The first that ever burst, etc. William Bateson in the steppe, 1886-1887

Jeff Eden*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Evidence from official sources and from popular travel literature has long dominated our scholarship on the Great Game in Central Asia. Unsurprisingly, then, our vision of British Orientalism in this period has been based predominantly on the perspective of military and professional sources. In this paper, I will discuss a source which falls into a different but no less crucial genre: the private letters and diary of the naturalist William Bateson (1861-1926), who travelled in the Kazakh steppe from the spring of 1886 to the autumn of 1887. Where popular travel accounts were often written with the adventure-hungry reader in mind, Bateson's writings are distinctly short on swashbuckling and danger. What we have instead is the unpretentious (and often wonderfully comic) perspective of a young, educated Englishmen with no pretences of literary or military fame: a player with hardly any sense of his own role in the Game.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalStudies in Travel Writing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2013


  • Central Asia
  • explorers
  • Great Game
  • Kazakh steppe
  • travel literature
  • William Bateson

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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