The Great Game

Peter Hopkirk

The Great Game is an epic work on Central Asia by Peter Hopkirk.  In this book Hopkirk talks about the struggle for Empire in Central Asia between Russia coming from the north and Britain coming from the south, and India.  The book is filled with all sorts of adventure and intrigue.  It reads like a spy novel except it is true.

There are so many riveting stories filling these pages as the adventure ranges all over Persia (modern day Iran), the Caucasus, Afghanistan, the mountains of western China, and the region of what is now called Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

You would have to have some interest in Central Asia to enjoy the book, but if you are interested, this may be the definitive work.  This is my second reading.

Here is one blurb from the book to give you an idea:

“At first this big book looks like a fairly standard military/diplomatic history:  an account of the nineteenth-century struggle between England and Russia for dominance in Central Asia … But the author, a former London Times reporter with extensive experience in the Mideast and Asia, has not just written an updated glorification of the British Empire.  He has looked into the Russian historical record extensively, and he tells his story with a chivalrous respect for the Russian point of view.  We learn how the great push southward was the Russian version of Manifest Destiny, and we can sense that Leonid Brezhnev’s arrogant and criminal invasion of an unstable Afghanistan in 1979 was nothing new … Hopkirk has a gift for vivid writing that is exciting without being overblown.  His account of the Afghan uprising in 1841 is especially gripping and horrifying … As Hopkirk points out, after the breakup of the Soviet Union the Central Asian peoples are once again independent.  Today’s Great Powers have a second chance to behave in a civilized way – there and elsewhere.”

                                                                        --James North, New York Newsday