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Peter the Great: His Life and World

4.22  ·  Rating Details ·  8,455 Ratings  ·  519 Reviews
Great historical book!
Paperback, 914 pages
Published April 16th 2009 by Knopf (first published 1980)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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 15, 2010 Fee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Lubinka Dimitrova
Robert K. Massie won my heart with his book about Catherine the Great, so I definitely had to read the one about Peter as well. I cannot believe that I postponed it for so long. This will be one of the best books I've read this year. Massie writes in a clear and concise manner, spicing up the story with ample details which nonetheless never burden the line of narration. The book is perfectly suited both for serious history students as well as those of us who simply enjoy reading history. Indeed ...more
Aug 21, 2011 rmn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Quân Khuê
Jun 19, 2016 Quân Khuê rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
(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
Oct 05, 2008 Srini rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 25, 2013 Katy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Erik Graff
Sep 28, 2012 Erik Graff rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Sotiris Karaiskos
Sep 27, 2016 Sotiris Karaiskos rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography
Ένα από τα καλύτερα ιστορικά βιβλία που έχω διαβάσει. Ένα βιβλίο που δεν μας δίνει απλά μία βιογραφία του Μεγάλου Πέτρου αλλά ζωντανεύει μπροστά μας ολόκληρη την εποχή που έζησε. Είναι βέβαια αρκετά μεγάλο και παρέχει έναν ιδιαίτερα μεγάλο όγκο πληροφοριών, η μεθοδικότητά του συγγραφέα όμως και η σχεδόν μυθιστορηματική γραφή του το κάνει να μην είναι σε κανένα σημείο κουραστικό.
Mar 23, 2016 Fergie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 gen
Jun 02, 2013 Judy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Dec 18, 2015 Kathy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A tome to read for certain, but very well written and so much information. Amazing story and a great introduction to Modern Russian history for me.
Dec 22, 2011 Tripleguess rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 28, 2009 Jonathan rated it really liked it  ·  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.
May 16, 2012 Carl R. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 21, 2015 Betsy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 01, 2012 Donna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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"
Jul 13, 2012 Dorothy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
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
Jul 01, 2015 Frederico Diniz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 03, 2010 Ashley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
The familiar and the alien interwoven. For whatever reason (childhood trauma seeing family killed by brutal feudal military forces; childhood fixation with western toys; and shrewd strategy directed at protecting him and his are all hinted at) Peter the Great decided to drag Russia kicking and screaming into the Century of the Fruitbat. His delight at the new and shiny I resonate with. His decisions to empower women I rejoice in. His urge to travel I share. (Woke up just this morning really want ...more
Robert K. Massie is my favorite modern biographer, and he doesn't disappoint here. Massie's great skill is in illustrating the world his subjects live in, not just dry recitation of dates. He creates a vivid picture of late 17th/early 18th century Russia (and Europe overall) and lively, detailed portraits of the people involved.

Peter deserves his "Great" moniker, and this book is an outstanding demonstration of that.

My only criticism is due to circumstances beyond the author's control; the book
Czarny Pies
Sep 13, 2016 Czarny Pies rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: european-history
It is the great length of Robert Massie's "Peter the Great" that makes it such a joy to read. Massie devotes a great deal of space to providing background information on the people and social trends that Peter the Great encountered to ensure that the North American reader with little knowledge in these areas never feels lost. Massie's book is popular history at its best. It is thoroughly researched and very prudent in its judgements while providing abundant material to assist those who are not f ...more
Neil Pearson
Jul 03, 2015 Neil Pearson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 05, 2016 Rindis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Robert K. Massie's volume is a massive biography that delivers a good look at its subject. "His Life" is covered in ~850 pages covering from his childhood and the later parts of the reign of his father, Czar Alexis, and the unstable politics that produced the co-reign of his half-brother Fedor and himself in 1682, through his death in 1725 with an epilogue that outlines the politics that produced four reigning empresses, ending with Catherine the Great.

The "and World" part of the title also gets
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NonFiction Pulitzers: Peter the Great: Buddy Read, July 2015 43 18 Dec 28, 2015 08:46PM  
  • Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia
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  • Potemkin: Catherine the Great's Imperial Partner
  • Tsar: The Lost World of Nicholas and Alexandra
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  • Land of the Firebird: The Beauty of Old Russia
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  • Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire
  • Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives
  • The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture
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  • The Russians
  • Michael and Natasha: The Life and Love of Michael II, the Last of the Romanov Tsars
  • George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I
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...

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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.” 2 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.” 2 likes
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