The Tsar in England: Peter the Great's Visit to London in 1698(1)

By MacGregor, Arthur | The Seventeenth Century, April 2004 | Go to article overview

The Tsar in England: Peter the Great's Visit to London in 1698(1)


MacGregor, Arthur, The Seventeenth Century


Although it has been suggested that England was included - along with Rome and Venice - in the earliest itineraries planned for the 'Great Embassy' mounted by Peter the Great in 1696, there is no evidence that it remained a priority by the time the 200-strong party left Moscow in the following year. The decision that he should undertake the voyage across the North Sea seems rather to have been an impetuous one, conceived while the Tsar and his party were already settled in Amsterdam, developed at a hastily arranged meeting on 11 September 1697 with the English monarch King William III, who happened fortuitously to be at Utrecht, and concluded shortly afterwards. The encounter between the two rulers was quickly recognized as of significant diplomatic importance and led to the striking of a medal to commemorate the occasion (Fig. 1).

Two considerations predominated in the Tsar's mind in seeking to develop a bond with Britain, of which the principal was his long-term desire to forge alliances with other European powers in his protracted struggle against the Turks, a matter made suddenly all the more acute by France's conclusion of an alliance with the Ottoman Empire. In this context, Peter's meeting with William III was a timely one: the King had played a prominent role in the War of the Grand Alliance against France, which was drawn to a successful conclusion with the signing of the Treaty of Ryswick nine days later, on 20 September 1697, while France's naval forces had been effectively confined to port. We need not doubt the sincerity of Peter's expressions of admiration for British military prowess - not even his claim to regret that 'since the peace is so nearly concluded, he would not have the opportunity . . . of fighting under the banner of England against France', or his declaration that 'if the war continued, he and his armies were at his majesty's service'.2

The second motive Peter had for visiting England - more prosaic than the first though not unrelated to it - was prompted by his hunger for knowledge of western technology, and particularly of ship-building techniques, a preoccupation born of his desire to build a navy that would hold in check the Turkish fleet in the Black Sea. The experience he had gained at first hand while working in the Dutch shipyards, although valuable, had ultimately proved frustrating. Dutch ships of the period were as good as any, but Peter evidently found that dockyard practice in the Netherlands involved a disconcerting measure of intuition and unwritten custom that was difficult to codify with a view to introducing these same practices to Russia: according to the Introduction to a contemporary translation of Peter's Naval Regulation of 1720, he found that in Holland 'this art was not taught in the mathematical way, but only some principles of it, so that the rest must be acquired by long practice and experience'. This discovery, it was said, 'gave him a great uneasiness, that he had undertaken so long a journey for that purpose, and had failed in this end, so much desired'.3We can well believe the same report when it mentions that when Peter was told that in England 'this kind of practice is raised to the same perfection as other arts and sciences, and might be learned in a short time',4 his mind would quickly have been made up.

For their part the English had quite a different agenda in cultivating the Tsar, one that was dominated by considerations of trade. Earlier commercial treaties between Muscovy and England had been abrogated by Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich half a century earlier, ostensibly in response to the overthrow of King Charles I and his execution in 1649. As a result, the fortunes of England's Russia Company had declined considerably and its former monopoly on trade was now under attack from a new generation of entrepreneurs eager to break the Company's strangle-hold on commercial relations.5 The Muscovy merchants, on the other hand, doubtless would have been immensely eager to capitalize on the Tsar's presence on their home territory:6 there existed a healthy demand in England for Russian raw materials, especially from the ship-building industry,7 while English tobacco merchants had already expressed ambitions to penetrate the vast, under-developed market in Russia with a view to marketing their rapidly expanding stocks of Virginiagrown tobacco. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Tsar in England: Peter the Great's Visit to London in 1698(1)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.