Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts with University Honors




Gingerich, Mark


Great Game, history, First Anglo-Afghan War


The Great Game describes British and Russian imperial expansion in Central Asia as the two powers competed to spread their influence in the region. Historians point to 1830 as the start of British paranoia regarding Russian advances towards India. This neglects to mention British actions during the Greek War of Independence, which saw the nation retreat from the Concert of Europe as well as the growth of anti-Russian sentiment. This paper examines the role of Britain in starting the Great Game, focusing on its self-fulfilling prophecy of Russian expansion in Central Asia, examining how Britain’s exit from the European Congress System limited its response to resist Russian expansion. I propose that this exit, and the inability to contain Russia with either European or Eurasian allies, prevented Britain from being effective at countering Russian influence. Unlike some interpretations, which place Britain as a grand architect of policy regarding Central Asia, British policy often disunited and countermanded from ministry to ministry. The main instance when Britain looked to expand – the First Anglo-Afghan War – the British were woefully unprepared and suffered from the aggressive foreign policy proposed by Lord Palmerston and Lord Auckland in the 1830s. When the British finally achieved their objective of placing Shah Shujah, they realized that they were woefully unprepared to control and maintain Afghanistan. This study is based on published materials and will include archival materials from the India Office Archives at the British Library.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.



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