Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Peter the Great: His Life and World” as Want to Read:
Peter the Great: His Life and World
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Peter the Great: His Life and World

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  7,273 ratings  ·  466 reviews
Against the monumental canvas of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe and Russia, unfolds the magnificent story of Peter the Great, crowned at the age of 10. A barbarous, volatile feudal tsar with a taste for torture; a progressive and enlightened reformer of government and science; a statesman of vision and colossal significance: Peter the Great embodied the greates ...more
Paperback, 909 pages
Published April 19th 2001 by W&N (first published 1980)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Peter the Great, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Peter the Great

John Adams by David McCullough1776 by David McCulloughThe Guns of August by Barbara W. TuchmanTeam of Rivals by Doris Kearns GoodwinThe Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer
Best History Books
20th out of 1,696 books — 1,664 voters
Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. MassieCatherine the Great by Robert K. MassiePeter the Great by Robert K. MassieThe Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 by Aleksandr SolzhenitsynNatasha's Dance by Orlando Figes
Best Russian History Books
3rd out of 282 books — 239 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
This lengthy biography of Russian Tsar Peter the Great is thoroughly entertaining with all the strengths and weaknesses of a blockbuster. No prior knowledge of the period required.

Maybe because it is a biography it doesn't give much attention to the extent of the terror and suffering caused by the massive mobilisation and movements of population caused by his military and civil policies (Anisimov's book The Reforms of Peter the Great Progress Through Coercion in Russia is great on this even if t
Feb 24, 2015 none rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to none by: Bettie
Shelves: favorites, film-only
Peter the Great, the Devil, the Antichrist, all and more in this seminal rendering of the Russian Czar who looked to the West.


If you complain about today, you should read about then. You were considered a bitch if you ate with a fork, just for starters. Men might prefer to live back then cause they inherited a whip from their father in-law to whip their spouses when they got out of line. The only person I know today that practices this form of discipline is Snoop Dogg (You gots to control your ho!). Peter was great for many reasons. The russians in this day were like the geico cavemen of their time. Peter was the first ...more
Quân Khuê
(không phải là review)

vài ghi nhớ:

+ Pyotr Đại đế đã biến Nga từ chỗ một đất nước lạc hậu thành một đế quốc bằng cách học theo phương Tây. (Sau này, Nhật trở thành một đế quốc hùng cường cũng bằng cách học theo phương Tây.)

+ Ông học cách đóng tàu của người Hà Lan, Anh và Venice. Học cách làm thương mại của người Hà Lan. Đích thân ông được cấp chứng chỉ đóng tàu chuyên môn. Nga từ chỗ không có hạm đội nào đi đến chỗ đưa tàu chiến ra biển Đen uy hiếp Đế quốc Ottoman và về sau làm mưa làm gió trên b
The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon)
Robert Massie's "Peter the Great: His life and World" has been a wonderful book to listen to, for me. The book is well researched and offers what is likely an accurate picture of an important figure in the History of Western Civilization. Before I get to deep into my romantic vision of what Massie has done here, let me say that this is first and foremost a text of history. It is almost 38 hour narrated as an audiobook and covers Peter's life in three segments, his rise to power, wars (mostly wit ...more
If you read just one book on Peter the Great, this should be it. If you read two books on Peter the Great, let me know how the other one turns out (just kidding, there are probably other good books on Peter the Great, but none likely as well written as this one).

This book succeeds not just because it deals with a fascinating person in a time where the landscape of the world was ever changing, but it succeeds because the author, Robert Massie, is a fantastic and engaging writer. Seriously, to ma
Erik Graff
Sep 28, 2012 Erik Graff rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: John Elkin
Shelves: biography
Having panned Massie's first book, Nicholas and Alexandria (1967), I have to congratulate him on this one, written thirteen years later: Peter the Great. However, I don't know as much about the period of Peter's life (1672-1725) as I did about Nicholas' (1868-1917) so some of the applause may be credited to my ignorance and credulousness, but I also think that Massie put more work into researching and writing this biography and that thirteen years, and several books, have made him a better write ...more
It's been many years since I read this book, so I can't be terribly detailed, but I will tell you that this book is what led to my fascination with the Russian Tsars. It's beautifully detailed, providing not only the story of Peter the Great himself, but also all the other rulers with whom he interacted. The descriptions are beyond parallel. When I was reading it, I would think to myself, "I can actually smell the city." A truly amazing and enthralling book about history.

