The author of this remarkable true tale of travel and adventure in Russian-ruled central Asia was larger than life in every sense. Fred Burnaby was a giant of prodigious strength (he once transported two donkeys by carrying one under either arm) who found the Victorian army too staid and stuffy for his restless spirit. He therefore interspersed his conventional military career as a cavalry officer with stints as a war correspondent, pioneer balloonist (he flew across the Channel), traveller – and spy. This was the book which brought Burnaby fame and made him a celebrity. It tells of his journey (authorised by the British Army) deep in Russian-controlled Turkmenistan to spy out the land and determine whether the Russians were planning to invade British-ruled India (a perennial fear of Britain during the grand strategic rivalry with the Russian Bear dubbed by KIpling ‘the Great Game’). Both as a portrait of ‘far-away peoples of whom we know nothing’; as a mid-Victorian travelogue in the grand style; and as an account of derring-do by a great adventurer, this book should be as popular now as when it was first published. Fittingly, after an action-packed life Burnaby eventually died fighting in the Sudan at the Battle of Abu Klea.
RIDE TO KHIVA: Travels and Adventures in Central Asia
The author, a British army officer, visited the city of Khiva in central Asia on an unofficial mission to discover whether, as many British strategists feared, the Russians planned to use this remote location as a springboard for an invasion of India. This account of his adventures made him famous. Burnaby later met his death in the Sudan at the Battle of Abu Klea.