• Balochistan, the British and the Great Game

    Heathcote, T. A.

    The Great Game for Central Asia led to British involvement in Balochistan, a sparsely-populated area in Pakistan, mostly desert and mountain, and containing the Bolan Pass, the southern counterpart of the more famous Khyber. It occupies a position of great strategic importance between Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and the Arabian Sea.

    Heathcote’s book is a history of the Khanate of Kalat and of British operations against the Baloch hill tribes who raided frontier settlements and the Bolan caravans. Its themes include rivalry between British officials in Sind and the Punjab, high profile disputes between British politicians over frontier policy and organisation, and the British occupation of Quetta, guardian city of the Bolan, in the run-up to the Second Afghan War. Among the many strong characters in this story is Sir Robert Sandeman, hitherto hailed as ‘the peaceful conqueror of Balochistan’, now revealed as a ruthless careerist, whose personal ambitions led to the fragmentation of the country under British domination. The closing chapter summarises subsequent events up to modern times, in which the Baloch have maintained a long-running struggle for greater autonomy within Pakistan.


    A. Heathcote studied history at SOAS, London, from where he joined the National Army Museum. He later transferred to the RMA Sandhurst, where he was for many years the Curator.


    ‘This book comprehensively details the greater Balochistan area, its place in the strategic Great Game, and the interesting role played by British officials there. It enhances our understanding of this still volatile and important region and is a “must read” for those wanting to know about Balochistan’s history in depth.’ — Christopher Snedden, Professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, Honolulu, and author of Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris

    ‘Tony Heathcote, the author of several distinguished works on the British military in India, brings a wealth of expertise to this study of the “Great Game”. He tells a fascinating story that needs to be read by anyone who seeks to understand an area that remains, to this day, strategically vital.’ — Gary Sheffield, Professor of War Studies, University of Wolverhampton

    ‘Heathcote’s impressive archival research and encyclopaedic understanding of this complex region yields a fascinating narrative from a long-ignored chapter of Britain’s colonial enterprise in South Asia. For scholars, students and general readers alike, the story of Balochistan’s role in the game of Empire and its colourful central characters proves engaging, enlightening and — above all — entertaining.’ — Willem Marx, journalist and author of Balochistan at a Crossroads