Central Asia, Persia and Afghanistan 1834-1922

From Silk Road to Soviet rule

Explore the volatile political and diplomatic history of Central Asia, from the decline of the Silk Road to the “Great Game” and the era of Soviet influence.

This resource provides digital access to official British government records relating to the region, from the decline of the Silk Road, through the diplomatic confrontation between the British and Russian Empires known as the “Great Game”, to the influence of the emergent Soviet Union in the 20th century.

Correspondence and eyewitness accounts from the region’s key players document the Anglo-Afghan Wars; the perspectives of Afghan and Persian rulers on foreign activities in the region; the interplay between China and Russia; and the expansion and fall of the Russian Empire; allowing scholars to build a balanced picture of the tumultuous history of the region.

This collection consists following material classes :

  • FO 65: Foreign Office and predecessor: Political and Other Departments: General Correspondence before 1906, Russian Empire, 1781-1905
  • FO 106: Foreign Office: Political and Other Departments: General Correspondence before 1906, Central Asia,1899-1905
  • FO 371: Foreign Office: Political Departments: General Correspondence from 1906-1966
  • FO 539: Foreign Office: Confidential Print Central Asia,1834-1971


  • Correspondence from the government of British India, British Prime Ministers and Viceroys of India
  • Letters to and from the Shahs of Persia and the Emirs of Afghanistan
  • War diaries of the Kurram Field Force and dispatches from Lord Roberts
  • Material relating to early Soviet military takeover of Bukhara, and early Soviet relations with Afghanistan
  • Letters from Russian Foreign Ministers, diplomats, and military officials
  • Correspondence from national governments including Russia, Persia, Afghanistan and British India
  • Correspondence on Francis Younghusband’s expedition to the Pamirs
  • Diaries and reports of British intelligence officers and agents recording Russian activities and events in Afghanistan and on the North-Western Frontier

Key data

Period covered


Source archive

  • The National Archives, UK
  • Diplomacy
  • Peoples and cultures of Central Asia
  • Relations between the British, Russian, Chinese and Ottoman Empires
  • Warfare and colonialism
  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Foreign office reports and dispatches
  • Maps
  • Newspaper articles
  • Professor Benjamin Hopkins, George Washington University
  • Professor Adeeb Khalid, Carleton College
  • Dr Alexander Morrison, University of Oxford
  • Central Asian Studies
  • Great Britain, Republic of Ireland and Northern Irish Studies
  • International Relations
  • Political History and Science

You may also be interested in