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The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia Paperback – May 15 1994
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Hopkirk has done incredible research: his bibliography is an impressive 15 pages. And even though he has a wealth of material to cover, he makes sure that the whole presentation is interesting to the reader. He tells a complete story, but expands on issues and events that are both important and interesting. As a result, the exploits of men like Conolly, Stoddart and Burnes come into clear focus against a backdrop of intrigue and, often, duplicitous ness, across a little over 500 pages.
Not unexpectedly, Hopkirk's account tends to be favor the British point of view slightly. Even so, he's quick to point out mistakes and torpedo unjustified accusations on both sides.
I found this book an easy and quick read, completing it in across about four days. While it progresses in roughly chronological sequence, it could easily be read piecemeal if the reader desired. The book kept my interest well, and didn't ever seem to wander aimlessly.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
A great book on a fascinating part of the world. Peter Hopkirk knows the history of Central Asia. Very interesting read.Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
Every so often somebody writes a history that brings geography, culture, and people together over time, and the results are nothing short of profound. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Ian Gordon Malcomson
Great story told by a great storyteller. Reminds us that problems in Afghanistan and Central Asia are nothing new as well as how past experiences are totally ignored by current... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Johan Krijgsman
well written, very descriptive of the times, the politics of all factions and the characters involved. It is of a hard time yet it is told in a gripping fashion. Read morePublished 11 months ago by thomas steel
Filled with audacious, larger than life Russian and British characters. Although dense it reads like an adventure novel in style and content and I breezed though it. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Matt
A fantastic account of exploration, deceit, and power in the 19th century struggle for hegemony in Central Asia between Russia and Britain.Published 18 months ago by Inderjeet Sahota
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 settledPublished on July 26 2013 by JOANWW
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... Read morePublished on Sept. 17 2012 by T. Tisch
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. Read morePublished on Nov. 26 2011 by Miliatasana