The First Cold War

Anglo-Russian Relations in the 19th Century

May 2024 9781805260578 544pp
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Available as an eBook
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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. Both world powers became convinced of the expansionist aims of the other, and considered these to be at their 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, 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.


Barbara Emerson is Vice-Chair of the Great Britain–Russia Society, having been a faculty associate at Harvard University and a visiting fellow at St Hilda’s College, University of Oxford, where she received her MA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. The author of three historical biographies, she formerly lived in Moscow.

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