Talk:The Great Game

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search


This article has now had its scope narrowed to focus on the referent, The Great Game, which is defined as Anglo-Russian rivalry in Central Asia during the 19th Century. It now has a proposed start date and an end date, with linkages to key documents in archive. Unfortunately, the article mentions Central Asia - and the Khanate of Bukhara in particular - very little. It did not even mention in the body of the article that in 1842, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Stoddart and Captian Arthur Conolly were beheaded in Bukhara for spying. It has focused on a series of military engagements in Afghanistan, which although are important, appears to be a simple copy-and-paste from other articles. I recommend that future development be directed more towards Central Asia, and Bukhara in particular. I intend on providing further material shortly. Regards,   William Harris |talk  21:01, 8 August 2016 (UTC)

You've just changed the British Empire article to suggest that the Great Game was focused solely on Afghanistan. This claim is repeated at the top of this article - something I'm sure a number of historians would disagree with. However, above, you say this article should broaden its scope to cover Central Asia and focus on Bokhara (presumably Khiva and Samarkand as well?). While I support what you say above and welcome the proposal, some of your edits don't match up with what you've said. Wiki-Ed (talk) 20:26, 30 August 2016 (UTC)
Hello Wiki-Ed, thanks for your interest in this topic, which has had the regions of Khiva and Bokhara included from what was here before I commented, and everything here is cited which was not the case before. Time was my modifier; when I said that about Khiva and Bokhara above, I then went on a journey to ascertain what I could learn about them from cited sources, giving weight to the works of noted historians and not the work of a journalist. (Please be aware that some writers do not accept that Afghanistan is in Central Asia - they define CA as the steppes and do not include the mountainous regions.) I had expected to find a vast amount on this "Great Game in Central Asia" that so many authors allude to without further defining - spies, ambassadors, intrigue, move and counter move. What I found was that Britain's "Great Game" was a plan to turn Afghanistan into a protectorate, and try to influence Khiva and Bokhara into becoming neutral buffer states. These were the only parts of "Central Asia" that Britain had an interest in - to say that Britain was seeking rivalry in "Central Asia" - which is a huge region, refer map - is not correct from my reading.
And it failed. Britain had no border contact with Khiva or Bokhara for most of the period, she did have border contact with them when she invaded Afghanistan and sent a couple of officers to Bukhara who were beheaded in 1842 and there was nothing Britain could do about it, and then got thrown out of Afghanistan in the same year. That is hardly rivalry with Russia in Central Asia - you can only have rivalry if you have any influence. Later, Russia annexed Khiva and Bukhara with no shots fired by Britain, and Britain invaded Afghanistan once again out of fear of Russian influence there. Clearly, Afghanistan was central to British interests, and in particularly the Herat district and its mountain passes. Would you be prepared to accept a moderation to "Afghanistan and its bordering Khanates in Central Asia" rather than the much broader "Central Asia"? (Also note that a number of authors appear to have overlooked that most of the British action during the GG was the annexation of areas that are in what is now Pakistan and India in the lead up to final control over Afghanistan.) Regards,  William Harris |talk  21:51, 31 August 2016 (UTC)
Hmm, I think you need to be a little bit careful about original research here: "giving weight", "what I found", "not correct from my reading" etc. It's not for us as editors to reinterpret what the sources explicitly say, nor to under-weight a source because, for example, the author happened to be a journalist as well as a historian. Hopkirk's work is quite highly rated, so it cannot just be dismissed. Conversely, from a quick skim through this article I note it closely reflects the views expressed in a single discursive essay by Yapp; my reading of that essay is that his findings are flatly contradicted by research conducted by other historians (e.g. that the Russians never made plans to invade India). I'm not sure if these are recent changes, but a single view should never be given undue prominence on Wikipedia.
Hello Wiki-Ed, no original research has been applied. I personally believe it was all a legend based on two stumbling bureaucracies and some overly excited frontier administrators, later "head office" sorted it out through agreements, and later some academics used the term TGG for something they wanted to write about. (The views of the "culture" administering the East India Company may not necessarily reflect the views of the culture in power in London.) However the sources I have used - see the Citations, I put those there - indicate otherwise and that is what is expressed. Therefore, I rebut using Malcolm Yapp heavily as he is only one of many, and not one I particularly agree with, but you cannot easily dismiss his background. If you have work by other historians then I would be pleased to see them included here because I have redeveloped this article as a framework for others to add to, as long as they don't go off-topic.
There again, you say "I personally believe", but is that the same as the historiographical consensus? You may believe that it was a "legend" - along with a certain number of historians - but the section on different interpretations refers to only two who treat the subject in this way. I'm sure there will be more, but are you representing that point of view neutrally in the context of all the historians who believe it was real? From reading widely the work of other historians it is difficult to see how the rivalry - whatever we call it - can be considered a "legend": exploration, invasion, border changes - these things all happened. Whether it was planned and co-ordinated in any meaningful way is another matter - most historical events are not - but historians invent labels for convenience (e.g. "Dark Ages", "Age of Discovery" that didn't exist at the time), regardless of inferences which may mislead the casual reader.
Nonetheless, the authors cited have used the word "legend", regardless of whether we agree with that or not. That includes Hopkirk in The Making of Afghanistan, The Myth of the Great Game.
