Peter the Great: A Biography by Lindsey Hughes - review by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Simon Sebag Montefiore

Colossus who Married His Best Friend’s Moll

Peter the Great: A Biography


Yale University Press 275pp £19.95 order from our bookshop

Here at last is a fascinating and compellingly readable but also scholarly and crisply written biography of the brutal, debauched and brilliant tsar who formed modern Russia. Lindsey Hughes, Professor of Russian History at the School of Slavonic Studies, is our greatest living expert on the life of Peter the Great. In many ways she is the conscious heir of Isabel de Madariaga, our greatest living expert on Catherine the Great. De Madariaga wrote her classic Russia in the Age of the Catherine the Great (just republished by Phoenix Press) and followed it up with a short biography of Catherine; Hughes published her magisterial Russia in the Age of Peter the Great in 1998 – and now she follows it up with her superb short biography of Peter. Hughes tells the story coolly, but with a real eye for the human detail, a sympathy for character and a certain relish for the savagery of this bloody tale. She also has the academic authority to analyse the court politics and culture. This is one of those subjects about which there is no need to exaggerate, or to propagate the many lies, misunderstandings and rumours that tend to pollute less scholarly accounts:

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