Conquering Lhasa: the British expedition to Tibet (1903-1904) and the Italian press of the time

Journal title STORIA URBANA
Author/s Enrica Garzilli
Publishing Year 2019 Issue 2018/160 Language Italian
Pages 42 P. 99-140 File size 468 KB
DOI 10.3280/SU2018-160004
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This article deals with the background and the consequences of the British mission to Tibet (Dec. 1903 - Sept. 1904) and its narrative and representation in the Italian press of the time. The mission, led by Colonel Francis E. Younghusband (1863-1942), was a military expedition within a long-lasting competition between the British and the Russian empires over the territorial control in Central Asia. Considering the geopolitical importance of Tibet within the Central Asia "chessboard", it will be briefly delineated its historical relations with the neighbouring countries, especially with China. As reported in this essay, the British empire stated its commercial relations with Tibet way before the military invasion. The latter brought the British troops in Lhasa and ended in September 1904 with the signing of the treaty. While the press in Europe covered the British mission in Tibet, the Italian press of the time did not show interest on the topic also due to lack of first-hand sources. For instance, it heavily relied on British correspondents. The British mission in Tibet has been commented in Italy through highly ideological and imperialist tones, emphasising on the European superiority. For many, the (legit) military mission in Tibet epitomised the victory of a strong Europe in the competition over Asian territories. Nevertheless, only one Italian newspaper dedicated its pages in telling other stories, less glorious, of the same mission, such as the infamous Guru massacre.

Keywords: Italian press, Younghusband, imperialism, Great Game, Tibet, Great Britain, Lhasa, China.

Enrica Garzilli, Alla conquista di Lhasa: la missione britannica in Tibet (1903-1904) e la pubblicistica italiana d’epoca in "STORIA URBANA " 160/2018, pp 99-140, DOI: 10.3280/SU2018-160004