Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great

Synopsis

Neither a comprehensive 'life and times' nor a conventional biography, this is an engaging and accessible exploration of rulership and monarchial authority in eighteenth century Russia. Its purpose is to see how Catherine II of Russia conceived of her power and how it was represented to her subjects. Simon Dixon asks essential questions about Catherin'es life and reign, and offers new and stimulating arguments about the Englightenment, the power of the monarch in early modern Europe, and the much-debated role of the "great individual" in history.

Excerpt

Though it was completed in Leeds, this is in many ways a Glasgow book. Commissioned by Keith Robbins as he left for Lampeter, it emerged under the enlightened despotism of his successors as head of department: Alan Smith, Hew Strachan, Evan Mawdsley and David Bates. I owe much to encouragement from colleagues. Matthew Strickland was unstinting in his support. Archie Duncan, Lionel Glassey, Nicholas Hope and Colin Kidd generously exchanged both books and ideas. Stuart Airlie, Chris Black and Thomas Munck – ideal fellows in any Republic of Letters – shouldered an extra burden by reading drafts and suggesting improvements. I am delighted to take this opportunity to thank all those who presented me with Caroline Watson’s splendid 1787 engraving of Catherine, done from the Roslin portrait in the collection of her ambassador at the Court of St James’s, Count S.R. Vorontsov. Most of all, however, I am indebted to those undergraduates who took my special subject, ‘Catherine the Great and the Enlightenment in Russia’. Some have gone on to academic distinction elsewhere; I am honoured to count several among my best friends. All of them helped to sustain me, sometimes without realising it. It would be invidious to mention names. But they know who they are.

It is a tribute to Glasgow University Library and the Brotherton Library at Leeds (not to mention the courtesy of their hard-pressed staff) that I should have been able to meet so many needs from local resources. Nevertheless, I could not have written this book without the hospitality in Cambridge of Tim and Nicky Blanning, Jon Parry, and the Master and Fellows of Sidney Sussex College. In London, I have been equally generously entertained by Lindsey Hughes and Jim Cutshall. The Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Caledonian Research Foundation and the British Academy subsidised visits to Helsinki and St Petersburg that were primarily linked to another project but incidentally fertilised this one. The Study Group on Eighteenth-Century Russia remains a unique reservoir of unselfishly shared expertise: I must particularly thank Roger Bartlett, Tony Cross, Gareth Jones, Joachim Klein and Isabel de Madariaga. I am further indebted to Roger Bartlett, Janet Hartley, David Moon, Hamish Scott and Ian Thatcher for the gift of books and articles. Derek Beales has been a constant source of inspiration and advice. These friends – in concert with all those new colleagues who have welcomed me to Leeds – have done much to account for whatever merit this book may possess. I lay sole claim to any remaining blemishes.

Transliteration follows the Library of Congress system. I have resolved the vexed question of place-names somewhat arbitrarily by adopting common anglicisations where these exist (so, Moscow not Moskva), and Russian variants where they do not (thus, Kuchuk Kainardzhi not Küçük Kaynarca). Unless otherwise indicated, dates are . . .

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