On points of detail: I think this comes down to the map as much as the chronology. Most historians agree this historical episode ended in Afghanistan, but its origins are debated. Some historians would suggest British interference in the Caucasus triggered Russian moves, some include British/Russian influence on Persia. What is certain is that the map of Central Asia in the nineteenth century was much more complicated than it is now, so to an apply anachronistic interpretation of the geography is misleading for the reader. For example, you refer to British annexation of independent territories in what is now Pakistan and India. This northward push was certainly part of this historical episode, as was the southward movement of the Russian border from the Caspian forts, so the article should capture it. However, these territories were not khanates, nor were they part of Afghanistan so they wouldn't fit under your definition. Politically they were not in Central Asia, but geographically they weren't squarely in Southern Asia either.
I do not agree on the Caucasus nor Peria. It is after the two wars that we see even the slightest interest in Bukhara by the British with a firm direction to set up trade. I entirely agree with you on the map and the annexations in the Indian Subcontinent, which is what makes this so complex. The majority of historians define TGG as being "in central asia", yet it certainly does include southern asia, and both Ingram references support that. (Ingram is two citations by the way, one in a book and one in a journal, and offers a superb background - a true geopolitical context as to why. But you need to read further into the articles that I cited on the British Empire page which need to be read through to get their core - it took me weeks, it is unclear how you did it overnight.) However, if I were to include this area in the definition it might be quickly changed by some passing editor at some time in the future, so there may be no point.
Again, you're entitled to a view on whether activity in the Caucasus and Persia prompted this, but whether you agree or not, some historians do believe it was relevant. If nothing else it is relevant context, setting the shape of the diplomatic landscape before all this began.
That is fine, as long as they can cite an original document that indicates that this starts the Great Game. If they cannot, then it is only the conjecture of the author and has no place here.
As to your second point - you're right - I haven't read all the sources you provided overnight. I skimmed a few of them and referred back to existing knowledge from having read many books on the British Empire. Obviously I'll defer to your in-depth reading into the subject, but on the broader point of whether there was such a thing and where/when (which is why I came looking after your edit to the BE article) I think we need to acknowledge that it went wider than what is now Afghanistan - my focus was simply on whether the sources you used focused on Afghanistan alone or "Central Asia".
Part of this issues is, as you have said, are the maps. Lines drawn on maps are something the European powers did - the main concern of the Britain and Russia. It could be argued that there was no Afghanistan, there was a collection of tribes that paid tribute to various rulers, some of them to Kabul and some of them much further afield. I think the new lead sentence more closely reflects a wider view, certainly a more accurate one with the inclusion of Southern Asia, and I thank you for your guidance here.
So where do we go from here? I think we have space in this article to elaborate on all the various interpretations, and I see that there has been some attempt to cover the different angles. However, for summary articles such as the British Empire, a generalisation such as "Central Asia" is concise and less open to challenge. For the first line of this article I would suggest something very similar to your proposal: "The Great Game" is a term used by historians to describe a political and diplomatic confrontation that existed for most of the nineteenth century between Britain and Russia over Afghanistan and neighbouring territories in Central Asia. Wiki-Ed (talk) 22:40, 1 September 2016 (UTC)
I am happy with your change on the British Empire, my real point there was that this was not a Eurasia-wide event, and that is a position that you have supported. I will amend the lead to "The Great Game" is a term used by historians to describe a political and diplomatic confrontation that existed for most of the nineteenth century between Britain and Russia over Afghanistan and neighbouring territories in Central and Southern Asia. and see how long it lasts in that form. For further development, I have taken the content of this article from 30kb of largely uncited material to 65kb of cited material and am approaching exhaustion. I have even tracked down scans of the works of the people involved back in the 1830-1890s. As I have said above, I would be pleased for others to now further develop it. I will next read the novel, Kim, to ascertain exactly what Kipling was talking about and if that stacks up to some of the claims made by some historians. Regards, and thanks for your comments  William Harris |talk  23:17, 1 September 2016 (UTC)
Totally agree it was not a Eurasia-wide event. Hopkirk does cover Russian movements from the Caucasus up to the Chinese border, but that's a separate and wider historical development.
I respect that you've expanded and cited lots of material, but I'd urge some caution over the weighting of sources. For that reason I've made some slight tweaks to the presentation style of the section on different interpretations to make it clear that it's not necessarily the consensus view. I would like to help further, but I am a little time poor at the moment. Wiki-Ed (talk) 21:16, 3 September 2016 (UTC)
I also. When I first came here, there was not much more than uncited blather that lead the reader into thinking that there was some kind of cold war with Britain and Russia not talking to each other and a giant chess game going on with war imminent at any moment. From my reading, this does not appear to be the case. I have expanded the article to cover a wider view, but there is still much more to be done here. The work by Chakravarty - from Khyber to Oxus - is a collection of citations and quotes from original documents from that time. Someone could spend weeks producing a fine article from it with original quotes and British Foreign Office letters going between London, St Petersburg, Calcutta and Kabul. However, I think I am drawing to a close here. Thanks for the recent tidy-up. Regards,  William Harris |talk  08:13, 4 September 2016 (UTC)
I sometimes think Wikipedia is heading towards being 'complete'. Then I look around and realise how much more there is to do! Keep up the good work. Wiki-Ed (talk) 21:39, 5 September 2016 (UTC)
Thanks, and agreed! You get a feeling of some satisfaction then later on you have a rethink about what something may have meant or some new material comes to light or you read yet another point of view. We now have Martin J. Bayly's 2016 work stating that Anglo-Afghan relations during this period has been too focused on Anglo-Russian rivalry and The Great Game, and that historians should stop repeating the work of earlier historians on this matter - the fun never ends! Please maintain your vigilance over the British Empire. Regards,  William Harris |talk  09:55, 6 September 2016 (UTC)

