hartland

    Just ordered from Waterstones. So look forward to reading this. My maternal grandmother was born in India of Anglo-Indian family, my mother was conceived in Russia in 1916. Family mythology (and a lot of it is just myth) very tied up in those two countries. Keep up your good work and God bless you.

  • Bruce Bell

    Bought Kindle edition to avoid unnecessary travel, delivery etc. during lockdown. Had no problem in downloading the book.

    Looking forward to learning more of the real person first introduced to me in The Flashman novels.

    Thank you Craig.

  • Rob McKay

    I had begun reading of the Great Game maybe two or three years ago, it has become one of those subjects that gets bigger and bigger in front of my vision just like the vastness of the geography it is played… Nikal Seyn had been my first big discovery as a player in this game and Burnes name has flashed across my vision… I shall buy your book, I enjoyed your corona podcast, I find my head nodding enthusiastically at your words on the difficulties of immigrants, with what I see as an Orwellian society emerging, I liked your thoughts on the right to be believed in everyday discourse with ‘authority’ rather than presumed a liar, I work in construction on relatively short term contracts and this constant demand of proving who I am to job agencies is offensive and wearing…
    I am glad I discovered your voice… Thank you
    Rob McKay

  • Edward McGowan

    Sikunder Burnes :-
    Excellent biography of Alexander Burnes – thoroughly good read – a great history; a great rags-to-riches story with a Scottish flavour; and good informative background to the religious and tribal currents that one imagines still shape Afghanistan to this day.
    And like any really good book you are almost disappointed when you reach the end – and maybe that is my only criticism – it wasn’t long enough !!
    With the death of Burnes and MacNaghten, the ensuing rout and annihilation of the British army with all of the 4000-troops and some 12000 camp followers being slaughtered, was one of the most infamous defeats suffered by the British army – and I felt this would have been worthy of a chapter on its own as it seemed strange to leave it out as it was the cumulation of the UK’s play in the Great Game at that particular time – and thus much of the background story of the book.
    And also, (if I can add) I thought it would have been good to have a quick note (i.e. a paragraph or two) on the fate of many of the other main characters in the story – again just to leave their story hanging at this end point left more questions rather than providing a tight wrapping up of the whole story.
    But please take the above as positive criticism – I thoroughly enjoyed this book; I thought it very scholarly without being academic and felt it read with the pace of a Dan Brown thriller. Having just read ‘The Silk Road’ by Peter Frankopan, this book on Burnes added yet more insight into this fascinating and almost mythical part of the orient. Well done Mr Murray – I’ll be recommending it to many friends.

  • James Duncan

    Craig. I am a contributor to your website.
    This is OT but I have noticed that all Wings over Scotland’s sites have been blocked with a “502 Bad Gateway” this afternoon.
    This follows the taking down of Stuart Campbell’s twitter account.
    I smell an attack by Unionist supporters or U.K. government agents.
    Any thoughts.

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