The First Cold War: Anglo-Russian Relations in the 19th Century by Barbara Emerson

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A comprehensive history of Russo-British relations at the height of the imperial age, from Peter the Great to the Triple Entente.

Britain and Russia maintained a frosty civility for a few years after Napoleon’s defeat in 1815. But, by the 1820s, their relations degenerated into constant acrimonious rivalry over Persia, the Ottoman Empire, Central Asia—the Great Game—and, towards the end of the century, East Asia.

The First Cold War presents for the first time the Russian perspective on this ‘game’, drawing on the archives of the Tsars’ Imperial Ministry. Each world power became convinced of the expansionist aims of the other, and considered these to be at its own expense. When one was successful, the other upped the ante, and so it went on. London and St Petersburg were at war only once in the 1800s, during the Crimean War. But Russophobia and Anglophobia became ingrained on each side, as these two great empires hovered on the brink of hostilities for nearly 100 years. 

Not until Britain and Russia recognised that they had more to fear from Wilhelmine Germany did they largely set aside their rivalries in the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907, which also had major repercussions for the balance of power in Europe. Before that came a century of competition, diplomacy and tension, lucidly charted in this comprehensive new history.