Recent edits[edit]

Hello User:Rjensen and User:Wiki-Ed. Nothing gives me more pleasure right now than watching two editors who are passionate about this subject voicing a difference of opinion - I swear we have finally breathed some life into this article, which for too long atrophied. However, I fear that we are on the edge of an edit war which may lead to some unpleasant impacts, so I gave you both a ping. On the one hand the term is used predominately by historians, however the article contains citations from some strategic analysts (geostrategists if you like) and also journalists (who use it to the point of cliche). I will leave it to both of you to form a compromise; most Wikipedia articles are a compromise of differing opinions, which over time evolve to be closer to the mark. Regards,  William Harris |talk  10:02, 9 September 2016 (UTC)

my point is that it is not a term invented by historians. It is the common usage by the general public (eg Kipling) & diplomats of the late 19th century. It's the difference between: a) the Korean war is what historians call the war of 1950.... versus b) The Korean war was a war fought in 1950... I recommend version b. The goal should be to highlight the actual event in the opening, not highlight the historiography. Rjensen (talk) 11:16, 9 September 2016 (UTC)
If the article title was descriptive like "The Korean War" or "Russia-United Kingdom relations" then we wouldn't need to explain what it means or who uses it. However, since "The Great Game" is a quote and it is used primarily - today - by historians, not the general public, then we do. (If you used the term in the UK today without any other qualification then most people would think you were talking about football.) And, as User:William Harris has highlighted above, some historians reject the term entirely, so to present it as an agreed term for this historical episode is misleading. I suppose the opening line should actually say: "The Great Game" is a term used by some historians. Wiki-Ed (talk) 20:01, 9 September 2016 (UTC)

Tournament of Shadows?[edit]

The Article comes to Redirect for The Russian Tournament of Shadows, which is the a different Term for the same conflict, however the article fails to mention the term, however It in Fact used to is there any reason for the Term to be Removed? Sir James H. Westwood (talk) 18:42, 30 October 2016 (UTC)

