England and Russia in Central Asia


Demetrius Charles Boulger (1853–1928) was a British orientalist who wrote prolifically on topics mainly related to the British Empire. With Sir Lepel Henry Griffin (1838–1908), a British administrator in India, he co-founded the Asiatic Quarterly Review, which he edited for a time. Presented here is Boulger’s two-volume England and Russia in Central Asia, published in 1879 during the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–80). Boulger was an unapologetic imperialist with strongly anti-Russian views. In this book he predicts an “imminent” Anglo-Russian war, which, he argues, Great Britain should undertake at a time when it is still “strong enough to solve the Central Asian Question wholly in our own favour.” Volume one is largely dedicated to matters pertaining to Russia. Its 11 chapters cover such topics as recent Russian explorations in Central Asia, the Amu Darya River, Russian government of Turkestan, Russia’s military strength in Central Asia, and Russia’s relations with Khiva and Khokand, Bukhara, and Persia. This volume has seven appendices containing official documents, including the texts of the treaties concluded by Russia with the khanates of Khiva and Bukhara. A “latest” Russian official map of Central Asia is also included at the end of volume one. Volume two covers matters relating primarily to Great Britain and British India. It has ten chapters, covering such topics as recent British explorations in Central Asia, the Anglo-Indian army, Afghanistan, and England and Persia. The final chapter, “The Rivalry of England and Russia,” summarizes the main arguments and warns of Russian intentions. Two appendices contain the texts of the treaties of Gulistan and Turcomanchai, imposed by Russia on Qajar Persia in 1813 and 1828 respectively. A third appendix, entitled “A French Opinion upon England and Russia in Central Asia,” contains an assessment of the strategic situation in the region that was published by the influential French daily Le Journal des Débats in the spring of 1878. At the start of volume two there is also a fold-out map of Persia and Afghanistan. In the end, the Anglo-Russian war that Boulger predicted never materialized, as Russia never seriously threatened India and as subsequent events such as the Russo-Japanese War (1904–5), World War I, and the Russian Revolution shifted the focus of both powers to other regions.

Last updated: July 27, 2016