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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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13 Great Catherine

Extract

Catherine the Great: Life and Legend. By John T. Alexander. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. xii, 418 pp. Index. Plates. $13.95, paper.

It is only fair to judge a book, especially one as large and important as this, by its stated intentions and purposes. These are, as clearly set out in its preface, to provide a “balanced biography” of Empress Catherine II of Russia that is “accessible to the average educated reader.” In doing so, it will “utilize both specialized literature and popular accounts, together with a broad cross section of published and unpublished sources.” The book thus “aspires to bridge the chasm” that its author has found between “broad popular treatments that are long on gossip and drama but short on facts and context, and specialized scholarly studies that are often inaccessible to general readers.” John T. Alexander, professor of history at the University of Kansas and himself a well published specialist on the period, is well aware of the fact that Catherine’s “primary claim to fame rests on her multiple roles as sovereign ruler [for more than 34 years] of the emergent political colossus of Europe and Asia—the multinational Russian Empire”; and his main effort “will be to present Catherine as ruler of the largest territorial political unit in modern history.” Yet Alexander also supposes it to be a fact, and one of equal weight, that Catherine “still enjoys immense [popular] recognition as ←217 | 218→celebrity, superstar, and sex symbol.” Indeed, in his lengthy...

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