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Catherine the Great: A Short History by…
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Catherine the Great: A Short History

by Isabel de Madariaga

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I always like multiple sources, so when I found another biography of Catherine the Great in a used bookstore I snapped it up – especially when it was by Isabel de Madariaga, whose biography of Ivan the Terrible I reviewed earlier. This turns out to be quite different from the Virginia Rounding biography which was my first Catherine book; in fact it’s not really a biography at all but more of a history of Catherine’s time. There isn’t anything about Catherine’s life before becoming Empress; we start right out with her seizure of power in 1762. After that, the narrative switches between history and the social situation. I was impressed by the amount of effort Catherine put out; she worked hard writing laws, setting up policies, etc. Economics for the average Russian improved considerably during her reign; the infamous “Potemkin villages” attributed to her lover Grigory Potemkin seem to have been largely a Soviet-era myth. The complexity of Russian administration, with separate systems for Nobility, “townsmen”, and serfs, remained but some things did get straightened out. Newspapers thrived, although there was some censorship; unfortunately Catherine was greatly disturbed by the French revolution and cracked down somewhat.


Overall a quite readable and interesting history and goes very well with the Virginia Rounding book mentioned above. I was a little critical of de Madariaga’s book on Ivan the Terrible because of her unnecessary use of Russian terms; there’s very little of that here.
( )
  setnahkt | Dec 6, 2017 |
good read ( )
  Harrod | Nov 26, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0300097220, Paperback)

Ivan IV, 'the Terrible' (1533-1584) is one of the key figures in Russian history, yet he has remained among the most neglected. Notorious for pioneering a policy of unrestrained terror - and for killing his own son - he has been credited with establishing autocracy in Russia. This is the first attempt to write a biography of Ivan from birth to death, to study his policies, his marriages, his atrocities, his disordered personality, and to link them as a coherent whole. Isable de Madariaga situates Ivan within the background of Russian political developments in the sixteenth century. And, with revealing comparisons with English, Spanish and other European courts, she sets him within the international context of his time. The biography includes a new account of the role of astrology and magic at Ivan's court, and provides fresh insights into his foreign policy. Facing up to problems of authenticity (much of Ivan's archive was destroyed by fire in 1626) and controversies which have paralysed western scholarship, de Madariaga seeks to present Russia as viewed from the Kremlin rather than from abroad and comprehend the full tragedy of Ivan's reign.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:26 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

An eminent scholar of Russian history here presents the most informative, balanced, and up-to-date short study of Catherine the Great and her reign. This edition includes a new preface dealing with recently discovered sources and revised interpretations of the period.   Praise for the earlier edition: "A panoramic view of Russia's social, political, economic, and cultural development and of its emergence as a formidable power in the international arena during the thirty-four years of [Catherine's] reign."--Anthony Cross, New York Times Book Review "De Madariaga's book will be the standard and an essential guide for all students and scholars of Russian and European history of the second half of the eighteenth century."--Marc Raeff, Journal of Modern History  … (more)

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Yale University Press

3 editions of this book were published by Yale University Press.

Editions: 0300097220, 0300054270, 0300048459

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