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The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia Paperback – May 15 1994

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Paperback, May 15 1994
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha Amer Inc; Reprint edition (May 15 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568360223
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568360225
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 4.1 x 14.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 794 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #118,209 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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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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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By T. Graczewski on 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By P. Miller on 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.
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Format: Paperback
It being far easier to find fault than to praise and yours sincerely born lazy, I will tell you all that is wrong with this book. (many others before me have told you all that is right with it, i will skip that part entirely)
Agreed, the subject matter sometimes is dull and needs a dash of drama to make it come to life. In that, PH (author) sometimes shows himself a better historian than novelist. There are many places in which after describing what is a climactic incident, in the last sentence of the paragraph, he will give away what is to happen in the coming chapters. its like a friend telling you the ending of a christie novel - where's the fun in reading it after that?
the book screams for more maps - small half page affairs inserted in the right places so that the reader knows what part of the world he/she is in - i am from india, a place not far removed from the scenes that this "game" unfolds in, and i often found myself lost geographically. to another person for whom this is just another remote corner of the world, it can be oh so confusing. and the one small map at the front does little to make up for this gaping omission.
ph tells his story from a decidely british perspective. the british are always brave, commendable and if ever proven wrong, only so because of the deceit of the untrustworthy russians or the double crossing tribals. british mistakes are either overlooked entirely or condoned without question. if you are not from britian (or america for that matter), the holier than thou attitude of the british can be poignantly ubiquitous in the book. of course, i don't know if this is justified criticism of the narrative for that is probably very close to the truth of those days.
read the book, yes - but only for want of something better and more balanced in perspective and outlook.
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Format: Paperback
Here Peter Hopkirk gives us a very entertaining history on the Great Game, the sort-of cold war that took place between Russia and England over the lawless lands of Central Asia. England was incessantly paranoid about losing its tenuous grip on India and all of its vast riches, always worrying about who would try to invade it. The prime suspect was Russia, who at first had few designs on India, but later decided to use the British fears of invasion to play a game of political supremacy and intrigue with England. It hardly mattered that a Russian invasion of India was highly unlikely due to the thousands of miles of horrendous deserts, impenetrable mountains, inscrutable local politics, and treacherous tribes that lay between.
The resulting Great Game is strangely interesting when viewed from the present day. The two empires engaged in more than 100 years of paranoia, ethnic chauvinism, heavy-handed diplomacy, threats of invasion, espionage, skullduggery and never-ending political intrigue. The hapless nations that were caught between were repeatedly invaded even if they were peaceful, with their natives losing the greatest number of lives, and their rulers given a black-or-white choice in choosing sides between two far-off empires whose conflict had little to do with themselves, except for the fact that both sides used them as pawns. Does any of this sound familiar? It's true that those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it, with the Americans taking the place of the British in the next episode. Also of great interest is that the tripping point for both sides in the Great Game was the one and only Afghanistan. Both sides vastly underestimated the toughness of this rugged kingdom and didn't bother to figure out its internal politics.
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