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Peter the Great - His Life and World Unknown Binding – 1980
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Massie's brilliant narrative depicts Peter as a man who towered, both literally and figuratively, over his world. When he reached full adulthood, he stood six feet seven inches tall. He was a man possessed with many paradoxes... an absolute autocrat who disdained the glitter, trappings, and ceremonial pomp of his royal station, preferring instead a simpler, more unadorned lifestyle.
Forced to abandon his formal education at an early age, he continued his education informally, becoming largely self taught and reasonably literate in the process. He derived his greatest pleasures from working with his hands. It was he who built, almost single-handedly, the first boats of what would eventually become the Russian navy; it was also he who laid the plans for, and personally built much of the Russian city which now bears his name: St. Petersburg.
The main thrust of "Peter the Great: His Life and World" is not so much an examination of Peter's personal qualities (although Massie's portrayal of Peter the man is nothing short of masterful), but of how he used the force of his personality to transform Russia, during his lifetime, from a backward medieval kingdom of little consequence into a major European political and military power. Massie devotes the vast majority of Peter the Great to spin a highly detailed, absorbing, and wonderfully written narrative of the events which led to Peter's - and Russia's - evolution.
From his "Great Embassy" at age eighteen, when he traveled incognito to all the major western European capitals (becoming the first Tsar to do so), to his numerous wars with the Ottoman Empire (present-day Turkey), to his ten-year long "Great Northern War" with Sweden and its king, Charles XII, Peter is seen as forcing the pace of events throughout Europe, thereby modernizing and expanding Russia and planting the seeds of future greatness for the nation he loved above all else.
Robert K. Massie has continued his fine tradition of writing extremely readable, highly entertaining, and factually sound biographies. With "Peter the Great: His Life and World," he completely captures the essence of this towering eighteenth century figure, and does it in such a way as to make him totally relevant to today's readers. This is a biography that's indeed very well worth reading!