The SHSS Seminar Series will host a talk in History on Thursday 9 April from 4:20pm in room 6.519.

Alexander Morrison will present on:

Beyond the Great Game: the Russian Origins of the Second Anglo-Afghan War

Drawing on research in Russian, Uzbek, British and Indian archives, this paper explains how a hasty attempt by Russia to put pressure on the British in Central Asia unintentionally triggered the second Anglo-Afghan War of 1878 – 80. This conflict is usually interpreted within the framework of the so-called ‘Great Game’, which assumes that only the European ‘Great Powers’ had any agency in Central Asia, pursuing a coherent strategy with a clearly-defined set of goals and mutually-understood rules. The outbreak of the Second Anglo-Afghan war is usually seen as a deliberate attempt by the Russians to embroil the British disastrously in Afghan affairs, leading to the eventual installation of ‘Abd al-Rahman Khan, hosted for many years by the Russians in Samarkand, on the Afghan throne. In fact the Russians did not foresee any of this. ‘Abd al-Rahman’s ascent to the Afghan throne owed nothing to Russian support, and everything to British desperation. What at first seems like a classic ‘Great Game’ episode was a tale of blundering and unintended consequences on both sides. Central Asian rulers were not merely passive bystanders who provided a picturesque backdrop for Anglo-Russian relations, but important actors in their own right.

Alexander Morrison is Professor of History in the School of Humanities & Social Sciences at Nazarbayev University. He studied at the University of Oxford, and previously taught at the University of Liverpool. He is the author of Russian Rule in Samarkand 1868 – 1910. A Comparison with British India (Oxford University Press, 2008).

This seminar is open to the public. If you do not have a NU card, please be ready to show your passport to enter the campus.