Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game & the Race for Empire in Central Asia” as Want to Read:
Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game & the Race for Empire in Central Asia
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game & the Race for Empire in Central Asia

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  494 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
"Much more than a magisterial work of scholarship: it is an absorbing inquiry into men & motives that is one part le Carre, one part Indiana Jones."--Jason Goodwin, NY Times Book Review
From the romantic conflicts of the Victorian Great Game to the war-torn history of the region in recent decades, Tournament of Shadows traces the struggle for control of Central Asia &a
Kindle Edition, 705 pages
Published September 30th 1999 by Basic Books (NY) (first published 1999)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Tournament of Shadows, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Tournament of Shadows

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Sep 20, 2008 J. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ... game theorists ...
The literature of The Great Game, maybe only twenty years back a fairly esoteric field, has now gone viral with what is being called 'Great Game Studies'. Like anything intriguing and underappreciated, it seems like it was better, back then, when only known in some circles.

The Great Game was the office slang used to refer to the several-hundred year contest for influence and regional control in Central Asia, as practiced mainly by the British Empire and Czarist Russia. And also as it affected th
Huw Evans
Nov 27, 2011 Huw Evans rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, warfare, spy
The borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan have always been a troubled zone. One hundred years ago three great powers at their zenith were competing for security of their empires. Referred to as the Great Game, information gathering was the key to trying to exert preferential influence in the area. By a mixture of bribery, corruption, infiltration and blackmail Russia, France and the UK tried to maintain the balance in their own favour. This is a fascinating, well researched read and one hundred ye ...more
Elaine Nelson
I'm vacillating whether to go with 2 or 3 stars -- parts of this book were fantastic, great narrative, crazy crazy characters in a vast story. Maybe that's the problem: the story was a little TOO vast, so there was no single theme that seemed to hold it together, just a chronicle of one thing after another.

I will single out the maps as a particular irritation: the book has lots and lots of locations which are likely to be unfamiliar to the general reader, and the maps were just not good enough t
Tim P
Jan 08, 2009 Tim P rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A narrative style history of "The Great Game"...this thing is about a million pages long, but brings historical figures to life in a way that makes you feel as if you are with them for every furrowed brow, every political chess move, every agonizing decision about the fate of peoples and foreign policy. Provides an excellent framework for understanding the current war in Afghanistan as well as the economic Wild West that is Central Asia.

Highly recommend, although my buddy Carlos swears "The Gre
Nov 12, 2007 Dirk rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't get my hand on enough about this era but despite being a more accomplished wordsmith KEM never quite manages to conjure up the brand of gas lit magic Peter Hopkirk brought to the same subject.
Mark Singer
An excellent companion to Peter Hopkirk's The Great Game (which I also own), Tournament of Shadows continues the story of British, Russian, and later American ambitions in Central Asia up through the Cold War.
Aug 16, 2010 Kathy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It traces the history of Central Asia by following the lives of the European explorers. At once depressing, edifying and entertaining. Should be required reading for all politicians and State Dept. personnel.
Feb 11, 2011 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Low 3. The authors describe the 'Great Game' as the 'Victorian prologue to the Cold War'. British imperialism regarded Russian expansion into Central Asia as a real threat to the 'jewel in the crown': the Indian subcontinent. The first central character to emerge in this history was William Moorcroft who had arrived in India in 1808, abandoning his successful veterinary practice in London (he had been the first Englishman to qualify as a veterinarian and helped establish the first veterinary col ...more
Jun 22, 2017 Phrodrick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bottom Line First
Like others I came to Meyers and Brysac’s Tournament of Shadows in an effort to learn about what is still referred to as the Great Game. Tournament is mostly about British efforts to colonize the farther reaches of the Indian Sub-Continent. There are lessor amounts about the Russians, American, German and Chinese involvements in these same remote lands. The result includes a number of profiles of mostly British explorers, adventurer’s political and military men. The results is e
Nov 18, 2009 Nick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is history from the outside; Europeans (including the Russians) and Americans behaving badly. Lots of the standard tale is here: the English being thrown into bug pits in Bukhara and hounded from Afghanistan (although the famous loss of all but one member of the expeditionary force is explained better here than elsewhere). There is astonishing hubris and mendacity here, as Aurel Stein loots Central Asia on behalf of Harvard. There are almost endless tales of astonishing, almost pointless su ...more
Perhaps it is my simplistic thinking, but when I picked up this book, I thought it would be the history of the Great Game in Central Asia. And when I think of Central Asia, I typical think of the Soviet "stans." For these authors, Central Asia encompasses everything from India to Mongolia, Tibet to Turkmenistan.

This book is too ambitious. It tries to tell the complete 200+ year history of the Great Game while evoking the intrigue and narrative panache of Kipling and Hopkirk. However, what took
Erik Graff
Apr 22, 2009 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
I picked this book up as the latest bit of my personal journey to the East, with some particular concern for obtaining more knowledge about Afghanistan which, with India, Pakistan, Sikkim, Tibet and Bhutan, is one of the book's centre's of attention. Like most public-schooled kids in the States, I obtained a good grounding in the history of the West, of North America and of Europe, but very little about the rest of the world except as they concerned the Western powers. The eastern movement of my ...more
Mar 14, 2015 Claire rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a hefty book about the history of many places in central Asia.

