The British discovery of Russia was thus a slow and uneven process. Not until the reign of Peter I did the country become an element of importance in the political outlook of the educated Englishman. Not until the 1790's did Anglo- Russian relations become the subject of sustained and thoughtful debate. From the days of Ivan IV to those of the French Revolution trade remained in the eyes of the majority of Englishmen the most important and most durable link between the two states.
This somewhat narrow and matter-of-fact attitude meant that in the century and a half which followed the death of Elizabeth there was in Britain little disinterested curiosity about Russian affairs and little inclination to take an interest in them for their own sake. Signs of such a curiosity and such an interest can be seen from the visit of Peter I onwards, but not for another two generations do these feelings become sustained and important. Provided that hemp, masts, timber and other necessary imports continued to flow smoothly from St. Petersburg and Riga to British ports, and that Russia did not appear to threaten any important political interest of Great Britain, most people were prepared until very late in the eighteenth century to take the country for granted as a powerful but remote state on the periphery of Europe, not altogether uninteresting, but hardly worthy of the attention paid to France, Italy or the Netherlands. A political conflict between the two countries, a temporary disturbance to the flow of trade, a particularly spectacular internal upheaval in Russia, might for a moment ruffle this smooth surface of acceptance. But not until the 1790's were events able to provoke many people into asking really searching questions about the essential nature of Russia and her relationship to Europe.