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Paperback The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia (Kodansha Globe) Book

ISBN: 1568360223

The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia (Kodansha Globe)

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5 ratings

Amazing that it is actually true!

This is truly one of the best books I have ever read. It takes the reader from 1814-1914 and walks through the conflict that embroiled central Asia for a century. It looks at how the British tried to defend their empire (notably India) by using proxies in Pakistan and Afghanistan. If you are wondering how the divisions are set up in the Middle East and central Asia today they are born during the Great Game. The book reads like a spy novel and is so well written you will not even notice you are reading history. The story takes you in and you wonder why there has not been a movie yet. It is amazing to see what these people went through and the things that were done in the line of duty for empire on both sides. Highly recommend and note that this is really part one of three of an official trilogy so make sure you see the other great books on the Great Game

Great book on the Great Game

I came across the term Great Game first while reading Byron Farwell's "Armies of the Raj," and then later in Kipling's "Kim." It was in the appendix of Kim that I first read about Peter Hopkirk's "The Great Game." Hopkirk's account - though biased towards the British point of view - details the events in the Great Game with a flair and style that makes it extremely interesting to read. The voyages of the soldiers and civilians involved in the Great Game, the numerous instances of treachery and cruelty which were a norm with the rulers of the Central Asian khanates of the time, the two wars in Afghanistan that were catastrophic to the British, the two failed expeditions to Khiva that did tremendous damage to the prestige of the Russians, etc., are all described with meticulous details in this wonderful book of almost 550 pages. The term Great Game was first coined by Arthur Conolly, a captain in the British army, and is used to describe the epic standoff between Russia and Britain for the control of India and Central Asia in the nineteenth century. There were many players in this Great Game from both the sides - brave men who thought nothing of venturing into hostile territories hitherto unknown to westerners to gather valuable political and military information for their countries. Many - including Conolly - perished playing this dangerous game of intrigue and espionage. The British, wary of any move on part of the Russians that would bring them closer to India, did everything in their power to extend their influence over the Central Asian khanates of Khiva, Bokhara, Samarkand, Kashgar, and especially Afghanistan. The Russians, on their part, after suffering some initial setbacks, ended up conquering most of the Central Asian countries around them (these countries were to remain a part of the Soviet Union till its collapse in 1991). Fortunately, Britain and Russia did not get into a direct confrontation during this whole episode, and the Great Game finally ended after about a century with the Anglo-Russian convention of 1907. There were times, however, when war appeared to be imminent between the two superpowers of the time. Once, even Napoleon Bonaparte had planned to attack India with Russia's help. Things, however, soon went sour between him and Tsar Alexander I, and he ended up invading Russia - a costly mistake which resulted in a humiliating defeat for his army. Apart from the Central Asian countries, many other countries like Turkey, Persia, and China also got sucked into this game because of their proximity to both India and Russia. These days, when Central Asia is in the limelight again because of recent developments in the world, this book was especially helpful to me in understanding the geography, politics, and culture of that region (before reading this book, I was not even aware of the names of many Central Asian countries). Now I am planning to read the rest of Peter Hopkirk's books to get an even better understanding of that

A Hard Book to Put Down

The Great Game, by Peter Hopkirk, is an amazing history of British and Russian imperialism clashing in the Middle East and Asia. Encompassing the time period from the late eighteenth century to the very beginning of the twentieth, the Great Game was much like an enormous game of chess, with Russia seeking to expand its borders and Britain to safeguard its interests in India. Hopkirk reveals both the national policy thoughts of the two nations and the daring moves of each's officers and agents in the regions in question, which include most of Central Asia, Afghanistan, India and the Caucasus. In many cases, the men Hopkirk describes were the first Westerners to set foot in such regions (for example, Bokhara, Khotan and Khokand). 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. I must believe that this is the authoritative account of the subject, and I can recommend it unconditionally, whether this is a subject area of interest for you, or you just want an interesting book to occupy your time. Interestingly, the end of the Soviet Union has refocused the spotlight on many regions discussed in this book. If you find that you remain interested in the topic after reading it, I recommend following up with Eastern Approaches by Fitzroy MacLean or Journey to Khiva by Phillip Glazebrook.

Fantastic

This is Peter Hopkirk's classic account of the nineteenth century cold war struggle between the British Empire and Imperial Russia. Hopkirk is a devil with the pen and knows how to spin a great story. The end result is a gripping tale, the kind of wild adventure story my grandfather used to tell me when I was a child. Five stars simply isn't enough. This is terrific stuff. For those who don't know, this is the story of how Central Asia became part of the Russian, and then Soviet Empire. Russian expansion to the southeast caused consternation in British India where military planners became convinced the Russians were out to invade the `Jewel of the Crown'. There followed a century's worth of cold war espionage between the empires that involved all maner of characters and military encounters. There are invasions and wars in Afghanistan, where the Brits were turfed out twice, Russian conquests of the Emirates of Khiva & Bokhara and legions of adventurers heading off into the wild blue yonder on missions to map the region and foil the enemy. All their stories are here. You'll have to pinch yourself to believe some of them. What an adventure story this is. Five Stars.

Excellent History of the 'Great Game'

Peter Hopkirk's book `The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia' is a great historical account and a very enjoyable book to read. It is very rare nowadays to find a book that holds your attention throughout, without finding one boring section, this is one of those books. In over 560 pages (paperback edition) Peter Hopkirk tells the amazing stories of a number of early British and Russian officers and men involved in the great imperial struggle for supremacy in Central Asia.I found myself reading late into the morning, at times I couldn't put the book down. Most of the time I had heard of the places and people involved but a lot of this story was new to me. The narrative read like a novel, gripping but informative, never boring and full of information, breathing life into history in a way that is hard to find now-a-days. This is a great book and I fully agree with the quote on the front cover of the book by Jan Morris "Peter Hopkirk is truly the laureate of the Great Game." If you ever wanted to learn something about this large and remote area then this is the book to start with. If you enjoy military history then this book has it, if you enjoy historical accounts of exploration then this book has it, if you just enjoy good history then this book has it all.The story of Britain and Russia carving out their Empires in India, Afghanistan and the surrounding areas is truly fascinating and I was amazed at the brave and resourceful men who carved their name in history during this period. Most people have heard of the Khyber Pass and places like Chitral however I had never heard of the Pamirs and Karakorams mountain ranges or of the Kerman and Helmund deserts nor of some of the fierce and warlike tribes that lived in these areas. After reading this book I yearn for more information about this region and I intend to buy the rest of Peter Hopkirk's books. I would rate this book one of the better ones I have read this year and to finish my review I would like to quote Byron Farwell from his review in `The New York Times':"Those who enjoy vividly told tales of derring-do and seek a clear understanding of the history of the emerging central Asian countries will find this a glorious book."
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