The imaginary chessboard: the Great Game between imperialist visions, orientalist narratives and personal ambitions

Journal title STORIA URBANA
Author/s Riccardo Redaelli
Publishing Year 2019 Issue 2018/160 Language Italian
Pages 24 P. 5-28 File size 427 KB
DOI 10.3280/SU2018-160001
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This paper aims to present the main themes analysed within this volume while introducing the different studies and related approaches of the authors, connected to the so-called "Great Game". Starting from the perspective of the British experience, this essay will frame the historical context of this geopolitical competition between imperial powers during the XIX century, whose origin preceded the "Great Game" itself, yet it will come back later with the so-called "arms race" that paved the way for the outbreak of the First World War. Central Asia become the ground of the rivalries between the great powers of the time, resembling a sort of "chessboard" on which the Russian, the French and the British empires moved through to impose their territorial domain, each of them with their own political priorities, narratives, and obsessions leading to strategic decisions. Beyond the description of the historical competition that occurred in the XIX century, this essay aims to shed lights on the role of military commanders and British officials, as supposed "young pawns" who, on the contrary, often implemented their own strategies according to their personal ambitions, widespread prejudices of locals, lack of territorial knowledge, as well as deep misconceptions of the competitors. Therefore, it is important to underline the role of narratives in supporting military and diplomatic missions. Much more than a "game", the competition in Central Asia shown the strength to consolidate respective zones of influence, but also how personal ambitions and self-perceptions of superiority has been used to justify political influence and domain.

Keywords: Central Asia, Great Game, Colonialism, British Empire, Forward Policy

Riccardo Redaelli, La scacchiera immaginata: il Grande Gioco fra visioni imperialiste, narrazioni orientaliste e ambizioni personali in "STORIA URBANA " 160/2018, pp 5-28, DOI: 10.3280/SU2018-160001