As I'm interested in the Great Game, I vastly enjoyed learning more bits and pieces about people like Tamerlane, Genghis Khan or however you'd prefer to spell it, Lord Byron, Sir Lawrence, et al. (I'm already well aware of the distinctly Russian and Chinese facets thanks to my top-quality background in those histories)
My previous hours and hours of research (and class time and office hours) verify the validity of what this bo
Iñaki Tofiño
573 pages to tell me that "the Great Game really was a game , with scores but no substantive prizes"? Get out of here!
But yes indeed, that is the conclusion of the book, a well researched study on the European (mostly British and Russian) explorations/colonization/imperial maneuvers in Central Asia. I have learned quite a bit about explorers to Afghanistan and Tibet during the XVIII-XX centuries, but the interesting part, the study of why this region is pivotal to modern geopolitical issues is m
Jan 03, 2011 Alex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had mixed feelings on this book. The information it contains is interesting, and the scholarship is deeply impressive, but it was dull as crap and kind of boring. You shouldn't describe something, anything, as "interesting", "impressive," and "dull" in the same sentence.

As far as survey history books go, this one is reasonable. It covers British, Russian, and American intrigues in Asia from ~1810 -> 1960, with a particular focus on Tibet. The portraits of the men involved in the "Great Game
Sep 22, 2009 Kev rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating history and a wonderful region of the world. I especially enjoy the stories of the explorers - their amazing achievements against a backdrop of less idealistic empire empire building and intrigue. However, I'm finding it a bit of a difficult read. The scope in geography and time is bewildering. Not to mention the numerous stories of apparently minor fiugres - many of who get only a passing mention.
Aug 30, 2013 Keeko rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For anyone who thinks history is boring, I would like, in a most friendly and respectful way, to point to this book to say, "Look, here's something wonderful." The maps are great (how nice to have the locations mentioned in the text on the maps!). The notes in the back are interesting, but the book is so well-written that you don't have to refer to them. They're just a handy bonus.

Thanks very much to the authors and the people who put this together.

Jul 02, 2008 Adam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting treatise on the international power struggles in Afghanistan, northern India, and Tibet waged by European powers. Does a lot of backtracking, and overall chronological continuity is muddled. More or less arranged by country: England's interest in Central Asia, then Russia, then back to England, then America, with other interested parties sprinkled in liberally. An engaging read, but lacks cohesion.
Thomas Hager
Great topic, deep knowledge base, but disappointing book structure/writing from the author. Instead of a clear, compelling central narrative of the struggle between Britain and Russia for Central Asia, the book lurches here and there, from person to person, forward and back in time. Ends up unnecessarily confusing and somewhat tedious.
The history is great -- you learn lots about the British Empire. It kind of skimps on other stuff, though -- I didn't get nearly enough of the Stans (including Afghan and Pak). And I got way more of Tibet than I would have cared to learn, though given the current climate perhaps it was good for me after all.
Sep 29, 2009 Corey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First two thirds are very good and entertaining, but it draaaags. Also they were so ambitious with the content that it become hard to keep track of everything and everyone. Needed more reference material, maps, glossary, etc.
Dec 23, 2009 Kenneth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It was about archeology, no, about Tibet, or was it Afghanistan? Bery confusing and not focused. I did learn that many of the problems in Afghanistan are the result of the colonial powers, particularly Great Britain, doing their thing in the 19th and early 20th century.
Matt Ralph
Apr 02, 2013 Matt Ralph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great read. Loved the colourful characters, in particular Nicholas Roerich, the Russian artist turned explorer, Madame Blavatsky religious guru and charlatan, and their astonishing ability to con, bluff and badger their way into making history in an exceedingly interesting part of the world.
This one was a doozy. I will write more on this one later. Happy New Year everyone.
Sep 11, 2008 Ross rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Solid. But flawed.
Mar 12, 2007 PMP rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pasttense
Exuding a grand romance and elegant intrigue not to be found in today's foreign policy.
Jul 29, 2009 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-history
A ripping good read, great history
the men and policies of the 'great game' between britain and russia over the mid east. extends to modern times with the u.s. playing the brit role. fascinating.
Jun 22, 2010 Jbondandrews rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite a well written book. Some interesting facts to the great game from the persective of the English, Americans, Russians and to a lesser extent the Germans.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia
  • Queen Victoria's Little Wars
  • The Balkans: Nationalism, War and the Great Powers 1804-1999
  • The Rise and Fall of the British Empire
  • Afgantsy: The Russians In Afghanistan, 1979-1989
  • The Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia
  • The Scramble for Africa: The White Man's Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912
  • The Wars of Afghanistan: Messianic Terrorism, Tribal Conflicts, and the Failures of Great Powers
  • The Pacific War, 1931-1945 : A Critical Perspective on Japan's Role in World War II (The Pantheon Asia Library)
  • Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History
  • The American Way of War: A History of United States Military Strategy and Policy
  • A History of the Soviet Union from the Beginning to the End
  • The Khyber Pass: A History of Empire and Invasion
  • America, Russia and the Cold War 1945-2006
  • Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat: The Great Speeches
  • Germany 1866-1945 (History of Modern Europe)
  • Lawrence Of Arabia: The Authorized Biography of T.E. Lawrence
  • The Washing of the Spears: A History of the Rise of the Zulu Nation Under Shaka and Its Fall in the Zulu War of 1879

Share This Book