What's not to like. The overall narrative involves Imperial German and Ottoman attempts to harness militant Islam against the British and Russian EmpiWhat's not to like. The overall narrative involves Imperial German and Ottoman attempts to harness militant Islam against the British and Russian Empires in Asia during the First World War. Though allies, the Germans and Ottomans had separate and sometimes conflicting foreign policy aims. Germany sought to use Indian revolutionaries to stir up insurrection in Britain's key colony so as to distract her in war time, while trying to enlist Persia and Afghanistan to achieve the same ends. Their efforts in Persia also included the exploits of Wassmuss, the "German Lawrence," who did his best to stir up revolt among Persian tribes in the British sphere of influence along the Persian Gulf. Some in Germany also saw the provinces of the decaying Ottoman Empire as suitable future colonies or pseudo-colonies ripe for economic penetration (Berlin-Baghdad Railway, etc.)Meanwhile, Enver Pasha, chief member of the Young Turk triumvirate, hoped to spread the Ottoman Empire into the Russian-held Caucasus and Central Asia, with fatwas and daring military campaigns. Both of these thrusts to the East ultimately failed, and with the collapse of the war both Imperial Germany and the Ottoman Empire ceased to exist.
Hopkirk does an excellent job of seamlessly weaving together various narratives of this era together, including: the Russian revolution and subsequent civil war in the Caucasus and Central Asia (including the British and Ottoman interventions in these areas); the Armenian Genocide of 1915; the Zimmerman telegram, it's connection with Wassmuss, and it's role in bringing the U.S. into the war; the siege of Kut; the "Christmas Day Plot" in British India; the Battle of Baku; and the murder of the 26 Soviet commissars in Transcaspia.
This is my favorite era in history, and Hopkirk deals with all my favorite regions (Central Asia, the Middle East, South Asia...and even Mexico). My only criticism is that Hopkirk's narrative tends to wander from his original purpose near the end. that is, he ceases talking about attempts to ignite a holy war, and spends the last several chapters talking about British intervention in the Russian civil war. I certainly don't mind reading those chapter, it's good stuff, but somewhat off-track. ...more