- Russian Military History
- Russian Colonialism
- History of Central Asia
Much of my research to date has concentrated on understanding the nuts and bolts of how Russian imperial rule functioned (or failed to do so) in 19th and early 20th-century Central Asia, which is best described as the political and administrative history of Russian colonialism. In Russian Central Asia this means a considerable focus on the social background and institutional culture of the military, who administered the region. I also interested in the ways in which the local population engaged with, exploited and suffered from these new structures of power, and in Russian imperial ideologies.
I am currently completing a History of the Russian Conquest of Central Asia in which I seek to avoid the grand narrative of the 'Great Game' and return the British in India to the margins of the story, where they belong. Instead I will focus on the processes of decision-making which prompted the Russian advances, their entanglement with the politics of the steppe and of the Central Asian khanates, the logistical challenges of Inner Asian warfare and (to some extent) the local response, at least as far as this is revealed in Persian-language chronicles. British and Anglo-Indian sources and perspectives will only feature on the rare occasions where they were relevant or well-informed. Instead my book, though a series of micro-historical studies of the different phases of the advance, will place Central Asia itself at the heart of the narrative.
Future research projects include a comparative history of Semirechie as Russian settler colony, an exploration of the literary culture of the Russian Imperial officer corps, a study of Soviet novels and films about the ‘Basmachi’ rebellion in Central Asia in 1917 – 1924, and a microhistorical biography of General Alexei Nikolaevich Kuropatkin (1848-1925).