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HIST341: The Silk Road and Central Eurasia

Unit 10: The Silk Road and the "Great Game"   During the nineteenth century, European powers, particularly Britain and Russia, began to vie for control of Central Eurasia.  In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, many European traders had established commercial outposts in China, India and the East Indies with the intent of opening a new silk route.  But in the 1800s, European nations began to use military and economic force to ply their way into Central Eurasian markets and territories.  Both Russia and Britain exploited the weaknesses and turmoil of Qing China and the nomadic states to gain access to territories and trade in Central Eurasia.  As Russia began to expand southward, Britain feared that it might encroach on its imperial holdings in India. A century-long conflict ensued for power over Central Eurasia—this Anglo-Russian conflict was known as the “Great Game.”

In this unit, we will consider the implications of the Anglo-Russian conflict on the nomadic peoples in Central Eurasia. 

Unit 10 Time Advisory
Time Advisory: This unit will take you approximately 6 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 10.1: 3.5 hours

☐    Subunit 10.2: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 10.3: 1 hour 

Unit10 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Discuss the ways in which rivalry among several of the European Great Powers affected the political and commercial affairs of Eurasia over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
  • Identify the aims and interests of the states involved in the “Great Game” as well as some of the major conflicts and episodes of violence associated with this struggle.

10.1 The Great Game   10.1.1 Muscovite Expansion   - Reading: The East-West Review: Professor Kathleen Burk’s “The Great Game: Imperial Rivalry Between Britain and Russia in the 19th Century” Link: The East-West Review: Professor Kathleen Burk’s “The Great Game: Imperial Rivalry Between Britain and Russia in the 19th Century” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read these texts in their entirety.  In this text, Professor Burk discusses the events that led to the “Great Game.”  Pay special attention to the effects of the Russian Empire’s expansion into Central Asia.
 
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10.1.2 British India   - Reading: Library of Congress Country Studies: James Heitzman and Robert L. Worden’s (ed.) India: A Country Study: “The Coming of the Europeans” and “The British Empire in India” Links: Library of Congress Country Studies: James Heitzman and Robert L. Worden’s (ed.) India: A Country Study: “The Coming of the Europeans” (PDF) and “The British Empire in India” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read these texts in their entirety.  The East India Company’s rule in India ended with the Government of India Act 1858; thereafter, British India was directly ruled by the British Crown as a colonial possession of the United Kingdom.
  
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10.1.3 Qing China and Manchu Control   - Reading: China Knowledge: Professor Ulrich Theobald’s “Chinese History – Qing Dynasty (1644-1911): The Foundation of the Manchu Dynasty” Link: China Knowledge: Professor Ulrich Theobald’s “Chinese History – Qing Dynasty (1644-1911): The Foundation of the Manchu Dynasty” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this text and all embedded links in their entirety. The Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), known as the Manchu Dynasty, was the last ruling dynasty of China, and was followed by the Republic of China.
  
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10.1.4 Zunghars, Mongols, Tibetans   - Reading: New World Encyclopedia’s “Dzungars” Link: New World Encyclopedia’s “Dzungars” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read this text and all embedded links in their entirety. The Dzungar were the last nomadic empire in East Turkestan; originating in the early seventeenth century, it lasted until the middle of the eighteenth century.
 
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10.2 Conflicts   10.2.1 First Anglo-Afghan War   - Reading: Library of Congress Country Studies: Peter R. Blood’s (ed.) Afghanistan: A Country Study: “The First Anglo-Afghan War” Link: Library of Congress Country Studies: Peter R. Blood’s (ed.) Afghanistan: A Country Study: “The First Anglo-Afghan War” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read this text in its entirety.  The First Anglo-Afghan War (1839-1842), fought between British India and Afghanistan, was the first major conflict during “The Great Game.”  It marked one of the worst setbacks inflicted on British power in Central Asia after the consolidation of the British Raj by the East India Company.
           
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10.2.2 Second Anglo-Afghan War   - Reading: Library of Congress Country Studies: Peter R. Blood’s (ed.) Afghanistan: A Country Study: “The Second Anglo-Afghan War” Link: Library of Congress Country Studies: Peter R. Blood’s (ed.) Afghanistan: A Country Study: “The Second Anglo-Afghan War” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read this text in its entirety.  The Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1880), fought between the United Kingdom and Afghanistan, ended without any definitive military outcome.  The Afghans maintained internal sovereignty but ceded control of their nation’s foreign relations to the United Kingdom.
           
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10.2.3 India Mutiny   - Reading: Library of Congress Country Studies: James Heitzman and Robert L. Worden’s (ed.) India: A Country Study: “Sepoy Rebellion, 1857-1859” Link: James Heitzman and Robert L. Worden’s (ed.) India: A Country Study: “Sepoy Rebellion, 1857-1859” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read this text in its entirety.  In the United Kingdom and parts of the Commonwealth, the Indian Rebellion of 1857 is known as the “Sepoy Rebellion” and the “Sepoy Mutiny,” since it began as a mutiny of Indian soldiers (sepoy) employed by the British East India Company in response to race-based injustices.  In India and Pakistan, it is sometimes termed “The War of Independence of 1857” or “The First War of Independence.”
 
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10.2.4 Great Eastern Crisis   - Reading: Serving History’s “Eastern Question: Great Eastern Crisis” Link: Serving History’s “Eastern Question: Great Eastern Crisis” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read this text in its entirety. The “Great Eastern Crisis” was the culminating point of the diplomatic and political problems posed by the decay of the Ottoman Empire.  Pay special attention to the consequences of the Treaty of Berlin (1878).
 
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10.2.5 Anglo-Russian Entente   - Reading: Museum of Learning’s “Anglo-Russian Entente” Link: Museum of Learning’s “Anglo-Russian Entente” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read this text in its entirety.  The Anglo-Russian Entente (1907) was a pact in which Britain and Russia settled their colonial disputes in Persia, Afghanistan, and Tibet.  This agreement led to the formation of the Triple Entente (the association between Great Britain, France, and Russia—and the nucleus of the Allied Powers in World War I).
 
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10.3 Impacts   10.3.1 European Explorers on the Silk Road   - Reading: Channel 4’s “History: The Silk Route”: “The Route Rediscovered” Link: Channel 4’s “History: The Silk Route”: “The Route Rediscovered” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this text and all embedded links in their entirety.  Interest in the Silk Route was renewed among Western scholars at the end of the 19th century thanks to the work of Swedish cartographer Sven Hedin.  Pay special attention to how this renewed interest was received in China.
 
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10.3.2 Xinjiang and the “New” Silk Road   - Reading: University of Hawaii: Professor Dru Gladney’s “Xinjiang: China’s Pre-and Post-Modern Crossroad.” Link: University of Hawaii Professor Dru Gladney’s “Xinjiang: China’s Pre- and Post-Modern Crossroad
           
Instructions:  Please read all of this text, in which the author reflects on the “long and complicated history” of Xinjiang.  He finds that despite the political changes of modern times and forces of globalization, cross-cultural trade and movements continue to define the way of life in a region that was so intricate a part of the old Silk Road.  This page is maintained by The Silk Road Foundation. 
 
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