My original edition was
Oct 05, 2008 Srini rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: every one
Can one man raise a country from mud to glory? Yes, if its Peter, Tsar of Russia.
Can one book capture the complexity of the people, the country and their first truly great leader who dragged the country kicking and screaming into the heart of European geopolitics?
Yes. This is the book. One of the best works of narrative history ever. This is how history should come alive.
I have always been fascinated by Russian history and decided that it was finally time to check this book out of the library. It wasn't that I didn't want to read it--I mean, it won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Biography--it was that every time I go to the library I emerge with an armload of books and, at over 900 pages, this book could literally inflict damage if it slipped from my grasp and fell. However, one day last week I ran into the library with four books that were in danger of being overd ...more
WOW what a challenge to get through. It's not only that the book is big; I'm a fast reader, and I would say it took me about four days not counting the lengthy breaks between reading sessions. It's that much of the material is heavy reading. The guy forces his first wife into a convent and later has her son beaten to death, a fate which, I'm sure, rather affected how the two grandchildren felt about the Tsar. Charles the XII of Sweden invades Russia; his army sustains itself partly by hanging li ...more
Widely considered Robert K. Massie's magnum opus, "Peter the Great: His Life and World" is 855 pages of finely researched work. This being the third Massie book I've read, despite the greatness of this work, I still consider "Catherine the Great" Massie's finest.
Male readers might appreciate the details outlined by Massie of the military campaigns led by Peter, while female readers like myself are more likely to appreciate the personal details and stories of this piece. While this may be a ge
Feb 28, 2009 Jonathan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: European history buffs, biography lovers
Recommended to Jonathan by: Ariel H.
Shelves: non-fiction
Robert Massie is a master of historical narrative, and here he turns his attention to a subject fully deserving of his exhaustive style. Crowned Tsar at the age of ten, Peter the Great single-handedly pulled his country out of the backwater malaise in which it was mired, and placed it squarely in the center of the European picture, where it has remained to this day. Peter's forceful personality is given plenty of room to present itself through the book. In his early twenties, he traveled through ...more
Carl R.
If You were Peter the Great

You would kill your son

Because he had no interest in Tsardom

Because you’d planted an autocrat seed

And it grew into a common man tree

And you couldn’t coerce it out of its nature

So you’d pull out the ax


Sap/blood flowing free


Robert K. Massie is not a fluent writer, and this 855 page tome of his was a bit of a haul. He does not have that easy flow you find in a McCulloch or Goodwin, or even of Henri Troyat, who did a great job on both Catherine the Great and T
Massie is massive, a mediocre writer, and padded. In some ways, I got a better sense of Charles XII of Sweden -- Peter's two-decade adversary -- than Peter himself. And it was criminal to omit maps of the progress of building St. Petersburg, his greatest achievement.

Still, much to like, including a reasonably straight-forward chronology of his Peter's life and effect on the Russian nation. Written before the fall of the USSR, it's a bit out of date, and so I wonder how much more information migh
Excellent book about one of the towering figures (Peter I was 6'7") in world history. After reading this I have read many books about Peter, but this is still the best.
Christine Ward
Note: The above rating should be 3 1/2 stars.

Often, monarchs are given titles (or, more accurately, give themselves titles) that are grandiose and exaggerated. Not in the case. Peter of Russia was truly "Great". He singlehandedly brought Russia out of its Dark Ages (although there was still much work to be done), introduced the new Russia to Europe, who heretofore had thought of Russians as slightly humanized bears, and introduced many, many "modern" inventions, strategies, statecraft, and ideas
Having read two books about Catherine the Great, I was curious about what happened before her time. Whew!! What a read. I am a fast reader but even I had to borrow this book from the library twice to get through it. An extremely complex man, to say the least. He single-handedly pulled Russia into modern and Western civilization. Massie gives a balanced account of someone who could be unbelievably generous and turn around and be unbelievably cruel, literally. There is no hiding of his cruelty or ...more
In the All-Russian contest “Name of Russia”, aimed to elect the most notable personality in Russian history by voting via the Internet, radio and television Peter I finished fifth. Ahead of another person who radically altered the destiny of Russia after him – Vladimir Lenin. The guy who brought here Christianity – Prince Vladimir I – and the guy responsible for the downfall of the USSR - Mikhail Gorbachev – didn’t even make it to Top 50 (though Boris Yeltsin did). This illustrates the importanc ...more
Elizabeth S
Although long, this biography of Peter the Great was very readable. It was written at exactly the right level for me. I am interested in history, but I didn't know much about Russia before the twentieth century. Massie gives incredible detail, interspersed with appropriate anecdotes, and still the book does not drag.

