Eric Shipton's Secret History

Westaway, Jonathan orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-4479-3490 (2017) Eric Shipton's Secret History. The Alpine Journal 2017, 121 . pp. 215-229. ISSN 0956930964

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Eric Shipton was notoriously circumspect about many aspects of his life and there is much that remains unexplained about his career and his motivations. Mountain travel books like Mountains of Tartary (1950) tell us next-to-nothing about the political context of his time as Consul General in Kashgar, Xinjiang between the years 1940-1942 and 1946-1948, indeed the text serves quite deliberately to deceive. Enmeshed in the apparatus of the British Imperial security state in Chinese Central Asia, Shipton became adept at covering his tracks by directing his readers’ attention elsewhere. At the heart of the Shipton story is a missing decade. Utilising the 'Travellers' file kept on Shipton by the External Affairs Department of the Government of India, this paper examines how Shipton negotiated the complex web of political authority that governed access to the sensitive border regions of British India, ultimately enabling him to take up a key diplomatic posting in Chinese Central Asia.

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