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

4.28 of 5 stars 4.28  ·  rating details  ·  3,057 ratings  ·  254 reviews
Hopkirk's spellbinding account of the great imperial struggle for supremacy in Central Asia has been hailed as essential reading with that era's legacy playing itself out today. The Great Game between Victorian Britain & Tsarist Russia was fought across desolate terrain from the Caucasus to China, over the lonely passes of the Parmirs & Karakorams, in the blazing K ...more
Paperback, 589 pages
Published May 15th 1994 by Kodansha International (NYC) (first published 1990)
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The Great Game by Peter HopkirkKim by Rudyard KiplingThe Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard KiplingRaj by Lawrence JamesThe Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye
The "Great Game"
1st out of 24 books — 24 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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'Aussie Rick'
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 m
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Erin Deathstar
Written in a style that is eminently appropriate for this story, The Great Game is a good introductory book for understanding the struggle between Britain and Russia over Central Asia in the 19th C. (If you love Kim by Rudyard Kipling, you will slobber over every page in this book. And I have grown to LOVE Kim. Took me a few decades, but it's the shit… Especially if you read it in a Comp Lit class analyzing the colonial discourse and the unforgivable cries of colonialism. If that's you, give Kim ...more
Cameron Willis
This is a complete enough narrative history of the struggle between Russia and Britain for control of Central Asia. So, if you want the bare, exciting outlines, read here, but don't expect analysis or deep thought on the issue. What we have here is a particularly Tory version of imperial history: all the British spies and agents are brave, ingenious, inventive and decent; all the Russians are mysterious, brutal, callous but always one step ahead of the good guys; the 'Asians' are, as always in t ...more
Warwick
I liked this a lot, although I think the relevance to events today has been overplayed a bit by some other reviewers: it's better enjoyed as a stirring history than a political primer.

I knew a little about the Great Game before – that 19th-century wrangling over Central Asia between Britain and Russia – but I hadn't appreciated before how motivated both sides were, in Britain's case because they feared encroachment on their ‘jewel of the Empire’, British India, and in Russia's case because they
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Maitrey
First things first, it is an engaging read, with just the correct amount of detail and narrative punch.

Covering a time period right from the 16th Century, when the Russians slowly started expanding eastwards and came in conflict first with the Central Asian Khanates, then with the British Raj in the 19th Century, the book finishes with the Great Game's own end in the beginning of the 20th Century when Japan beat the Russian Empire. Hopkirk does a decent job of covering such a massive time span w
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Robert
Oct 23, 2008 Robert rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: readers interested in foreign affairs, central and south Asia, and world history.
This book is an excellent account of the competition between the British and Russians to dominate Central and South Asia, including the Central Asian republics, Iran, Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan throughout the 19th century With the development of Caspian Basin oil and gas, the "great game" goes on even today--2008. So this book is fascinating reading, even if it was first published around 1990. Perhaps the most disturbing thing about it, however, is the degree to which British military adve ...more
Gerald Sinstadt
"There were peaches, plums, apricots, pears, apples, quinces, cherries, walnuts, mulberries pomegranates and vines all growing in one garden. There were also nightingales, blackbirds, thrushes and doves ... and chattering magpies on almost every tree." Thus Alexander Burnes, a young British subaltern, likening the city he had entered for the first time to paradise. The date was April 1832. The city was Kabul.

Peter Hopkirk's masterly history goes a long way to explaining how the capital of Afgha
...more
Sicofonia
Apr 29, 2014 Sicofonia rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: To anyone!!!!!
I very rarely give 5 stars to a book, and when I do it is for a reason.

The Great Game is by far one of the most enjoyable books I've ever read. As some other fellow "goodreaders" put it, this book reads like an adventure novel. It is concise and clear in its arguments, and the way is written always left me wanting for more after finishing a chapter. It's like one story unfolding the following one. It is not very often that you see something like this on a book, let a alone a history one. That's
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Jim Coughenour
A fully satisfying popular history of the long struggle between the British and Russian empires during the 19th century. I won't summarize the content because others have already done a great job elsewhere on this page.

