Dr Alexander Morrison

Featured Publication
The Central Asian Revolt of 1916

The Central Asian Revolt of 1916. A collapsing empire in the age of war and revolution (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2019)


The 1916 Revolt was a key event in the history of Central Asia, and of the Russian Empire in the First World War. This volume is the first comprehensive re-assessment of its causes, course and consequences in English for over sixty years. It draws together a new generation of leading historians from North America, Japan, Europe, Russia and Central Asia, working with Russian archival sources, oral narratives, poetry and song in Kazakh and Kyrgyz. These illuminate in unprecedented detail the origins and causes of the revolt, and the immense human suffering which it entailed. They also situate the revolt in a global perspective as part of a chain of rebellions and disturbances that shook the world's empires, as they crumbled under the pressures of total war.

‘Infantry of the Orenburg Line Battalions in winter garb on the Russian expedition to Khiva in 1839-40.’

‘Infantry of the Orenburg Line Battalions in winter garb on the Russian expedition to Khiva in 1839-40.’

  • Russian Military History
  • Russian Colonialism
  • History of Central Asia

Much of my research to date has concentrated on understanding the nuts and bolts of how Russian imperial rule functioned (or failed to do so) in 19th and early 20th-century Central Asia, which is best described as  the political and administrative history of Russian colonialism. In Russian Central Asia this means a considerable focus on the social background and institutional culture of the military, who administered the region. I also interested in the ways in which the local population engaged with, exploited and suffered from these new structures of power, and in Russian imperial ideologies.

I am currently completing a History of the Russian Conquest of Central Asia in which I seek to avoid the grand narrative of the 'Great Game' and return the British in India to the margins of the story, where they belong. Instead I will focus on the processes of decision-making which prompted the Russian advances, their entanglement with the politics of the steppe and of the Central Asian khanates, the logistical challenges of Inner Asian warfare and (to some extent) the local response, at least as far as this is revealed in Persian-language chronicles. British and Anglo-Indian sources and perspectives will only feature on the rare occasions where they were relevant or well-informed. Instead my book, though a series of micro-historical studies of the different phases of the advance, will place Central Asia itself at the heart of the narrative.

Future research projects include a comparative history of Semirechie as  Russian settler colony, an exploration of the literary culture of the Russian Imperial officer corps, a study of Soviet novels and films about the ‘Basmachi’ rebellion in Central Asia in 1917 – 1924,  and a microhistorical biography of General Alexei Nikolaevich Kuropatkin (1848-1925).


  • The Russian Conquest of Central Asia.

  • Settler Bolsheviks in the Soviet “Eastern”

  • The Central Asian Revolt of 1916.

  • "The extraordinary successes which the Russians have achieved". The Conquest of Central Asia in Callwell's 'Small Wars'.

  • Convicts and Concentration Camps

  • More

I would like to hear from potential DPhil students regarding European Military History; History of the Russian Empire; Imperial  & Colonial History; Central Asian History          .

I currently teach:

Prelims: FHS:

Approaches to History

EWH VII Eurasian Empires 1450 - 1800

EWH IV: 1815-1914 (Society, Nation, and Empire). 

EWH X The European Century, 1820-1925

Foreign Texts: Trotsky

EWH XI Global and Imperial History 1750 - 1930


EWH XIII Europe Divided 1914 – 1989

  EWH XIV The Global 20th Century, 1930 – 2003

Theme Paper C: Waging War in Eurasia, 1200-1945


SS 23 Empire and Nation in Russia and the USSR, ca. 1890-1924


Disciplines of History



In the Media

 ‘The Conquest of Central Asia through the Turkestan Album’ Voices on Central Asia 02/05/2018 (https://voicesoncentralasia.org/the-conquest-of-central-asia-through-the-turkestan-album/)

I write regularly for the website eurasianet.org, where my articles can be found here:


BBC World Service - Witness, 1916: Central Asia Rebels Against the Russian Empire 14/07/2016 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p040p1bh)

with Berny Sèbe, University of Birmingham: ‘Empires of Emptiness: fortresses of the Sahara and the Steppe’ Photographic exhibition, University of Birmingham 15/02/2016 – 15/05/2016 & Jackfield Tile Museum, Ironbridge, 23/05/2016 – 17/12/2016