Persia in the Great Game: Sir Percy Sykes
Antony Wynn

Persia in the Great Game: Sir Percy Sykes

Percy Sykes began his career with Army Intelligence in India. Their main concern was the threat to India of the Russian advances across Central Asia. In 1893 they sent Sykes into eastern Persia on the first of many expeditions. Always with his terrier and often with his sister or his wife, he rode over thousands of miles of unknown desert, marsh and mountain to map them and establish his network of informants, helped by a Persian prince whom he had met in the desert.

Later, as consul in Meshed, Sykes used his wits to foil Russian attempts to take over northern Persia, the key to India. But when the First World War broke out it was Wassmuss – 'the German Lawrence' – who proved the greatest threat to Britain, as Sykes was sent alone to raise an army to defeat him.

In the great Victorian tradition, the soldier-diplomat Sykes hunted gazelle with princes, studied Persian poetry, and sat at the feet of dervish masters. This study of Sykes’ secret despatches over twenty-five turbulent years gives an unusual insight into the inner workings of Persia, which are little changed in the Iran of today.

Book Details:

  • Author: Antony Wynn
  • Published Year: 2003
  • Rights Sold
    • UK: John Murray
    • Italy: Saggiatore

Antony Wynn

Antony Wynn read Persian and Turkish at Balliol, spending a year at Shiraz University as part of the course.1972-1976: Based at Hamadan in western Iran, working as a buyer of Persian carpets for the Oriental Carpet Manufacturing Company, travelling all over Iran.1976-1978: Moved to Gonbad-i Kavus, on the Turkoman border of Iran, to run a country racecourse and introduce the Jockey Club Rules of racing to the Turkoman, who were not used to any sort of rules.1979-1991: After training as a slaughterman and butcher in Australia and New Zealand, represented the Vestey company in the Middle East,...
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Book Reviews

  • "… a well researched and highly readable life of a character who, in his own day, astonished his contemporaries by his courage and his cheek."
    John Ure, TLS
  • "A superbly researched and engagingly written biography. Sykes is a character even John Buchan would have feared to invent and Wynn has done him proud."
    Antony Beevor, Jacket review
  • "...where Wynn excels is in his sense of place. He is very good at conjuring up the look and feel of … the Persian landscape. One also gets a strong impression of what it was like for servants of the Raj on the move, with their rubber baths, tent valises, tins of stewed fruit and jars of Bovril, also of their more exotic retinue of farrashes, syces and pish-khedmats."
    Robert Irwin, Literary Review
  • "In Antony Wynn [Sykes] has found an unusually well-suited biographer. Wynn has spent years working in Iran. His writing is clear and vigorous; he resists the temptations of purple prose; and he wields no ideological agenda – unless an underlying sympathy for the Persians counts as such… It is unlikely that anyone will write such an enjoyable and compelling account of this fascinating life for a very long time to come."
    Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph
  • "...hugely informative as well as being vastly entertaining… this is not Flashman – this is history. The extent to which Islam was even then being manipulated for geo-political purposes was a revelation to me; as was the depiction of Iran as a great bundle of chaotic and dysfunctional forces at odds with each other – the reformers, the mullas, and the Great Powers playing one off against the other. Sound familiar? This remarkable history should be required reading inside Whitehall and Washington as the spotlight turns ominously from Iraq to Iran."
    Patrick Malahide, Amazon