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Central Asia in the Victorian Era

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#1 deuce

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Posted 24 September 2016 - 03:45 PM

I've got some projects going and thought this would be a useful thread in general.

 

The European powers (not counting Russia) were just starting to truly penetrate Central Asia/"Inner Asia" during the Victorian era. The Great Game was afoot and many discoveries were being made in the name of science...and espionage and conquest.

 

I define "Central Asia" (I prefer the more evocative "Inner Asia") as anywhere north of Persia, south of the Arctic, east of the Urals and west of China proper (Chinese Turkestan was a Chinese colony, pure and simple). Any of you are free to disagree, it matters not to me.

 

This region possessed picturesque cities like Samarkand and Tashkent, ruins galore and plenty of ethnic groups hostile to foreigners. It also hid dread citadels of mystery like Leng, Yian-Ho and Yahlgan. Adventure and eldritch horror were to be found for anyone crazy enough to make the arduous journey just to get there.

 

I hope others have something to contribute. There are some materials I find difficult to track down. Letters to/from Victorian Brits who worked in the fields of exploration and/or intelligence are eluding me. To get things started, here are two travellers/explorers who bracket the era...

 

James Holman, the "Blind Traveller", nearly crossed Russia from the Baltic to the Pacific:

 

http://greatbritishn...-traveller.html

 

 

Here is the account of a dedicated hunter in Turkestan during the 1890s:

 

https://archive.org/...ge/n10/mode/2up

 

A group of investigators would do well to have a man like this along when heading out into the trackless wastes of Inner Asia.

 

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#2 wombat1

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Posted 24 September 2016 - 03:51 PM

I know this is going to sound silly, but what about the footnotes and back material in Frazer's Flashman novels.  There are some interesting sources listed there, I think; the American ones show a good familiarity with the contemporary histories of the period, and I expect the Central Asian/Indian ones would be much the same.



#3 JeffErwin

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Posted 24 September 2016 - 03:56 PM

This isn't my particular specialty but I recall enjoying this book: it seemed to me fairly good history: http://www.goodreads....The_Great_Game



#4 Mysterioso

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Posted 24 September 2016 - 05:29 PM

This isn't my particular specialty but I recall enjoying this book: it seemed to me fairly good history: http://www.goodreads....The_Great_Game

 

Peter Hopkirk's books are BRILLIANT!



#5 deuce

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Posted 24 September 2016 - 07:14 PM

Peter Hopkirk's books are BRILLIANT!

 

They are. I highly recommend them. Unfortunately, I don't actually own any of them or have access to copies at the moment. 

 

I've read histories on Central Asia going back to Saka and Tocharian times. Right now, I'm trying to track down letters of explorers/spies from (preferrably) the 1830s and 1840s in order to get a feel  and use them as models. A good online cache would be much appreciated.   :D


Edited by deuce, 24 September 2016 - 08:06 PM.


#6 DAR

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Posted 24 September 2016 - 09:34 PM

I can also reccomend the The Great Game, and I also suggest Eccentric Explorers by Michael Buckley - otherwise my collection is more Classic Era and later.

 

D.



#7 jasonw1239

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Posted 24 September 2016 - 10:54 PM

Have a look at the book titled Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer.

In the mid 1890's him and a small expedition crossed the Taklamakan Desert to Chinese Turkestan and then went south through the Mustagh Pass.

The book covers a lot of information about that period, that area, and more specifically, what it was like to enter areas uncharted by Europeans.


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Author of Secrets of Tibet & scenario author in Tales of the Caribbean from GGP


#8 notsogreatoldone

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 12:30 AM

Some interesting stuff about the painter and mystic, Roerich, and his journeys in Tibet; in search of  lost Shambhala.

 

Roerich in Tibet



#9 chicklewis

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Posted 26 September 2016 - 07:29 PM

Hopkirk's 'Foreign Devils on the Silk Road' is exactly what you seek, with the exception that those foreign devils tend to be Edwardian rather than Victorian.  

 

Buy a used copy for under $4 including postage and DEVOUR it.  

 

I cannot think of a single western explorer who was loose in inner Asia in the 1830-1840s.  


Edited by chicklewis, 26 September 2016 - 07:41 PM.

"Men choose as their prophets those who tell them that their hopes are true."
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#10 deuce

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Posted 26 September 2016 - 09:43 PM

Hopkirk's 'Foreign Devils on the Silk Road' is exactly what you seek, with the exception that those foreign devils tend to be Edwardian rather than Victorian.  

 

Buy a used copy for under $4 including postage and DEVOUR it.  

 

I cannot think of a single western explorer who was loose in inner Asia in the 1830-1840s.  

 

I've read everything Hopkirk has published. I was thinking of Arthur "Khan Ali" Conolly:

 

https://en.wikipedia.../Arthur_Conolly

 

He was beheaded in Bokhara. Interestingly, his brother was assassinated just a few months later.



#11 rylehNC

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Posted 28 September 2016 - 07:18 PM

No mention of Nikolai Przhevalsky yet, I'm surprised.

