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Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  158 ratings  ·  17 reviews
Sir Francis Younghusband was the last of the great imperialists—a dashing adventurer, who in 1903 single-handedly invaded Tibet, wiped out its entire army, and then became a mystic. Admired by H.G Wells and Bertrand Russell, he launched early assaults on Mt. Everest, held the world record for the 300-yard dash, was the first European since Marco Polo to travel from Peking ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published June 1st 2004 by HarperCollins UK (first published 1994)
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This is an incredibly thorough biography of Sir Francis Younghusband - almost reaching a point of being too thorough for me. It turned into quite slow read - which is not what I expected.

Without peer in the achievements he made for the British army, Indian Civil Service and as an explorer in his own right, he is a fine example of mental and physical ability. Small of stature, and as Partrick French discloses in this book, being thoroughly bizarre in some of his thoughts, was no bar to his overta
French mixes his own personal journey to Younghusband's stamping ground with history. So far, a gripping yarn....

But I didn't finish it. Despite Patrick French's wonderfully engaging writing, in the end I wondered why the hell I was reading something about a fervent, misguided, egotistical imperiaist. I couldn't answer this question and stopped reading.
Even ten years on, this book still lives up to its original rave reviews. This will certainly be the definitive biography of one of the 19th century's greatest - and least remembered today - adventurers. Previous books on Younghusband focused on his physical adventures - rightfully so, as they remain the true accomplishments of his life, and are as amazing today as they were at the time (crossing China from Manchuria to India - including the then-unexplored Gobi Desert - virtually by himself, an ...more
Patrick Dean
Aug 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Not many historical figures counted both Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India, and Bertrand Russell as good friends. Francis Younghusband made a name for himself on Victoria's imperial frontier, then had a second act as writer and organizer on spiritual and religious issues. He did an about-face and fully supported India's independence after years of paternalistic writings and actions.

This works best as social history, covering the late 19th to mid 20th centuries and roaming from Imperial India to the
Tom Johnson
Sep 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This, Patrick French's first book (1994) is excellent. I recently read Patrick's biography of V.S. Naipaul which lead me to Younghusband. French seems to be drawn to unusual personalities. Would liked to have given this book five stars but the malarkey of F.E.Y.'s later year's mysticism put me off a tad too much.

in his twenties, Frances Edward Younghusband negotiated the Mustagh Pass, at 19,000 feet a parlous bit of trekking. Located on the edge of K2, world's second highest mountain famous for
Jan 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, 2020
An excellently written biography of a fascinating and decidedly odd man: a New Age philosopher avant la lettre.

Subject matter makes this very much a book of 2 halves - his truncated Empire career period and his post-Tibet increasingly bizarre spiritual self-discovery period. In the latter he crosses paths with a wide range of notable figures (Bertrand Russell, George Mallory, Charles Lindbergh even!).

Only criticism is the lack of cross references to his brothers, and particularly to Major Genera
Peter Walker
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well researched and presented life of Sir F.Y. An evolving character, explorer and administrator. I think I would enjoy having talked to Sir F. but probably would not like to have been on an expedition with him. His opinions on Indian independence went though dramatic change during his life; being thoroughly paternalistic in his early years and being a member of the Indian National Congress later.
Nick Bradshaw
Aug 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Perhaps a little unfair on the author with 3 stars, as the main reason my interest drifted was Younghusband himself. I just found his travels and the account of the Tibet invasion more interesting than his later life. All in all a good read and i liked how French allowed the narrative to move between the biography and his own research.
John Scaife
Oct 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent biography of a fascinating character who veered from professional Englishman abroad who believed that the Empire should never stop expanding, to proto-hippy and religious mystic and back again in a largely futile search for fulfilment.
George K. Ilsley
Born near the Himalayas, the child of empire, Younghusband led a fascinating life. It is little known how British politics played a role in betraying the sovereignty of Tibet, but Younghusband's invasion of Tibet in 1903 should be known for its brutality. In fact the slaughter of Tibetans using Maxim guns foreshadowed the industrial scale slaughter on the battlefields of World War I. Younghusband's foray into Tibet seems to have touched him, however, perhaps awakening a spiritual side. A story w ...more
Wangshi Xibu
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
a man a history
Adam Morris
Mar 10, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: central-asia
Really more like 3 1/2 stars. A fine biography of this adventurer turned philosopher. Initially I was hoping for more adventure stories though about halfway through the book the exploration of the physical world ends and we learn more about his feeling on the spiritual or at least the ephemeral. I also found the author's personal accounts of his following on the footsteps of Younghusband distracting at first but then began to enjoy them as the author intended; to make the subject more accessible ...more
Apr 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
Never going to finish this. Younghusband was a fascinating man in interesting times. Patrick French, however, is not. And given that he devotes a goodly half of the book to his own adventurous followings of Younghusband, the balance for my interest is, in technical parlance, all out of whack.
Bob Peru
Oct 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
great book. dude who wrote it kind of followed younghusband ("bloody rum name, that") all over asia and europe. he (the author, patrick french) is coming out with a new joint on v.s. naipaul. which i will read as i am now a fan of patrick french and a big fan of naipaul.
Apr 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
That they don't make 'em like that any more.
Nick Pengelley
Jan 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Brilliantly written book about an incredible man.
Ryan Murdock
Mar 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this well written biography of the Central Asian explorer and Great Game legend Sir Francis Younghusband. Definitely worth a read.
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Patrick French (born 1966) is a British writer and historian, based in London. He was educated at the University of Edinburgh where he studied English and American literature.

French is the author of several books including : Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer (1994), a biography of Francis Younghusband, The World Is What It Is (2008), an authorized biography of Nobel Laureate V.S Nai

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