chapter  4
13 Pages

Social networks and border conflicts: The First Herat War 1838–1841

The story of the Great Game of Anglo-Russian rivalry in Central Asia is usually told from the point of view of high politics, of British and Russian diplomatic manoeuvres, and of the response of the Iranian Shah and his ministers to British and Tsarist policies. Great power rivalry, however, touched not only the government and elite of Iran, but also those further down the social scale, and indeed, through their networks, people at an ordinary level. This article seeks to study the impact of a phase in the Great Game, namely the First Herat War lasting from 1838-1841, on social networks in Iran and along its borders, and the ways in which they were able to exert influence on Iranian policy. It provides an example of the interaction of the population below the elite level with a great power, in this case Britain, and with its own government, during a border conflict. The article argues that social networks can influence the central government over a border conflict, as well as collaborate with it. They also are revealed to have some influence on the foreign power in the form of a deterrent, but equally, are vulnerable to manipulation by that power.