The Great Game : On Secret Service in High Asia, Paperback

The Great Game : On Secret Service in High Asia Paperback

4 out of 5 (1 rating)


For nearly a century the two most powerful nations on earth, Victorian Britain and Tsarist Russia, fought a secret war in the lonely passes and deserts of Central Asia.

Those engaged in this shadowy struggle called it 'The Great Game', a phrase immortalized by Kipling.

When play first began the two rival empires lay nearly 2,000 miles apart.

By the end, some Russian outposts were within 20 miles of India.

This classic book tells the story of the Great Game through the exploits of the young officers, both British and Russian, who risked their lives playing it.

Disguised as holy men or native horse-traders, they mapped secret passes, gathered intelligence and sought the allegiance of powerful khans.

Some never returned. The violent repercussions of the Great Game are still convulsing Central Asia today.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 592 pages, 8pp black and white
  • Publisher: John Murray General Publishing Division
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Asian history
  • ISBN: 9780719564475



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The period of Hopkirk's "Great Game" is mostly the 19th century with its imperial great power rivalry, in this case between Great Britain and Russia in what is now Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgystan. The context is one in which nationalist imperialism is popular, driven by a jingoistic press and military adventurism (particularly among the asian Russian commanders). They would duplicitously seize central asian khanates such as Khiva or Bokhara while the British would have military misadventures in Afghanistan and send "geographers" to map out mountain passes that the Russians could use to invade India. In the event, The Russians didn't invade British India although their military wanted to and planned it. When war looked like a real possibility, they backed down. They had internal problems and the British government was never ready to bear the cost of a war that British India couldn't meet.Reading this fascinating book showed me how different the 19th century European mindset was from the current one, something that Hopkirk brings out extremely well.