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 and Tibet from the 1830s to the present. The original Great Game, the clandestine struggle between Russia and Britain for mastery of Central Asia, has long been regarded as one of the greatest geopolitical conflicts in history. Many believed that control of the vast Eurasian heartland was the key to world dominion. The original Great Game ended with the Russian Revolution, but the geopolitical struggles in Central Asia continue to the present day. In this updated edition, the authors reflect on Central Asia's history since the end of the Russo-Afghan war, and particularly in the wake of 9/11.
Equal parts geopolitical intrigue and quest for Shangri-la, the Great Game was the imperialist duel for influence in Central Asia that occupied the best and the brightest of the Russian and British empires through the entire 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. In this detailed narrative from Meyer (former London bureau chief for the Washington Post) and Brysac (a producer for CBS News), the story of the Great Game is told from the perspective of the explorers, soldiers and archeologists (many of whom frequently doubled as spies) who planted their nations' flags in the steppes and mountain passes of Afghanistan, Turkestan and Tibet. Among the colorful characters portrayed are William Moorcroft, the East India Company stable master who trekked to fabled Bokhara to purchase horses for the British cavalry, and SS officer Ernst Schafer, who led a German expedition to Tibet in search of a lost Aryan homeland. Notably missing is the viewpoint of the native inhabitants, though Meyer and Brysac do express admiration for the "pundits," the Indian explorers immortalized in Kipling's imperialist epic, Kim, who surveyed regions where Europeans feared to tread. A passing familiarity with Central Asian history would serve readers well, but even those who don't know a Gurkha from a yurt will get the gist. An impressive feat of historical synthesis that draws on sources ranging from published biographies to secret memos buried in the archives of the East India Company, this rousing history is written with some of the lan exhibited by the most stylish participants in the Great Game itself.