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The Great Game: On Secret Service in High Asia

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  6,144 ratings  ·  489 reviews
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 outpo ...more
Paperback, 566 pages
Published March 1st 2006 by John Murray (first published 1990)
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Sean Hennessey definitely a good book....it reads very easily, it is historical, prescient, it was written well before the bias of 9-11...it lays the Asian continent…moredefinitely a good book....it reads very easily, it is historical, prescient, it was written well before the bias of 9-11...it lays the Asian continent at your feet and is filled with extraordinary feats by extraordinary men(less)

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Lori
Aug 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a fabulous eastern action adventure full of the brave and resourceful British explorers and fighters confronting treacherous oriental despots as they maneuver to protect the jewel in the crown from another colonial power.

Hopkirk covers a vast swathe of history and territory from Russia's eastward expansion to Alaska to the Russo–Japanese War. He does warn you early on that his goal is to be impartial, but you can't tell a bit as you read. A compelling narrative with fantastic material, I d
...more
'Aussie Rick'
Jun 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
...more
Cameron Willis
Apr 21, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Dmitri
Nov 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: central-asia
In 1236 Mongol horsemen swept westward through Russia, tying serfs to the Tartar yoke. The Golden Horde would exact tribute until Ivan the Terrible defeated the khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan in the mid 1500's, opening the way for expansion east through Siberia. Peter the Great turned his gaze south, through the Caucasus and Caspian towards Persia, yet was thwarted by Nader Shah in 1735. In 1757 the British began major territorial gains in India. The aspirations and apprehensions of these rival ...more
Jovan Autonomašević
An excellent book charting the rivalry between the British and the Russians in Central Asia, from Peter the Great until Russia's disastrous defeat by Japan in 1905. The epic tale is told through the adventures of the various soldiers, explorers and thrill-seekers who deployed to this vast, unknown and hazardous region on behalf of their respective governments. Slowly the region was absorbed by the imperial powers, with many a disastrous mishap on the way. In particular, Afghanistan remained an i ...more
Erin Deathstar
Nov 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
fourtriplezed
Oct 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, asia, britain
This is narrative history that can keep one enthralled from the first to the last page. Cliches such as page-turner apply. No doubt the game itself can be discussed further, new books published etc etc but who cares. Hopkirk has written a book that had me looking at the maps, researching the characters, marking the bibliography for further literature to read. What more can one want! A wonderful book.
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
...more
Quo
Peter Hopkirk's excellent book, The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia represents an extended tale of Silk Road spies, Oriental despots, cartographers enlisted by the Royal Geographic Society (at times disguised as Afghan traders), high-ranking & titled British officers, agent-provocateur's, Muslim fanatics, tribal warlords, Sepoys (recruited Indian troops, including a few fierce Ghurkas, all in service to Great Britain) + countless British & Russian soldiers endeavoring to stay ...more
Maitrey
Mar 29, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
...more
Phrodrick
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In The Great Game, Peter Hopkirk has reported a lot of history with just enough analysis. Strongly recommended for both the serious student of history and the more general reader looking to get a foundation in a complicated and often ignored portion of world history. My caution is that it is too easy to think of this period as a mirror of or direct predictor of what is now happening in Afghanistan, Pakistan and neighboring areas.

The Great Game constitutes my second attempt to build a background
...more
Aditya Pareek
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book exposed me to a geopolitical legacy of my country that I would have otherwise never heard about.
Yes that was the british administered Raj's "Government of India" but Geopolitical realities rarely change with the ethnicity of those in power.
Especially liked the chapter "The lion of Tashkent", I love it when Russians win :) .
...more
Joel
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are typically two kinds of history books: those that are extensively researched and cover every relevant event in comprehensive and precise detail but are dry and stylistically boring, and those that are engagingly written but gloss over the minor or complicated details for the sake of appealing to readers. Very rarely does an author succeed in achieving both. The Great Game is one of those rare books that do.

