RUSSIA IN THE AGE OF PETER THE GREAT by Lindsey Hughes

RUSSIA IN THE AGE OF PETER THE GREAT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Hughes’s thorough and scholarly account is certain to become the leading study of one of Russia’s most fascinating and significant periods. Peter the Great, the charismatic Russian ruler who introduced a program of westernization at the turn on the 18th century, has long been a focus for historians, biographers, and politicians. Here Hughes (Russian History/University of London) has produced the first truly comprehensive English-language account of Peter’s reign and both its immediate and long-term effects. Drawing on newly available archival sources and an exhaustive body of secondary literature, Hughes places Peter the Great’s reign within its historical context, both national and international. Then, in a dozen extensively footnoted and delineated chapters, she undertakes a programmatic study of Peter and his reign, covering the Petrine military and governmental institutions, the economy, the arts, education, and religion. Each chapter is a masterful and balanced account that blends the critical and the narrative with a direct and entertaining style. Despite sometimes limited sources, Hughes also examines popular culture, including often neglected subjects such as the role of women, pretense and disguise, and life at the Petrine court (drinking, dwarves, dress, and the like). A final section includes several biographical chapters on Peter and his family that exhibit the author’s ongoing attempt to address and correct common misconceptions, which particularly abound in debates about Peter’s domineering personality. As throughout her study, Hughes remains fair and judicious, arguing repeatedly that the reality of Peter the Great is far more complex than the “plain man image” often promoted. Above all, Hughes consistently argues for an interpretation that recognizes the blend of the pragmatic and the inspired that characterized Peter and his actions. A remarkable work of scholarship that will open for English-speakers the full scope of Petrine Russia. (28 illustrations)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-300-07539-1
Page count: 640pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1998




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