After reading Foreign Devils on the Silk Road and The Great Game, I'm now one of Hopkirk's many fans. I've already acquired his four other books and look forward to many more hours of leisurely reading, historical narrative as entertaining as fiction. As I've just started Kipling'
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Eugenia Vlasova
Why is history so important? Because it helps us to understand better our present, realize the deep reasons of recent events and make more accurate forecasts regarding consequences they may have. Why do we learn nothing from history? Well, perhaps because we keep ourselves too alienated, too distant from the events that happened in the past and forget that history is nothing but a sum of decisions and actions made by individuals.

The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia by Peter Ho
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Erik Graff
May 25, 2013 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Americans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
I read this because of the Bush administration's moves towards war after the 9/11 bombings, hoping to get some historical background to Afghanistan, about which I knew very little. On this score, the book was not only what I wanted, but also a pleasure to read.
Giuseppe
Un'incredibile cavalcata

Ammetto le mie lacune. Geografiche e storiche. Ho sempre visto all'Asia centrale, e di preciso quell'area che va dall'attuale Medio Oriente (l'Iran per intenderci) fino alla Cina e all'India, in maniera piuttosto nebulosa. Ci sono un sacco di stati che finiscono in -stan, che agli occhi del neofita sembrano tutti uguali. Questo perché forse non ci se ne interessa mai, sia nella scuola nel quale il colonialismo viene poco studiato ed approfondito (forse per la scarsa prope
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Sophie Schiller
Words cannot express the invaluable service that Peter Hopkirk has rendered to students of the Great Game with this impressive volume. Starting heartrendingly with the 1842 execution of Colonel Charles Stoddart and Captain Arthur Conolly at the hands of the villainous Emir of Bokhara, climaxing with Francis Younghusband's meeting with the Russian Captain Gromchevsky in the Pamirs that almost ignited a war, and ending with the ill-fated British mission to Lhasa, The Great Game keeps the reader in ...more
Ann
More than fine as a military history of Russian & British machinations in Central Asia (probably a must-read on the subject, in fact) whose prose, despite leaning heavily on the crutch of cliches, has a galloping momentum that nicely dispersed the clouds pass over my vision whenever I encounter dates and things that happened on them. But, criminy, does Hopkirk ever hoist the tattered flag of imperialism high. This wasn't, nor should be, billed as having anything to do with the culture of the ...more
Steve
If you liked The Man Who Would be King (story or movie), Kim, the Flashman novels, or Errol Flynn's Charge of the Light Brigade, this is the book for you. Seriously, there's enough material in this book for twenty movies or novels. What a cast of characters! Evil Khans, torture, battles, sieges, (lots of) intrigue, all taking place on remarkable landscapes that are often both beautiful and cruel. Hopkirk is a wonderful writer, and he brings the "Great Game" to life. On the downside, it is a popu ...more
Todd Stockslager
Review title: Talking a good game
Unfortunately Hopkirk talks a good game about the Great Game but doesn't deliver. The Great Game is the name Rudyard Kipling immortalized in his classic novel Kim about the imperial cold war between England and Russia over the high mountains and deserts between British India and Russia. This blood drenched ground is now parts of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the other Stans freed from Soviet communism with the end of the second Cold War.

As Kipling said with more cla
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James Hatton
On January 13, 1842, a lone rider approached Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Behind him, along the 90 mile Jalalabad Road from Kabul, were 4500 regular troops and 16,000 civilians who never arrived at Jalalabad. Most were killed. The rest were captured and condemned to, perhaps, a fate worse then death. What next? Reprisal!

