History of England

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1830 Jan 12 - 1895 Sep 10

Great Game

Central Asia

The Great Game was a political and diplomatic confrontation that existed for most of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century between the British Empire and the Russian Empire over Afghanistan and neighbouring territories in Central and South Asia, and having direct consequences in Persia, British India, and Tibet.

Britain feared that Russia planned to invade India and that this was the goal of Russia's expansion in Central Asia, while Russia feared the expansion of British interests in Central Asia. As a result, there was a deep atmosphere of distrust and talk of war between two of the major European empires.

According to one major view, The Great Game began on 12 January 1830, when Lord Ellenborough, the president of the Board of Control for India, tasked Lord William Bentinck, the governor-general, with establishing a new trade route to the Emirate of Bukhara. Britain intended to gain control over the Emirate of Afghanistan and make it a protectorate, and to use the Ottoman Empire, the Persian Empire, the Khanate of Khiva, and the Emirate of Bukhara as buffer states blocking Russian expansion. This would protect India and also key British sea trade routes by stopping Russia from gaining a port on the Persian Gulf or the Indian Ocean. Russia proposed Afghanistan as the neutral zone. The results included the failed First Anglo-Afghan War of 1838, the First Anglo-Sikh War of 1845, the Second Anglo-Sikh War of 1848, the Second Anglo-Afghan War of 1878, and the annexation of Kokand by Russia.

Some historians consider the end of the Great Game to be the 10 September 1895 signing of the Pamir Boundary Commission protocols, when the border between Afghanistan and the Russian Empire was defined. The term Great Game was coined by British diplomat Arthur Conolly in 1840, but the 1901 novel Kim by Rudyard Kipling made the term popular, and increased its association with great power rivalry.