Docherty, Paddy

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Docherty, Paddy


Born in Scotland. Education: Attended Brasenose College, Oxford.


Agent—Robert Caskie, MacFarlane Chard Associates, Ltd. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer and adventurer. Worked variously as a ranch hand, chef, oil and gas consultant, Internet entrepreneur, shipbroker, and investment banker. Global Union, director of oil and gas investment. Worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Served as Junior Dean of Brasenose College, Oxford University.


Financial Times Book of the Year, 2007, for The Khyber Pass: A History of Empire and Invasion.


The Khyber Pass: A History of Empire and Invasion, Faber & Faber (London, England), 2007, Union Square Press (New York, NY), 2008.


Paddy Docherty is a writer and adventurer with a personal resume that ranges from investment banker specializing in oil and gas speculation, to Internet entrepreneur, and on to ranch hand, chef, and explorer. He was born in Scotland, but grew up in the Western England area of Gloucestershire. A graduate of Oxford University, he "earned a blue" in boxing while attending college, noted a biographer on Docherty's home page.

In 2003, Docherty's adventurous spirit took him to the rugged interior landscapes of Pakistan and Afghanistan. There, he conducted on-the-ground research for his first book, The Khyber Pass: A History of Empire and Invasion. In this book, Docherty explores the geographical, military, and political history of the narrow and treacherous stretch of mountainous road in the Hindu Kush mountains through which have passed conquerors and their armies, vast amounts of legal and illegal trade goods, freedom fighters, terrorists, and sometimes the merely curious. "This is not a history written on the back of other histories," commented reviewer George Rosie in the Glasgow, Scotland Sunday Herald. "Docherty has been there, driven through the narrow pass, talked to the people, wandered the bazaars and the refugee shanty towns, sipped tea with men who feel underdressed without their AK-47s," Rosie continued. Docherty shouldered considerable personal risk in his quest to explore and understand the Khyber Pass, the surrounding region, and the people who live there, resulting in a volume in which his "personal observations are the best parts of his book," Rosie commented.

Physically, the Khyber Pass is some thirty miles long. As it wends through the rugged mountain range south of the Afghan village of Asadabad, it narrows at some points to a claustrophobic fifty feet wide, surrounded by high rocks that could hide either attackers or defenders. Geographically, it is the only navigable natural pathway through the Kush, situated on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Strategically, it is a vital roadway, "and for most of human history has been the only practical route from central Asia to the Indian subcontinent," noted Paul Moss, writing in the New Statesman. "The main achievement of Paddy Docherty's book is to convey the importance of this ‘strategic possession without equal,’" Moss remarked.

Because the Khyber "marks the northwest front line to the Indian subcontinent, it has served as a crucial gateway for armies and ideas," commented a Kirkus Reviews critic. The ancient Persian King Darius used the pass as his entryway to the Indian lands beyond the mountains. Alexander the Great and his army traveled through the Khyber, as did Genghis Khan. Later, a Chinese group known as the Kushans spread Buddhism through the pass and out to the rest of the world, the Kirkus Reviews writer noted. Early Muslims traveled through the Khyber while bringing Islam to the southern part of Asia. The pass was the "furthest outpost of the British Empire" during the Raj, from the time Britain occupied Afghanistan in 1838 to Pakistan's takeover of the region in 1947, the Kirkus Reviews critic noted. The Khyber Pass again gained strategic prominence when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979.

The "long, turbulent, and complex history of the Khyber Pass and the surrounding Hindu Kush makes for fascinating reading," Rosie remarked. Docherty "uses the Khyber Pass as a hook on which to hang the history of these military and cultural exchanges, and to explore how they shaped the world we recognize in today's central Asia—a region that is both familiar and yet little known," observed Helena Drysdale, writing in the Spectator. Drysdale continued: "Docherty tells his story with imagination and enthusiasm. His masterful grasp of events is embellished with vivid reconstructions of ancient warriors tramping through the pass." He provides "much good material on the flow of culture, goods, and ideas through the pass," commented Saul David in the London Telegraph, further remarking that the author's "command of a diverse selection of sources is impressive."



Geographical, July, 2007, Nick Smith, review of The Khyber Pass: A History of Empire and Invasion, p. 92.

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2007, review of The Khyber Pass.

Law Society Journal, December, 2007, John Gava, review of The Khyber Pass, p. 101.

New Statesman, June 4, 2007, Paul Moss, "Taking the High Road," review of The Khyber Pass, p. 57.

Spectator, May 12, 2007, Helena Drysdale, "Deep, Romantic and Savage," review of The Khyber Pass.

Sunday Herald (Glasgow, Scotland), April 28, 2007, George Rosie, "The Khyber Chiefs," review of The Khyber Pass.

Telegraph (London, England), May 17, 2007, Saul David, "The Big Role of a Small Passageway," review of The Khyber Pass.

Times Literary Supplement (London, England), March 7, 2008, review of The Khyber Pass.


American Buddhist Net, (May 22, 2008), author biography.

Paddy Docherty Home Page, (May 22, 2008).