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Peter the Great: His Life and World

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  6,374 ratings  ·  425 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)
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Feb 24, 2015 Cheryl rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Cheryl by: Bettie
Shelves: film-only, favorites
Peter the Great, the Devil, the Antichrist, all and more in this seminal rendering of the Russian Czar who looked to the West.


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
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
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
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.
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
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
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 Brush
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Michael Elkon
This is a long book, but a worthwhile use of time. Massie does a great job of producing readable, detailed history. He does a great job of contextualizing Peter by describing the other players, both within Russia and outside of it. (I stopped reading John Meacham's book on Thomas Jefferson because of the author's failure to do the same.) I came out of the book with a passable sense as to the importance of Louis the XIV of France, Charles the XII of Sweden, Frederick the II of Prussia, and George ...more
Lauren Schumacher
It appears I'm moving backwards through weighty biographies of famous Russian rulers. Seems that next I'll have to determine what was so Terrible about ol' Ivan!

I thought Peter would make for a fascinating subject, and I wasn't wrong per se, but a lot of the crazy and cool anecdotes about his life lose some flavor when placed into their historical and personal context. I had imagined him as a seven foot-tall fur-caped lunatic, springing up onto the dinner table to rip the aching teeth out of his
Todd Wright
It is Labor Day weekend and I have spent more than six weeks reading this book, I adopted Peter’s strategy at Poltava, I conquer this book by Monday or I retreat and put it to the torch. Fortunately, I finished the book.

I debated with myself about how to rate this book, I thought it was very well written and deserving of 5 stars. On the other hand, it was too long – over 900 pages. Eventually I decided the fault was with me and not the book, I was unable to decide what I would have excluded from
I don't think he was so great.
I don't even think he was Peter the Pretty Good.
I think he was Peter the Creep.
The evidence:
* Unwilling to share power, he had his older sister exiled to a convent. Blaming her for inciting a rebellion from inside the convent walls, he had two of the rebels hung outside of her window.
* He grew tired of his first wife and had her, also, sent to a convent.
* Even while he was negotiating a peace treaty with Sweden, he was cementing an alliance with other nations to wag
Well, the book and the emperor pretty much live up to their name. Three separate friends told me this was one of the best books each ever read and between that and its Pulitzer prize I was determined to read it, even though almost 900 pages of dense, complicated history was daunting.

I knew nothing about Russian history prior to reading the book but this would be a fascinating read regardless of your academic level. The writing is accesible but thorough and quite analytical. I learned so much ab
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"
It's completely amazing. Even if you're not specifically interested in this history, there's no way you can't love this book. The anecdotes will blow your mind. Understanding contemporary Russia is contingent on knowing this history, since Peter turned Russia from an ass backwards wild mess into a civilized world power. Truly amazing, considering what he had to work with. The book really gives you a great concept of his personality (totally crazy, manic, genius) in the greater context of war and ...more
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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...
Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman Nicholas and Alexandra The Romanovs: The Final Chapter Dreadnought Castles of Steel

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“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
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