I very much appreciated, and enjoyed, the brief histories given of the various countries/states/empires that came into play during the book. Massie meant it when he put "and World"
Absolutely sublime. An amazing portrait of one of modern history's most seminal visionaries. A view into the complex personality of an autocrat forcing his people to leave the medieval world, coalesce as a nation and become a player on the world stage. Peter was superhuman in his energy and breadth of interests and all too human in his grievances and struggles with his temper and a physical condition which caused him to have mini-seizures throughout his life. His was a constant trial to balance ...more
Frederico Diniz
This is a great book. I have learned a lot about european history and how politics works. Princes, kings, generals, everybody. And how France of Luis XIV, England, Sweden - Karl XII - and ottomans go or not to war.
After reading this book, it is impossible to deny that "the Great" is a well-earned title for Peter. Massie's very readable biography illustrates how one remarkable man almost singlehandedly pulled Russia from the dark ages right into the middle of the European theater. It would take an entire book for me to even list all the reasons this man was so remarkable (but hey, that's why you should read this one!). One of Massie's greatest strengths as a biographer is his ability to place his character ...more
Neil Pearson
This book leaves no stone uncovered when it comes to Peter the Great and is a probably the best place for someone to get a thorough overview of the man and his deeds. It's also pretty good at establishing Charles XII and various other monarchs who Peter encountered. The problem is that it is very detailed and can get bogged down in places. I strangely found the battle discussions less engaging than the sections on political reform.
The author does a good job of showing how Russia was dragged alon
This was a fun book to read, that took me forever to finish mostly because of the atrocious paperback printing (you know, the usual, ultra-thick with tiny text and margins so wide that they touched the glue in the middle). Massie repeats just enough information chapter-to-chapter so that it's comfortable to take long breaks between reading, but not too imposing. I enjoyed how the book explored the 18th century culture not only in Russia but also in Europe and the Ottoman Empire. Also, though he ...more
Paul Frandano
A grudging five stars because sometimes Massie seems ready to swamp us in details, to want to tell us everything he and his research team have uncovered for, say, campaign after campaign in the war of the moment - for Peter seemed always off on one war or another, with the Turks, the Swedes, the Poles, the Walachians, the Crimean Tatars, and on and on - giving us the names of each general commanding which brigades and assaulting that particularly wobbly center of gravity in the enemy line, at wh ...more
Steven Peterson
This is a rich, detailed examination of the life of Peter the Great. One almost gets a sense that his was a life characterized by ADHD--but with enough ability and imagination and focus that the almost out of control energy worked to his homeland's benefit.

This book examines in considerable depth the arc of his life, from childhood and the dangers that he faced, to his play warrior simulations, to his journey abroad, to his desire to reshape Russia as a more modern nation. Well told is his zeal
I read this book in 6th grade, continuing a love affair with Russia that began when as an even younger child I found a small yellowed book in my local library written entirely in Cyrillic. It was a Russian book of children's stories and I spent hours deciphering the graphic characters on the page, teasing out story details. The letters seemed familiar, comforting, and mysterious all at once. As I took history courses and read more on Russia, I felt (and feel now) at home in those histories and w ...more
Alan Jacobs
"Great" is an understatement. The is an epic telling of Peter's story, as he roams, often incognito, all over the vast European sector of Russia, and on to the capitals of Europe. He expands the borders of Russia, reforms the religion, shaves all the men of his country (sometimes personally, with knife in hand), changes how everyone dresses, builds a great city on a former swamp, vanquishes his greatest enemy (King Charles of Sweden), personally leads armies, and especially navies, into battle, ...more
A magnificent story told by Robert K. Massie of the life and times of Peter the Great of Russia. Crowned tsar at 10, assumed control of his realm at 18 and then led his country through three and a half decades of war and transformation until his death at 54. Robert tells Peter's story - with all its warts and blemishes - through the context of the Russia, Europe, and Asia of his time. It is an amazing story of the incredible curiosity, impetuosity and energy of this one man who more than any oth ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Catherine the Great
  • A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924
  • The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II
  • Catherine the Great: Love, Sex, and Power
  • Potemkin: Catherine the Great's Imperial Partner
  • Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives
  • The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture
  • A History of Russia
  • Khrushchev: The Man and His Era
  • From Splendor to Revolution: The Romanov Women, 1847--1928
  • The Romanovs: Autocrats of All the Russians
  • Great Catherine: The Life of Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia
  • Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus
  • Stalin
  • Little Mother of Russia: A Biography of the Empress Marie Feodorovna (1847-1928)
  • Tsar: The Lost World of Nicholas and Alexandra
  • George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I
  • King, Kaiser, Tsar: Three Royal Cousins Who Led The World To War
Robert Kinloch Massie (born 1929) is an American historian, writer, winner of a Pulitzer Prize, and a Rhodes Scholar.

Born in Lexington, Kentucky in 1929, Massie spent much of his youth in Nashville, Tennessee and currently resides in Westchester County, New York in the village of Irvington. He studied American history at Yale University and modern European history at Oxford University on his Rhode
More about Robert K. Massie...

Share This Book

“For twenty years, Peter had been playing with soldiers; first toys, then boys, then grown men. His games had grown from drills involving a few hundred idle stable boys and falconers to 30,000 men involved in the assault and defense of the river fort of Pressburg. Now, seeking the excitement of real combat, he looked for a fortress to besiege, and Azov, isolated at the bottom of the Ukrainian steppe, suited admirably.” 1 likes
“Peter returned to Russia determined to remold his country along Western lines. The old Muscovite state, isolated and introverted for centuries, would reach out to Europe and open itself to Europe. In a sense, the flow of effect was circular: the West affected Peter, the Tsar had a powerful impact upon Russia, and Russia, modernized and emergent, had a new and greater influence on Europe. For all three, therefore—Peter, Russia and Europe—the Great Embassy was a turning point.” 1 likes
More quotes…