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The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia [Paperback]

Peter Hopkirk
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 15 1994 Kodansha Globe
The Great Game was the epic stand-off between the two superpowers of the nineteenth century--Victorian Britain and Czarist Russia--for the riches of India and the East. Based on meticulous scholarship and on-the-spot research, Peter Hopkirk's immensely readable account covers the history at the core of today's geopolitics. Photos and maps.

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In a phrase coined by Captain Arthur Connolly of the East India Company before he was beheaded in Bokhara for spying in 1842, a "Great Game" was played between Tsarist Russia and Victorian England for supremacy in Central Asia. At stake was the security of India, key to the wealth of the British Empire. When play began early in the 19th century, the frontiers of the two imperial powers lay two thousand miles apart, across vast deserts and almost impassable mountain ranges; by the end, only 20 miles separated the two rivals.

Peter Hopkirk, a former reporter for The Times of London with wide experience of the region, tells an extraordinary story of ambition, intrigue, and military adventure. His sensational narrative moves at breakneck pace, yet even as he paints his colorful characters--tribal chieftains, generals, spies, Queen Victoria herself--he skillfully provides a clear overview of the geographical and diplomatic framework. The Great Game was Russia's version of America's "Manifest Destiny" to dominate a continent, and Hopkirk is careful to explain Russian viewpoints as fully as those of the British. The story ends with the fall of Tsarist Russia in 1917, but the demise of the Soviet Empire (hastened by a decade of bloody fighting in Afghanistan) gives it new relevance, as world peace and stability are again threatened by tensions in this volatile region of great mineral wealth and strategic significance. --John Stevenson

From Publishers Weekly

Chronicles the imperial struggle for power in Central Asia between Victorian England and Czarist Russia.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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"You could smell them coming, it was said, even before you heard the thunder of their hooves." Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Story July 6 2004
Format:Paperback
If you like history told on a grand scale, you'll love Peter Hopkirk's "The Great Game." The author has done a superb job making an obscure epoch of nineteenth history come to life in an easily accessible and immensely entertaining narrative. Employing a style and approach highly reminiscent of such bestsellers as David Fromkin's "A Peace to End All Peace" or Robert Massie's "Dreadnought," Hopkirk uses a number of harrowing expeditions by young, intrepid (and mostly British) army officers and diplomats to convey the drama, intrigue and danger of the imperial contest that Rudyard Kipling christened "The Great Game."
A quick word of caution: this book isn't really a primer on current events in Afghanistan and the surrounding areas. I mention that because there are some exerts to that effect on the cover of the new paperback and I suspect that angle has been pushed by the publishers to promote sales. Yes, there are some graphic tales of western forces being mutilated by Muslim mobs incited by the harangues of mullahs in Kabul and other now familiar cities, but that is where the potential similarities end. In short, this is a book about nineteenth century imperial competition; Islam in general and Afghanistan in particular are elements of that story, not the focus. It is told primarily from the British perspective and focuses on their century-long cold war with imperial Russia. The borders of their global empires became, in London's opinion, uncomfortable close in the mid-1800s as Moscow's borders expanded inexorably southwards in search of new economic markets and trade routes until they encroached upon the mountain passes to northern India, thus threatening the "crown jewel" of the British Empire.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Kashistan July 26 2013
By JOANWW
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am fascinated by this country in central Asia. It was an unknown place to me and yet its where many of our plants came from and its where very early man settled
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Game, a used book Sept. 17 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
ordering a used book, once again the book came through in great shape just as ordered. It takes a few weeks; however, that is much better than not being able to get the book at all. Meet all of my expectaions.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Overview June 8 2004
Format:Paperback
My brother introduced this book to me 5 years ago, but its size intimidated me, so I put it aside. Big mistake. I finally started reading it and found it completely intriguing. I had NO idea of any of the history of Russian expansionism into Central Asia. Zip. Zilch. It's a tragedy that this topic is not covered in American high school curriculums. Our teachers and professors blathered on about the cold war, but I had no idea of how Russia and the Soviet Union came to be what they were/are in the 20th and 21st centuries. I would have appreciated a better background on Russian and Soviet acquisitions of surrounding territories. This book provides all that and more in a very readable, summary fashion, as a tale told around individual historic figures. Very entertaining and hard to put down.
-pj
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4.0 out of 5 stars A History gone novel Nov. 26 2011
Format:Paperback
The Hopkirk writings on the Great Game are simply a classic. The whole book is an amazing read, and in general leaves with the impression of a great a glamorous story. On that note, we should mention that Hopkirk is a journalist, not a historian, and as such no one should read this book and assume it has the same legitimacy as more scholarly pieces. Having admitted that, it is a great overview into the topic, and very interesting from a position of geo-politics, colonialism, and strategy games. A great read and a must for anyone interested in British, Russian, or Central Asian History.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Filling a gap in world history Jan. 31 2004
Format:Paperback
This books fills a gap in world history. All have heard of Marco Polo and most of Dgengiz Khan; some might know about the Russian advances towards India into Central Asia and might even place the British defeats in Afghanistan in the mid 1800s in the same context; however, no book could have filled that gap in my knowledge as good the Hopkins' Great Game. Not only interesting, but moreover entertaining. Once caught, it will be impossible to put it down.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting and Fun Introduction Jan. 22 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is a really fun book, and the author does a good job of explaining geopolitical tensions while also narrating some pretty exciting adventures.
This book is not a "complete" history of the topic: it is told mostly from the British perspective, the Afghans come across poorly, and way too many of the characters are described only as "brilliant, multilingual and resourceful young subalterns." It is not particularly critical of the sources, either, but that's okay, because there's no particular pretension to Historiography here. (This is about spies and explorers and adventure--not about deconstructing anything.)
But Hopkirk's greatest success comes in introducing the reader to the subject matter and providing fodder for the imagination.
One caveat: Do not look at the photographs before you read the book!
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5.0 out of 5 stars History being a guide to the present Dec 31 2002
Format:Paperback
The Great Game puts the present events in perspective and once again confirms why I love to read history when I crave a good tale. You really could not dream this stuff up, yet it all actually happened. That whole thing with mid-19th century Brits tramping off into (translated from that local language) "the place that nobody in their right mind sets foot in". They emerge 2 years later with meticulous journals and having compiled 8 dictionaries of the local languages and botanical samples with 124 species new to science. And of course, a huge scar on their (choose anatomical feature) where they were almost impaled by a (choose gruesome weapon). They return to a Knighthood yet always seem to die of syphilis in opium-addicted obscurity.

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