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Peter the Great: His Life and World Paperback – October 12, 1981

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Editorial Reviews


“Enthralling . . . as fascinating as any novel and more so than most.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Urgently readable . . . the work of a master of narrative history.”—Newsweek

“Written in a style that combines vigor, clarity, and sensitivity . . . should be the envy of historians and novelists alike.”—Chicago Sun-Times
“Fascinating . . . an absorbing book.”—The Plain Dealer
“Exceptional.”—The New Yorker

From the Inside Flap

"Enthralling . . . As fascinating as any novel and more so than most." The New York Times Book Review
The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Bestseller by the author of DREADNOUGHT.
Against the monumental canvas of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe and Russia unfolds the magnificent story of Peter the Great, one of the most extraordinary rulers in history. Impetuous and stubborn, generous and cruel, tender and unforgiving, a man of enormous energy and complexity, Peter the Great is brought fully to life in this exceptional biography.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 928 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reissue edition (October 12, 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345298063
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345298065
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (479 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Robert Massie is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, Dreadnought and The Romanovs: The Final Chapter. He lives in Irvington, New York.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

340 of 344 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 13, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am working on a doctorate in Russian history, and, consequently, have read many, many, books on Russia. This book is by far the best book on Russian history. Robert Massie's Peter the Great is an elegantly-written work which not only provides abundant and overflowing information about the "great" man, but which, like no other book, transports the reader into the world of late 17th century and early 18th century Russia. I know that many "serious historians" pooh-pooh this work and others because it is not "serious history." This attitude is tragic. If you are interested at all in good history and good story-telling, this is the book for you, even if your interest is not specifically in Russian history. The author presents his subject, Peter the Great, as a "real person"--one with both inspiring qualities and with not so inspiring qualities. Yes, there are alot of details about the military, however, these details all illustrate Peter's great attention to the creation of a navy from scratch and of the development of an army that went on to rival the greatest in the world. I cannot say enough good things about this book, and cannot thank the author enough for having written it and having inspired me to continue my own studies.
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80 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Quilp on January 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
Wow! Massie's Peter The Great is a fascinating study; an enjoyable read and a spectacular trip back through Russian history in the early 1700's. Even if you are not a history buff, you will enjoy Peter's thirst for knowledge, personal hands-on development of the Russian Navy, his massive economic, architectural and social reforms, ingenious manner of self-education by traveling incognito throughout Western Europe, his unique personality displayed through a mock Tsar who promotes Peter to Vice-Admiral, all-night drinking binges with his mock court and Peter's personal heroics.
Peter certainly earned his title and likewise I feel Massie can add "The Great" to his name. The best compliment I can give to Massie is I now have a tremendous thirst to study Peter's archenemy, Charles Xll, and learn Charles's perspective of Peter The Great.
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76 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Ray Farmer on July 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed this book that Robert K. Massie wrote about the life and personality of Peter the Great and the challenges he faced in trying to make Russia a major power on the European stage of the 18th century. Although Peter is accurately described as being a driven, uncompromising, and oftentimes ruthless man, this book also presents his softer, warmer side that usually opened up only to his second wife Catherine and to his inner group of trusted friends.
In reading the biography of Peter, a great deal of insight is also gained into the society and politics of 17th-18th century Russia and Europe, which in the hands of any other historian might be written in a dry and abstract manner. With Massie, however, he has such an engaging narrative style that the book reads like an action novel at times (such as in describing the Battle of Poltava).
Each personality of monarchs that Peter dealt with in Europe and the Middle East is given an ample introduction in "Peter the Great", which is entertaining reading in its own right. For example, we learn that Augustus II, King of Poland and useless ally of Peter in the Great Northern War, was a sexual philanderer of extreme proportions and that Frederick Wilhelm I, King of Prussia, had his famous collection of giants and suffered from pains that almost drove him to insanity.
Of course, a major portion of the book is devoted to the conflict between Peter and his archnemesis Charles XII in the Great Northern War. Massie recounts how Charles' fanaticism and his legendary aura of invincibility eventually brought the Swedish empire to its knees.
All in all, this is a book that would appeal to the general interest reader, as well as to the Russophile and to the person interested in European history.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By W J Punt on October 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
Recuperating from illness at the house of an American friend in New Delhi. I discovered this book tucked away in his library. My bedridden days flew by as I became engrossed in one of the best biographies I have read in a long time What a magnificent attempt at describing the life and time of a truly remarkable individual like Peter the Great.
Mr Massie presents the historical fact in a clear and concise manner without sacrificing detail. The work is both rewarding for serious history students as well as those of us after a good read. Indeed the charm of this book is that it reads like a real page turning novel. The reader get a wonderful insight right trough the book of what life in Russia was like in the 17th century not just for a Tsar but for the common people as well Loads of little anecdotes and commentaries colour the story without obscuring it.
This is a story of awakening ,will to power and courage - Of a man and a nation - par excellance .
The book starts with the context that Peter was born into. A Russia still very much steeped in the deep middle ages of superstition and religious fundamentalism. His father Tsar Alexis and the his mother Tsaritsa Natalya doted on him as well as his sickly half brother Ivan ( his later co Tsar until he died at age 29) and from the very beginning the young prince showed that he was made of special stuff. The untimely death of his father, his days at Preobrazhenskoe playing soldier as a boy( the Preobrazhenskoe regiment was the automatic regiment that all Tsars belonged to until 1917 following in the tradition started by Peter) as well as the Strelsky revolt that nearly saw him and his mother slaughtered by the palace guards gets illuminated as the main formative events in the young princes life.
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