Hopkirk brings the characters and battles to life and keeps you on the edge of y
...more
W
Sep 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Victorian Britain and Tsarist Russia's struggle for supremacy in Central Asia.Took me a while to read,and occasionally I was a bit bored.William Dalrymple's Return of a King,which also deals with this subject is more interesting. ...more
Gerald Sinstadt
Jan 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
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
Czarny Pies
This work provides an introduction to the struggle for Central Asia between England and Russia. If you are already somewhat familiar with the topic, the book is a disappointment. Hopkirk appears only to have examined the archives on the British side. Thus what you get is half the story. We learn only about what the British speculate about the Russians.
Fahad Naeem
Aug 10, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, nonfiction, history
I expected it to be focusing on all Central Asia countries but it gave thorough details about British Army's expeditions, USSR's implicated intentions and local's revolts which were glorified to be terrorist activities.

The notion that the winner writes history never happened to be so true as it is today.
...more
Erik Graff
May 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Eugenia Vlasova
Jan 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Gary
Jul 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in history and the UK
Recommended to Gary by: The Folio Society
I read this fantastic book a few years ago and will re-read it at some point. I knew nothing about the politics or empire building in central Asia and found this a captivating and fascinating history of intrigue, bravery and derring-do, from north of present day Bangladesh right across to Iran and up into the Russian federation states. Spies, secret expeditions, plots to invade India (by the Russians and even Napoleon), diplomacy, bribery, war and savage death all played their part.
Hopkirk does
...more
Robert
Oct 16, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Frank
I had believed Lawrence (of Arabia) a unique character. But TGG tells a different story, and after reading it one might think that 19th century Britain was home to a whole army of Indiana Jones types, spies ready and able to convincingly adopt the language, manners and appearance of peoples from some of the most remote and inhospitable places on earth, all in the dubious cause of defending British India from anticipated Russian incursion.

Were British fears realistic? I hardly think so. Indeed, t
...more
Yigal Zur
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
great travel writer. love his tales and books
Simon
Nov 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book about feelings.

Russia, brows furrowed by the crushing psychological weight of the Mongol invasions over 500 years previously, lurches towards the lands of the Silk Road, seeking belated security from brutal horseman of the East. Britain, the Norman yoke barely lifted from its neck, strikes out by sea to neutralise any future launchpad for invasion, be it Flanders, uh…. Gibraltar… uh Egypt… and ummmmmmm, India.* Of course, Britain’s hold on India requires a quiescent Afghanistan, w
...more
Vicky Hunt
Itching Russians and Scratching Brits

"Scratch a Russian and you will find a Tatar. " Russian Proverb

In this monumental work Peter Hopkirk does a masterful job of opening up Central Asia, which is likely to be a wide new world for the average continental of the North or South Americas. Hopkirk writes like a storyteller to such an extent that readers find themselves heavily immersed in gripping edge-of-your-seat accounts of savage encounters and daring incursions in the wild tribal lands between t
...more
Suzannah
Apr 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Before the Cold War, there was the Great Game, in which Russian and British agents intrigued in the deserts and mountains of Central Asia to add to their empires, like two murderous, insatiable, treacherous tigers pretending to be very polite to each other while flossing their teeth with the bones of unfortunate locals.

There are no decent people in this book - literally none of the factions thinks twice about slaughtering people for the sake of a bit of mountain or desert - and the only people I
...more
Lauren Albert
A wonderful look at the great game with all the romance and occasional total lack of ethics that came into play. Hopkirk is a vivid writer with a knowledge of all of the key players. I look forward to the books of his I haven't read yet. ...more
11811 (Eleven)
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
200 years of game history in under 600 pages. That's a bargain. ...more
Todd Stockslager
May 31, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
...more
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Peter Hopkirk was born in Nottingham, the son of Frank Stewart Hopkirk, a prison chaplain, and Mary Perkins. He grew up at Danbury, Essex, notable for the historic palace of the Bishop of Rochester. Hopkirk was educated at the Dragon School in Oxford. The family hailed originally from the borders of Scotland in Roxburghshire where there was a rich history of barbaric raids and reivers hanging just ...more

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