 

https://en.wikipedia...lay_Przhevalsky

 

If you aren't interested in Turkestan proper, I think "Transcaspia" was the name for the region in books of the time.


Edited by rylehNC, 28 September 2016 - 07:23 PM.

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#12 deuce

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Posted 01 October 2016 - 01:10 AM

No mention of Nikolai Przhevalsky yet, I'm surprised.

 

https://en.wikipedia...lay_Przhevalsky

 

If you aren't interested in Turkestan proper, I think "Transcaspia" was the name for the region in books of the time.

 

 

Przhevalsky is definitely interesting. I first read of him in high school because of the horses named after him. I've never read a bio of him. I'm surprised no one has mentioned Aurel Stein.  

 

As I've said, I've studied the period from one end to the other. I'm just needing online access to personal papers or intelligence reports from Brits concerning Central Asia. The earlier in the 1800s, the better. It might not be possible, but that's what I'm looking for.

 

However, I always intended for this to be a general purpose thread, so carry on.  :D



#13 chicklewis

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Posted 01 October 2016 - 05:21 AM

Sorry I misinterpreted your original question, Deuce.  You clearly know a lot about inner Asia.  Conolly sounds like an interesting character.  


Edited by chicklewis, 02 October 2016 - 04:02 AM.

"Men choose as their prophets those who tell them that their hopes are true."
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#14 deuce

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Posted 01 October 2016 - 02:37 PM

Sorry I misinterpreted your original question, Deuce.  You clearly know a lot about inner Asia.  Coolly sounds like an interesting character.  

 

No biggie. I lost most of my library in a flood 4yrs ago, plus, I don't have easy access to a university library anymore. I would love to find some really good stuff from Conolly online, but I may just have to make do.

 

However, for a much later Victorian explorer/agent/scholar who spent time in Tibet, I give you Laurence Waddell:

 

https://en.wikipedia...aurence_Waddell

 

https://archive.org/...moftibeto00wadd



#15 deuce

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Posted 06 October 2016 - 05:58 PM

Somehow, I'd failed to mention "Bukhara Burnes":
 
https://en.wikipedia...lexander_Burnes
 
Just found these massive PDFs:
 
https://archive.org/...obokh04burngoog
 
https://dl.wdl.org/1...rvice/14409.pdf
 
I still yearn to find digitally archived dispatches/letters from "Khan Ali" Conolly, but this should tide me over if not.
 
400px-Ire_Sir_Alexander_Burnes_Daniel_Ma
 

I know this is going to sound silly, but what about the footnotes and back material in Frazer's Flashman novels. There are some interesting sources listed there, I think; the American ones show a good familiarity with the contemporary histories of the period, and I expect the Central Asian/Indian ones would be much the same.

 
I just remembered, Wombat, that Burnes was in the first Flashman novel. I lost my entire set in the Flood of '12.
 
142458.jpg



#16 wombat1

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Posted 07 October 2016 - 08:05 PM

Yep, Flashman at the Charge deals a bit with Central Asia too, if I recall rightly--the interesting point is that Fraser researched and footnoted those, and one can raid his scholarly work for your purposes (for that matter, if one is doing up a campaign or scenario, one can have the investigators run into the characters out of Flashman.)



#17 chicklewis

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Posted 08 October 2016 - 11:27 PM

Those PDFs are a wonderful find !    I aim to read them.  THANKS ! 


"Men choose as their prophets those who tell them that their hopes are true."
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#18 deuce

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Posted 10 October 2016 - 02:53 AM

A good article on Afghanistan (the Gateway to Central Asia) in the Victorian Age:
 
http://surrey-shore....m/VicAfghan.htm
 
The India Office Records at the British Library should be helpful:
 
http://www.bl.uk/res...aofficehub.html
 

Those PDFs are a wonderful find ! I aim to read them. THANKS !

 
You should enjoy Conolly's two-volume Journey to the North of India as well:
 
https://www.wdl.org/en/item/17791/
 
Tournament of Shadows is an excellent book that concentrates on the explorers and spies who were the principal players on the ground during the decades-long "Great Game". Breathtaking daring and suffering fill its pages:
 
https://www.nytimes.....09goodwit.html
 
51vGMruIt8L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg



#19 deuce

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Posted 12 October 2016 - 01:34 AM

 

As I've said, I've studied the period from one end to the other. I'm just needing online access to personal papers or intelligence reports from Brits concerning Central Asia. The earlier in the 1800s, the better. It might not be possible, but that's what I'm looking for.

 

 

I found what I needed here:

 

https://archive.org/...noffi01kayegoog

 

https://archive.org/...anoff02kayeiala

 

Sir John William Kaye was so highly respected that he was given access to diaries, private letters &c... The first volume covers the Georgian India hands like Metcalfe and Malcolm. Volume 2 is paydirt with extensive bios on Conolly, Burnes and Todd, complete with excerpts from letters, diaries, what-have-you. A treasure-trove for my purposes.  :D

 

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