The course is about “The Great Game,” a political, diplomatic, and warring confrontation between the British Empire and the Russian Empire that lasted for most of the 19th century. This intractable clash was responsible for the rise of espionage, looting, and trade that swept much of Europe and Asia during the Victorian period. Battles between Britain and Russia were fought across desolated regions from the Caucasus to China, with armies traversing the breathtaking mountain passes of the Pamirs and Karakorams. This warfare frequently interrupted Silk Road caravans, looted beautiful towns, and devastated societies and agriculture. The British Empire’s goal was to prevent Russian access to the wealth of India, but Russia was interested in controlling Central Asia and trade routes, not India. Both forces competed to control strategic passages such as the Khyber Pass.
We will travel through Central Asia and Afghanistan and touch on Iran in this remarkable adventure through history. There are no required texts, but supplemental materials and suggested readings will be supplied over the course of the seminar.