by Edith Cody-Rice
As Canada’s mission in Afghanistan draws to a close, it is interesting, if not important, to delve into past missions into that complicated nation. A wonderful, scholarly but very readable history is contained in Tournament of Shadows.
Although published in 1999, this book is relevant today. It recounts “the great game”: the struggle between Russia and Britain for domination of 18th and 19th century central Asia. A tour de force, it recounts the lives of soldiers, scholars, and spies who ventured during the last two centuries into the rugged mountainous territory, from Iran to Tibet.It puts significant emphasis on the disastrous British intervention in Afghanistan that foreshadowed the experience of another occupying nation: Russia, in the 20th century. The book moves along quickly with a fascinating tale in each chapter. Rumour has it that before the Americans invaded Afghanistan in 2001, it was required reading for employees of the American State Department.