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Alexander I: The Tsar Who Defeated Napoleon Hardcover – November 15, 2012

3.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Napoleon is, of course, a familiar figure to even those only vaguely aware of the details of his career. Tsar Alexander I, the ruler most directly responsible for ending the supposed invincibility of Napoleon, receives little notice, especially on this side of the Atlantic. Rey, a professor of Russian and Soviet history at the Sorbonne, has written a detailed yet highly readable biography of a man whose character remains elusive and controversial. Alexander, the grandson of Catherine the Great, ascended the throne in 1801 after the brutal murder of his father by disgruntled nobles. Like his grandmother, he seemed influenced by Enlightenment ideas, proposed a series of liberal reforms, yet eventually became a staunch defender of autocracy. As a military leader, he could be mercurial, but he showed considerable steel in his spine in resisting Napoleon’s invasion. Rey probes but never resolves Alexander’s contradictory impulses, but this is a well-done biography that is appropriate for general readers interested in European history. --Jay Freeman

Review

"Alexander's great strength was the same as his fatal flaw: unbound by filial piety or consistent ideological conviction, he considered himself to be elect, the beneficiary of inspiration denied to other men. It is a truism that hubris of this kind leads reliably to disaster. What makes Rey's book so poignant and vital is the way she shows what else it can produce."
London Review of Books

“Rey … has written a detailed yet highly readable biography of a man whose character remains elusive and controversial…. This is a well-done biography that is appropriate for general readers interested in European history.”
Booklist

"This book does not dispel the mystery – an impossible task – but it is the most detailed biography available in English, and Rey makes extensive use of direct quotation to provide a revealing portrayal of an assertive, convinced reformer on the throne. Highly recommended."
–CHOICE


“Marie-Pierre Rey has written a new biography of Tsar Alexander I that should become the standard work in any language.”
TheJournal of Modern History

"This magisterial study of Alexander I rests on meticulous archival research and scholarly reading in multiple languages....This work will be a definitive study of Alexander I and the political history of his era."
Slavic Review
 
“This is a well-researched, comprehensive and balanced biography of Alexander I.”
Canadian-American Slavic Studies

"This new biography by Marie-Pierre Rey, a specialist in Russian history, is by far the best. Far from just reading the immense output of books and memoirs of the time, she has taken up the whole case by systematically consulting archives in several countries and the results are as splendid as the effort. . . . In this magisterial work there is no lapse; Marie-Pierre Rey is nuanced and subtle, her mastery of history is allied with the highest knowledge of the available sources."

(Le Monde)

"Marie-Pierre Rey with her Alexander I will surprise even the finest connoisseurs of Tsarism. First because she relies on a good number of unpublished sources and underused archives, then because she knows how to derive the most from them, and finally because she delivers a full psychology of a character who vertiginously tried to seize the course of history."

(Le Figaro)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 504 pages
  • Publisher: Northern Illinois University Press; Tra edition (November 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0875804667
  • ISBN-13: 978-0875804668
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #613,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found this to be an excellent book, both in the style of its writing which was very readable and in its in depth insight into the history of this fascinating man. It is not perhaps a book for a light reader as it is scholarly in its approach, and very much involved in the European politics of the period. But it is all the more interesting for that. The portrait of Alexander leaves one with the view that he was a man to be admired, while at the same time, blind to the sometimes inefficiency of some of his foreign policy, particularly in his dealings with Napoleon and later in his life to problems within Russia itself. This is one of the most fascinating parts of the book. I highly recommend this biography to anyone interested in Czarist Russia.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a mess. The translation is clumsy, the vocabulary often quirky in the extreme, and serious fact-checking and editing glaringly absent.
One would think that in a scholarly work (which this purports to be) someone would have noticed that there is a difference between Elbe (the river) and Elba (the island). Not so: "Prussia lost ... all its lands situated to the west of the Elba" [p.184] as well as some "land east of the Elba" [p.185]. And in 1813 Alexander celebrated Easter "on the banks of the Elba" [p.266]. Well, at least they're consistent.
Yaroslavl is a town in Russia, "Yaroslav" [p.128] isn't. Jena is a town in Germany, "Iena" [p.362] isn't. Sebastopol [p.377] lies in California, Sevastopol in Russia. Alexander had his summer residence on Kamenny (not "Kammeny" [p.132]) Island. The 1721 and 1743 peace treaties between Russia and Sweden were concluded in Nystad (not "Nystadt" [p.120]) and Åbo (not "Abbo" [p. 218]), respectively. And, since the Finnish (rather than the original Swedish) names of towns in Finland are consistently used elsewhere in the text, one would expect to see Uusikaupunki and Turku here. But perhaps someone didn't know that these were Finnish towns? The original Swedish name for Hamina is Fredrikshamn, not "Friedrichshamm" [p.406 n.27].
Mikhail Speransky couldn't possibly have been chancellor of the University of Turku [p.223] since that institution didn't come into being until 1920. He was chancellor of the Imperial Academy (Kejserliga Akademien) in Turku. Konstantin Pobedonostsev was not the "procurer of the Holy Synod" [p.382], he was its Chief Procurator.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the best biography on Alexander out there for sure. It covers all aspects of his life and not only the military and political parts. I got the idea of his personality and how he was the way he was from this book. It covers his childhood, adolescence, adulthood as well as his political life. No part of Alexander's life is left untouched by this book. To make things even better the book is well written and enjoyable. I would highly recommend reading this if you want to learn more about Alexander.
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