Britain's Discovery of Russia, 1553-1815

By M. S. Anderson | Go to book overview

Chapter Three
THE AGE OF PETER THE GREAT

'Yesterday the czar of Muscovy was brought from Greenwhich in his majesties barge, and at present lyes incognito at a house joyning to the water-side in Norfolk street.' Thus simply a contemporary chronicler recorded the arrival in London of Peter I in January 1698.1 His visit to England, which lasted for four months, is the most picturesque episode in the history of Anglo-Russian relations and could hardly fail to arouse some interest in the country which he had thus honoured. Nevertheless by itself it could do little to shake the conventional picture of Russia and the Russians which for nearly a century and a half had been becoming established there.

Peter's unorthodox personality stimulated a good deal of comment, half amused, half scandalised. 'After I had seen him often,' wrote Bishop Burnet, 'and had conversed much with him, I could not but adore the depth of the providence of God, that had raised up such a furious man to so absolute an authority over so great a part of the world.'2 In particular his absorption in naval matters and his curious shyness in public were commented on with some surprise.3 Nor was the curiosity which he aroused all completely disinterested. Appearing almost as the inhabitant of another planet, he could not avoid the attention of spectators and projectors anxious to submit to him schemes for the development of Russia, and, in some cases at least, their own profit. Such was the Marquis of Carmarthen, himself an

____________________
1
N. Luttrell, A Brief Historical Relation of State Affairs from September 1678 to April 1714 ( Oxford, 1857), iv. 330.
2
History of his own time ( Oxford, 1833), iv. 408.
3
Burnet thought him 'designed by nature rather to be a ship-carpenter, than a great prince' (ibid., iv. 407). Cf. Luttrell, op. cit., iv. 330-2, 368; Diary and Correspondence of John Evelyn, ed. W. Bray ( London, 1906), iii. 138 and note 2.

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Britain's Discovery of Russia, 1553-1815
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • Abbreviations *
  • Chapter One The Age of Elizabeth 1
  • Chapter Two The Seventeenth Century 33
  • Chapter Three The Age of Peter the Great 49
  • Chapter Four Widening Horizons, 1725-1815 80
  • Chapter Five Russia and Europe Through British Eyes, 1725-91 108
  • Chapter Six The Crisis of 1791 143
  • Chapter Seven The Destruction of Poland 186
  • Chapter Eight The War Against The French Revolution 198
  • Chapter Nine The Campaign of 1812 215
  • Conclusion 233
  • Index 237
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