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On Secret Service East of Constantinople: The Plot to Bring Down the British Empire

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  487 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Under the banner of a Holy War, masterminded in Berlin and unleashed from Constantinople, the Germans and the Turks set out in 1914 to foment violent revolutionary uprisings against the British in India and the Russians in Central Asia. It was a new and more sinister version of the old Great Game, with world domination as its ultimate aim. Here, told in epic detail and for ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published March 27th 2006 by John Murray (first published 1994)
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4.27  · 
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A fast paced and very illuminating book on the Turko-German plan to use Holy War to foment revolution and disruption to India and the Middle East.

Mr Hopkirk again - as in his earlier book The Great Game: On Secret Service in High Asia - weaves high politics and strategy with espionage and battles ably telling the story using accounts and details from those who were there.

Although having read much on WWI including the side-shows of Mespot, Gallipoli and East Africa I learnt much on the involvem
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
It took me nearly a month to read this book! I could only read and absorb about one chapter a day. This is certainly not recreational reading. I learned so much, I wouldn't know where to begin! Peter Hopkirk is a master historian and an excellent writer. This is the second book of his that I've read, and I look forward to reading more.

It's way beyond the scope of a review like this to try and tell about what's in this book. It's full of history and treachery and war and spy craft and double cros
Janet Swinney
May 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely cracking read. The book gives an account of Germany's 'drive to the East' under the command of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the aim being to destabilise the British Empire,even if this meant forming an unholy alliance with the Muslim Turks. I learned a lot, for example about the Berlin to Bhagdad railway; about the young Turks rise to power, and about the Battle of Sarikamish in the mountains of North Eastern Turkey, where Enver Pasha's pig-headedness led to the loss of thousands of his own ...more
Nathan Albright
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: challenge-2018
Although this is the first time I have read one of the author's books, I should note that he is a well-regarded historian with expertise in writing about the "Great Game" between Russia and the United Kingdom over control of Central Asia, the subject of one of his previous books.  Although my interest in World War I history is perhaps broader than most [1], there was a lot in this book that I was not aware of and I found this book to be very helpful in looking at the reasons why the twentieth ce ...more
What'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 effo ...more
Jim Coughenour
A couple weeks ago I caught a bad end-of-winter cold, the perfect excuse for holing up on the weekend with a good book, ideally something completely engaging but not too taxing – and so I grabbed Hopkirk's history of British/German/Turkish/Russian shenanigans during World War I off the shelf. It was as satisfying as his other books on the permutations of the Great Game between Britain and Russia.

In this book his focus is on Kaiser Wilhelm's hopes of inciting jihad against the British, replacing
Aug 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
If you're familiar with Hopkirk's work you know roughly what to expect from this book. If not, this is a fascinating exploration of a relatively unknown power struggle between the great powers in Central Asia at the turn of the 20th century. Hopkirk's signature style combines strong scholarship with an easily read style that resembles an old adventure novel, which makes the end product very readable even for those unfamiliar with the subject. This is as true of On Secret Service East of Constant ...more
Simon Bendle
Feb 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Peter Hopkirk takes a madly complicated subject – a German plot to incite rebellion in British India during the First World War – and produces an exciting and thoroughly readable history. The bulk of the action takes place in an unfamiliar part of Central Asia that is now Turkmenistan. German spies, fierce Turks, brave Brits and warlike Cossacks abound. And towards the end the mad Bolsheviks turn up to complicate things still further. At times, perhaps inevitably, it can all get a little overwhe ...more
Jlnpeacock Peacock
This is an incredible story thus far. I am reading this before Buchan's "Greenmantle." The time period is prior to WWI and following. Although this was written as a documentary, it reads as beautifully as any novel. Mr. Hopkirk writes in a captivating manner while supplying valuable details and information. It is well worth the time to be better educated about this time period. I look forward to the reading of "Greenmantle."
Rick Brindle
Jul 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military, history
Another excellent history from Peter Hopkirk told in a similar way to The Great Game. Again, this is another part of history I knew little about, and Hopkirk tells the story very well, enlightening the reader along the way. I had no idea that the more things change in the world, the more human nature remains the same.
Alireza dehghan
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
peter Hopkin's books give me a new view or different view of the events and hapenings in recent history of the middle east-afghanistan and pakistan and russia. i like his books,which are full of facts and history of spys in the region
Daniel Ostrowski
Decent non-academic account but now partly outdated, and with strange focuses

One very odd thing about this book is the way it jumps about. The book begins by exploring the Turco-German friendship, then the Hindu-German conspiracy, then the Afghanistan mission of Niedermayer and the activities of agents in Persia, then the battles for Baku, and finally affairs in Transcaspia. None of these threads is followed all the way through- Hopkirk explores each area when it is most relevant, but each thin
Sep 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Brilliant, old school, 'Ripping Yarns' style history. While the story of the First World War on the Western Front is often told so statically, Hopkirk's study of idealism and opportunism in the volatile Asian theatre shows how many competing possible futures for the region were in play right up to the Armistice. By and large this is not a story of King vs. Kaiser or imperialism vs. communism, but of duty, bravery, guile and professionalism - on all sides - in conflict with cowardice, incompetenc ...more
Tony Cavicchi
As usual, Peter Hopkirk's work is excellent, enlightening, and enthralling. He makes the characters come alive and tells the untold stories so you don't want to put his books down. LIKE HIDDEN FIRE covers World War One in the Middle East and India. Stories range from terrorist training camps in California to Germans in Afghanistan and Brits in Baku. Much of the action in this book is diplomatic, as diplomat-spies jockey for influence across thousands of miles in Turkey, Persia, and Afghanistan. ...more
Lia Patterson
May 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another interesting book by Peter Hopkirk. I had no idea that it was the Germans who first had the bright idea of reviving the notion of a Muslim Holy War, thus formenting trouble for the British Empire in India.

