Dr Brydon's retreat from Kabul

The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia Review

By CryptoCelt97 | bookrecommendations | 14 Mar 2021

The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia by Peter Hopkirk is a book about the pre-cursor to the cold war that happened in the 19th century between the British Empire and Russia. It is called ‘The Great Game’ because it was a secret war fought between the nations that involved spies, insurrections, and puppet leaders in the middle east.

As the name of the book suggests, this secret war was for domination of Central Asia. It was also Russia’s plan to eventually capture India from the Brits and establish their presence in Istanbul to control the Bosphorus Strait.

The story follows a mixture of British and Russian agents as they seek to contact and win over the leaders of Central Asia. They would have to disguise themselves as natives and religious men to avoid getting caught and killed. They had to traverse unmapped land and contact uncontacted former silk road superpowers and establish control.

Britain’s first venture into Afghanistan happened due to ‘The Great Game’. Both 19th century Afghan wars were a result of Victorian Britain trying to establish puppet leaders to gain control of the region and keep the Russians away. One of the greatest British military disasters happened during this period when 16,000 Brits were forced out of Kabul. During the retreat from Kabul, only one Brit is known to have survived out of the 16,000 in the form of Dr William Brydon. He alone managed to retreat safely and tell the story of the slain.

The book is fascinating as we follow these agents retrace the old superpowers of the silk road in order to establish control of Central Asia. It is full of excitement and adventure and is highly informative in understanding how the backdrop of the cold war.

I would rate the book 5/5 and recommend it to any history buffs or those interested in espionage.

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