Hello, we are required under to use Use Common Recognizable Names WP:UCRN, of which The Russian Tournament of Shadows is not. Additionally, there is no source Russian historical document that uses the term Tournament of Shadows. The redirect should be deleted, however that is a difficult process, which I will now embark on. Regards,  William Harris |talk  19:46, 30 October 2016 (UTC)
That redirect no longer exists. Regards,  William Harris |talk  19:14, 16 November 2016 (UTC)

Removal of cited sources and sections[edit]

I disapprove of two changes that have been made to this article since I last edited it in March 2015‎. The major contributor to these chances was William Harris (diff)

  1. The change in style from short citations in a notes section supported by long citations in a references section to inline full citations.
  2. The removal from the lead "In the post-Second World War post-colonial period, the term has continued in use to describe the geopolitical machinations of the Great Powers and regional powers as they vie for geopolitical power and influence in the area" and the sections that that sentence supports.

It seems to me that removing the 20th and 21st century sections is a form of OR as many modern sources have used the term "The Great Game" for the continuing involvement on great powers and regional powers in the area. -- PBS (talk) 09:02, 20 July 2017 (UTC)

The scope of the article is defined within the article. The article is able to WP:CITE expert WP:RELIABLE sources which other editors can WP:VERIFY. The article The New Great Game exists for the purposes that you describe. That material does not belong here and with this article at 75kb and with WP:SIZERULE there is no room for it here. William Harris • (talk) • 09:23, 20 July 2017 (UTC)
Any thoughts of the change in style of the in-line citations?
[interjection] Your statement is not exactly true, is it? The article uses both styles - refer to the inline calls on the "Further reading" section. There was no issue with the change of citation style when the article was redeveloped. I do not see what the issue is now - it meets WP:CITE
'refer to the inline calls on the "Further reading" section' which in-line calls were those? -- PBS (talk) 18:36, 20 July 2017 (UTC)
"The scope of the article is defined within the article." it was previously defined within the article (see the line I quoted).
[interjection] It has been further defined in accord with WP:SCOPE, based on the works of historians who are expert on the topic and not the conjecture of some journalists.
"The New Great Game" was a title of a book it was not a term in general use, and such a fork in content is a POV fork.
[interjection] A quick read of the Wikipedia article and its references or a Google Search will show that "The New Great Game" is more than just the name of a book. It is not my point of view, but you knew that.
If size is really concern and not a proxy for a POV that the game ended with the Russian and British empires, then we can solve that either shaving off some of the details, or by moving some of the content out into subsiduary articles. However I do not believe that necessary, I have just checked the size of 20th, 21st, and the Chronology sections that were removed from this article and they came to less than 17k (of which the Chronology section made up about a third of that total).
-- PBS (talk) 09:57, 20 July 2017 (UTC)
The Game did not end with the Russian and British Empires and I encourage you to actually read the article. It ended long before that, so say the historians. I suggest that you await other editors points of view before attempting hiving things off elsewhere. We are not alone here. William Harris • (talk) • 11:21, 20 July 2017 (UTC)
This article states that "Some authors believe that the Great Game [in] 1907, Another that it was trailing off not long after that time, and another with the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917" depends what you mean by long before that. However that is not the point, can we agree to drop the size of the article as a reason for not including the text post World War II? -- PBS (talk) 18:50, 20 July 2017 (UTC)
A few observations. First, with reference to these disambiguation guidelines I think it is right that this article focuses on the well-established historical usage - as described in the scope of the article. Secondary usage is rightly relegated to a secondary position in the sub section addressing "Other uses...". However, I do agree with PBS that the fact that the term has continued to be used (and, indeed, that the article has a section on this) ought to be referenced in the introduction. It is maybe slightly misleading to suggest that it didn't continue to resonate in the years after the 'Great Game' ended. A single short sentence would be sufficient.
Secondly: while it is well sourced, the section on "Other uses" could be worded more neutrally. It is currently rather dismissive of other usages.
Thirdly, and conversely, PBS's proposed wording is perhaps overplaying the significance of the continued usage of the term - so maybe undue weighting. However, this could be amended relatively easily and I see no reason why it shouldn't form the basis of a reference in the intro. Wiki-Ed (talk) 20:33, 20 July 2017 (UTC)
I concur with your observations. William Harris • (talk) • 08:31, 21 July 2017 (UTC)