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Revolutions and the Making of the Modern World

From Peter the Great to Karl Marx

James Cracraft

Edited By William Benton Whisenhunt

Professor James Cracraft is an established specialist on early modern Russian history, particularly the era of Peter the Great (1682-1725), tsar and first Russian emperor. This volume gathers some of the many key articles and reviews published by him over the last forty years and more in a wide variety of scholarly venues, some of which are not readily accessible. They constitute in sum important contributions not only to Russian history broadly understood, but also to the study of history itself. The collection will include a preface by the editor and an introduction by the author, where he will sum up his decades of historical work and point to new avenues of needed research, all the while emphasizing that "history" properly understood does not exist somewhere on its own but is the creation, however imperfect, of professional historians (as "chemistry", say, is properly understood as the work, however imperfect, of professional chemists).

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Editor’s Note


James Cracraft had a long career teaching at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) where he quickly gained notoriety in the history profession for his first book, The Church Reform of Peter the Great (Stanford University Press, 1971). From there he became a leading authority on Petrine studies, especially reflected in his later “trilogy” of works on Peter’s influence on Russia’s architecture, imagery, and culture. Yet, as is evident from this collection, Cracraft’s historical expertise expanded into many areas of Russian history, historiography, and beyond. This collection provides a fascinating and compelling compendium of works published across several decades that encapsulate Cracraft’s overall historical view. I am certain the reader will appreciate the range and depth of his scholarship.

When he asked me to edit this collection of his works, I was flattered and humbled. After working through all nineteen essays in this collection, it only made me think of what a small sample this is of his overall contribution to the field of Russian history and beyond. As one of his doctoral students (in the mid-1990s), two memories of working with him come to mind. The first was the feedback he would give me on papers that I submitted in classes. While he often gave constructive comments, I remember fondly and frustratingly that he would often just write, “So what?” in the margins (almost always in pencil). While he was right, I still found it frustrating at times trying to answer that question. ←vii | viii→Sometimes...

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