And after reading this, especially the final chapters, I also have a much clearer idea of the roots of the bloody conflicts that sadly keep troubling this area to this day.

Pei-jean Lu
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hopkirk in this book tells the story of WWI on the Middle East Front in what was at the time part of the vast Ottoman Empire. Fast paced and full of intrigue, it is a well written account of the manipulation the European powers in the deserts of the Middle East. This book is the very reason why I love reading history as a means of understanding the world as we know it today
Nishant Pappireddi
I thoroughly enjoyed Hopkins' book "The Great Game" when I read it years ago, and I was not disappointed by this book. This book explains the intrigue around the German-Ottoman plot to destabilize India.
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like Hidden Fire: The Plot to Bring Down the British Empire by Peter Hopkirk is a fantastic read. The Book begins in the years building up to the first world war. Germany as a contender for the position of the world's foremost superpower warms up to the dying Ottoman Empire. When war breaks out, the Germans convince the Ottomans to declare a holy war against all except Germans and Austrians. British agents in the region also try to stir support for their cause, amongst tribes and kings of Persia ...more
Gerald Sinstadt
Oct 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
World War is looming in the second decade of the twentieth Century. The Great Game is not so much over as getting ready for extra time. The loss of millions of innocent lives in an ultimately unsatisfactory conflict in Europe deflects attention from the power vacuum that remains in central Asia - through which lies a route that can threaten British India.

Peter Hopkirk returns to a part of the world that has provided material for several of his other books. Now Berlin is eyeing the potential for
This book is a follow up to Hopkirk’s The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia and is as equally well done. It recounts the attempt of Germany's Wilhelm II to harness the forces of militant Islam against Britain's imperial interests in central Asia during WW I. His efforts to rally the peoples of the Ottoman Empire, the Caucasus, Persia and Afghanistan--and the counterefforts by the British and Russians--were carried out largely by intelligence agents, who stories are told both in ...more
Jun 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Peter Hopkirk continues his history of British involvement in the Caucasus and southwestern Asia to protect the Indian empire, the century-long campaign known as The Great Game.

This book covers two different episodes. The first covers the German attempt in 1915 to inspire revolt in India and to threaten India from Afghanistan by inciting jihad among the Moslem peoples in the Ottoman and Russian empires. In fact, this is how Turkey entered WWI allied to Germany. Hopkirk tells how the plot was de
Gerald Sinstadt
Jun 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, history
Peter Hopkirk fans will need to be patient. This exploration of the author's favourite territory contains enough echoes of the Great Game to justify the book's title - and amazing some of them are. However, they cannot be told in isolation. This means that much of the book - including several early chapters are needed to provide context.

The period is broadly the duration of the first World War. The focus is Britain's need to guard against losing control of India, the jewel in its empire crown. P
Sean Mccarrey
Jan 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have one general critique of this book. I think that the stories involving the battle for Baku and the execution of the 26 Commissars as well as the British involvement in modern-day Turkmenistan could have been placed in Hopkirk's other brilliant book Setting the East Ablaze. There could have been more on the destruction of the Ottoman Empire and the alterations that took place within Persia. That being said, this book is one of Hopkirk's best. His history-buff meets Kapuscinski styled writin ...more
Jun 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read2007, ww1, non-fiction
This I loved. It read like an adventure novel. The writing just flows and you never, ever feel like you are reading a boring history book. The struggle, the spirit, the dedication of these young men on all sides of the conflict are riveting. May it be the German special officers that cross the Persian Desert into Afghanistan thru enemy lines of Russian Cossack and British/Indian soldiers; the diplomatic British officers in far Eastern mission surrounded by the Turks army and surrendering; the da ...more
Dennis Boccippio
The Washington Post review blurb calls this "history that reads like a thriller", with which I would heartily agree. Easily my favorite of Hopkirk's books thus far (I think I have been through four); each is engaging, but the added suspense of the First World War provides Hopkirk with fodder for a very strong narrative, far more interesting in its 400+ pages than the more speculative maneuvering of The Great Game. He also achieves a level of neutrality in the telling which was elusive in The Gre ...more
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Fascinating history of Germany's attempts to encourage a Holy War amongst the Muslim populations of the Middle East and Central Asia during the First World War in order to destabilise the British and foment revolution in India.

Together with the interest in some sterling Boy's Own adventuring I was left with the impression of the awful upheavals and terrible loss of life on these campaigns no less poignant for being so less well-known than that on the Western Front.
Lauren Albert
I found this surprisingly fascinating and fast paced. I immediately went and ordered the book Hopkirk wrote that covers later events. I knew nothing about Germany's attempt to start a "jihad" against the British in India nor anything about any of the other events in Asia before the start of World War I. If you like history, this is worth a read.
Filipe Pereira
Hopkirk does it again - this sequel of sorts to "The Great Game" is as readable and informative as the first, and manages to illustrate vividly footnotes of history like the siege of Baku. A riveting read - hugely recommended.
Nick Pengelley
Nov 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Awesome! A book full of ripping yarns that proves truth really is more exciting than fiction. And for those who think T.E. Lawrence was the only British adventurer roaming the deserts and fringes of the south-eastern front disguised as one of the indigenous inhabitants, think again.
Roopa Prabhu
Mar 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant historian and an amazing writer... this book as usual from Peter Hopkirk is another fast paced, eye opener book. The fluid writing makes it seem like an adventurous novel than a history book
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