The First Cold War w/ Barbara Emerson

26 Jun 2024 – 18:30 - 20:00 BST
Pushkin House & Online
5a Bloomsbury Square

Pushkin House are pleased to invite you to the launch of Barbara Emerson’s new book, The First Cold War: Anglo-Russian Relations in the 19th Century, which she will discuss with Dame Deborah Bronnert, former British Ambassador to Russia.

A comprehensive history of Russo-British relations at the height of the imperial age, The First Cold War chronicles the clash of ambitions, diplomacy and tension, and the ensuing consequences. This discussion is particularly relevant in the context of today’s geopolitics, as issues and attitudes from the imperial era have echoed long into the future.

About the book

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.

About the speakers

Barbara Emerson studied at Oxford University and was later an associate at the Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, and a visiting fellow at St Hilda’s College, University of Oxford. She is the author of three historical biographies and lived in Moscow for several years. She has given a number of talks at Pushkin House since 2014, and regularly attends events as a Friend of Pushkin House.

Dame Deborah Bronnert DCMG was the British Ambassador to the Russian Federation from September 2019 to November 2023. She received an MA in Political Economy of Russia and Eastern Europe at UCL SSEES. She was posted to the European Commission in Brussels from 1995–99 and served in Moscow and various other posts at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, before becoming British Ambassador to Zimbabwe from 2011–14. She joined the FCO Board in 2014 as Chief Operating Officer and moved to Director General Europe in 2016.

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