In the 13th century, having overrun Europe, the heirs to Genghis Khan had also conquered eastern territory as far as the Korean peninsula. But by the 16th century it is clear that these erstwhile mighty nomadic clans had sunk to a point where they had disappeared from the consciousness of the outside world.
This decline changes in the late 16th century, when Russia’s territorial ambitions expand. Trappers and hunters began a concentrated move eastwards into Siberia. Once the wild animals were wiped out, the trappers turned southeast towards Central Asia. Cossack soldiers, lured by the prospect of rich agricultural holdings, followed the hunters. But the expansion by Russia into Central Asia caused greater concern when their push extended south towards British India.
This was the start of the Great Game and it is here that Baumer gets really into his stride with this fourth volume of his epic series. His canvas is huge, even embracing Afghanistan and Britain’s and Russia’s travails and defeats. As ever, there are magnificent photographs, maps and prints and his exciting narrative is meticulously backed by hard facts.
After 1917, most of Central Asia disappeared behind the Iron Curtain and this book brings us to the present day and the emergence of the newly independent ‘stans’ and their growing influence and economic power. It brings to a triumphant conclusion Baumer’s majestic History of Central Asia and I cannot see how this four-volume series can ever be bettered.