How The Times of London covered and interpreted Russian expansion into Central Asia in the second half of the nineteenth century



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Texas Tech University


Russian expansion into Central Asia in the second half of the nineteenth century had a major impact on British foreign policy. The British had long begun to view Russian expansion toward the Balkans, the Near East, and the Caucasus as a very dangerous development to their imperialist interests. They thought that Russia would one day attempt to invade India, the crown of the British colonial possessions. This perceived threat was hotly debated among almost all educated segments of British society. In this debate. The Times of London played an important role by providing fresh news, commentaries, and discussions of the subject. Though The Times often supported the official policy of the British Government, it did not fail to provide a wide variety of opinions. It offered a forum to two major political groups, the "alarmists," or the supporters of an active and militarist policy, and the "masterly inactivists," or the advocates of a rather passive policy. Besides its journalistic and popular approach to the issue, The Times presented a well-balanced discussion for possible solutions of the problem. In a sense, The Times became a popular organ for politicians, historians, researchers, military strategists, and journalists to reach the public through insightful debates.

Besides its enormous contribution to reporting and interpreting Central Asian politics and to shaping public opinion, The Times closely monitored Russian social, economic, political, military, and commercial development in the region. By doing this, it created a history of Central Asia during this period. Yet, judging from the imperfect knowledge that the contemporary journalists, politicians, and historians had about Central Asia, and again judging from Eurocentric and pseudo-scientific concepts held by many of these people, the history presented in The Times must be carefully scrutinized with the aid of other historical sources. However, in the final analysis, The Times' coverage of the Central Asian question created insightful day-to-day accounts of important historical events.