The Genesis of Russophobia in Great Britain: A Study of the Interaction of Policy and Opinion

By John Howes Gleason | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
THE NAVY -- AFGHANISTAN

THE NEWS which began to arrive from Central Asia in the autumn of 1837 provided exceptional grist for the mill of the Russophobes. The theory that Russia was really intent upon the establishment of a point d'appui for an invasion of India appeared to be substantiated by the attack which Persia launched against Herat. At first it was only suspected in London that the shah's decision to reduce to his obedience an area over which he claimed an unacknowledged suzerainty had been made on the encouragement of the Russian envoy in the face of the advice and even of the threats of Sir John McNeill.

But already there had been other signs of a rupture of the Anglo-Russian coöperation which in 1834 had effected the peaceful succession of Muhammad Mirza to his grandfather's throne. The strategic importance of Central Asia and the ominous Russian activity there had been declaimed in several of the works of the school of Urquhart. McNeill, the author of the most comprehensive analysis of Russia's expansion there, had accepted his diplomatic appointment in the belief that the government was determined to stop the Russian advance. The potentialities of the trade of the region had received official and unofficial study. The new course of events inevitably excited anxious attention in London.1

On arriving at Teheran, McNeill had found that the Russian emissary, Count Simonich, had secured an effective control of Persian policy. All the determination and finesse which he had brought to the struggle for influence initiated by his less adept predecessor had not availed to discourage the young shah

____________________
1
Cambridge History of India( Cambridge, 1929), V, 490; Correspondence Relating to Persia and Afghanistan in Parliamentary Papers, 1839, XL, passim; Macalister, McNeill, p. 199; Urquhart Mss.

-205-

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