The 1842 Kabul Retreat from Afghanistan is one event in The Great Game. The imperial struggle for hegemony in Central Asia. Mostly, this was between Russia and Great Britain, But ever
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Peter Black
Peter Hopkirk has amazing skill at writing a compelling narrative. That is his major strength as a writer. For a work that is essentially a work of history, it almost reads like a work of fiction... and every now and again you have to pause and remind yourself it's a factual historical narrative, one that captures the essence, drama, cultural and wild geographical romance of a region in times far removed from ours, but which is back in the headlines today. I particularly enjoy his writing style ...more
Procyon Lotor
Dove vai caro? "In Kashgaria" A un tenente inglese, di stanza in una guarnigione indiana viene concessa una licenza. Va a trovare Jane? Al mare? Al capezzale della prozia? Si iscrive al torneo di bridge? No. Dice pi o meno, "vado a mappare il Tagikistan". Ma se nessuno sa nemmeno dove sia?!? Appunto. E parte. Nel viaggio incontra una Citt, governata da un ferocissimo Khan, ma sfugge e riesce ad inviare un messaggio dove segnala che il Conte Klimoff passato di la. Sospettando intrighi di Pietrob ...more
Simon
Anyone with an interest in learning the history of the Great Game, the term Rudyard Kipling used to describe the struggle between England and Russia for the khanates of central Asia, will enjoy this wonderfully written book. Hopkirk weaves stories of personal heroism into the global struggle and the end result is a book you will look forward to picking up each evening.
Herb Hastings
This well researched history reads like one of George MacDonald Fraser's Flashmann novels. If you are interested in British history this book is an absolute joy. It is the story of the decades long conflict between Imperial
Russia and Britain for the control of the central Asian region. Russia saw this area as a natural point to expand their empire while Britain saw any moves there as dangerous to their control of India. The cast of characters range from heroes to fools. The plucky Englishmen wh
...more
Sergio
While reading the book book there was guilt. The guilt was due to the enjoyment the book brought to me; while trying to reconcile the dirty subject of colonialism. Once past this, the book is full of high adventure in a far away place and time when news were not instant, men lived fast and died even faster.
Annikky
Don't get me wrong, I DID like the book (that's what three stars mean, incidentally). It's a well written overview and the subject matter is just so fascinating. I personally find this mixture of danger, physical hardship, different cultures, politics, spying and everything else very difficult to resist. I'm afraid I'm in love with most of the players - the frontier ones at least.

The reason I gave it three, not four stars (I almost never give five, 'cause I'm difficult to please), is that I read
...more
Jolifanta
Swashbucking adventure in Central Asia. And it's all real history! From the Pashtuns to the Mongols, from the British to the Czar. This book is a traveler's adventure.
Tom Bevan
Interested in modern central asian politics, travel or history? Then read this book.

Its not (as its detractors here may want it to be!) a complete and impartial academic history, its a collection of stories about often doomed european adventurers pitted against each other by paranoid imperialistic powers. I found it compelling and inspirational, and a good early read into the subject.

Although brief in its accounts it has an exhaustive bibliography to dig into the detail if compelled to.

As a brit
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Laurie Spry
This book is thick and imposing looking - got it in a Christmas book swap and didn't open it until May. What a great read! Starts with maps of Central Asia 'as it was' and then as we know it now; fascinating. Every chapter has engaging stories of what the Russians, French, British, Persians...Mongols...basically what everyone was thinking about trying to rule this region. Deserts, mountains, rivers all uncharted and full of mystique. Reads like a great spy novel, which is not surprising as many ...more
Claire
I found this book so helpful in giving me a setting for the later chapters of Verst After Verst, my 5 year plan which should go more successfully than any of the ones before, the "novel" I've been concocting this half of the year.

The only reason I didn't rate this higher (as I did find it extremely useful) is the disappointing note at the beginning of the bibliography, saying that none of the references would likely be found in a general library. Well, most likely not, but that's what universit
...more
David
There are many individual histories out there concerning the heroes and demons of the Great Game, Britain's Cold War with Russian in Central Asia, but there are relatively few histories of the Great Game as an historical event. Mr. Hopkirk's The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia fills this gap nicely.

The work is balanced, fair, and critical where useful. The perspective is definitely from the British side, but this does not harm the reading of the Great Game at all.

An excelle
...more
Arun Ellis
I really did enjoy this book, if you like Imperial history then this is one for you.
Descatalogado
Dec 31, 2014 Descatalogado rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Descatalogado by: Carloflap
Un libro impresionante sobre un tema del que no sabía nada: la especie de guerra fría que durante más de dos siglos mantuvieron el imperio ruso y el británico por el control de Asia central. Me falta contexto histórico para poder apreciarlo como se merece, pero aún así es genial. Cuenta (generalmente desde el punto de vista británico) los avances expansionistas rusos, y el miedo de los británicos de perder India, lo que lleva primero a un juego de intrigas y exploraciones para rellenar el gran v ...more
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