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Peter the Great: His Life and World

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  11,684 ratings  ·  700 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 ...more
Paperback, 914 pages
Published October 12th 1981 by Ballantine Books (first published 1980)
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 ·  11,684 ratings  ·  700 reviews

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Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
History is safe in the hands of Robert K. Massie as his meticulously researched biography Of Peter the Great, his life and world really is a breathtaking Journey back into the Russia of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century , warts and all. Peter The Great was one of the most transformational leaders in European history and while I was familiar with some aspects of his reign I now feel very informed and complete having read this wonderful book.

This is my third book by Robert K. Massie and a
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
Aug 21, 2011 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
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
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Jan 19, 2010 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 ...more
Oct 05, 2008 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.
Jun 03, 2011 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
Brian Eshleman
Oct 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
There is plenty of five-star material in this. When the author gets into Peter's head through his dealings with his expectations for his son or his intimate, playful banter with his wife, his writing is really special. When he backs up to put Peter in the context of the 18th century by comparing him to other rulers who were also autocratic and even brutal when necessary but get better press because their homelands aren't as mysterious as Russia, his writing is special. Peter bolts off the page ...more
Alice Lippart
An excellent and highly enjoyable biography.
Erik Graff
Sep 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jun 02, 2013 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 ...more
Immaculately researched. Long but easy to read. A fascinating man and his times. Massie provides so much detail on Peter the Great, his friends, family, foes and of his reforms in Russia. This is a big book but was always entertaining and it was worth the effort to get to the finish.
Carl R.
May 16, 2012 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
Dec 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
When I started reading this 900-page tome, I said to my daughter that I can’t believe I’m reading 900 pages about Peter the Great. She laughed and said that she can. She knows me and my fascination with royalty well. I liked this just fine, but there were parts that dragged on quite a bit, specifically the lengthy and detailed war and battle parts. That sort of stuff bores me to no end. I was more interested in learning about him, his family, and lifestyle.

Here is Peter the Great interrogating
Mar 21, 2015 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.
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
Oct 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Carol Storm
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredible biography, bigger than life subject. The passages on England are even more revealing than the passages on Russia!
Dec 22, 2011 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 ...more
Feb 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Arun Divakar
Mar 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
No matter how small the magnitude, change is almost always met with resistance. This can be observed even in the parlance of our lives in both the personal and professional arenas. That is also why change management is such a big thing for corporates. Ironing out all the repercussions of a change means quite a lot of work and a lot of back and forth between the parties involved. If we step outside the microcosm of our lives and expand this aspect of change to the scale of a nation state, then ...more
Ke Ka
The pleasure of reading is not something abstract. It is something concrete. And it can only materialize with a good book in your hands. Those who speak of reading as an automatic pleasure,
which is achieved with any book, they don't know what they are talking about. We satisfy our appetite with filling books, and we wait, we wait too patiently for the rare occasions when we are given the opportunity to renew our vows with our great hobby. The magic moment in which we are again innocent readers,
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating topic, excellently researched and written.
Don Howland
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It took me two months to get through this but that's because it's 860 pages and I'm a slow reader. But I got to the point where I couldn't WAIT to read the next chapter... Anyone who likes Dan Carlin's Hardcore History podcasts or the murderous twists of Game of Thrones' diplomacy will be engrossed. The story is - no exaggeration - incredible and it is one everyone should know because of its implications for the next three centuries up to today: Peter the Great single-handedly yanked the ...more
Czarny Pies
Sep 13, 2016 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 ...more
Apr 03, 2010 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 ...more
Michael Huang
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Peter was born by the second wife of his father Tsar Alexis. When he was 4, his farther died. By 10, his half brother Tsar Fedor III also died. He became co-tsar with his other half brother Ivan V. Ivan was blind in one eye, crippled, and had speech problems. So from the get go, Peter was the more public face of the two. Peter liked to play war games as a boy. When he became co-tsar, he formed an army of boys in Preobrezhenskoe and continued his play, rising through the ranks. As he grew older, ...more
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Robert Kinloch Massie was an American historian, writer, winner of a Pulitzer Prize, and a Rhodes Scholar.

Born in Versailles, Kentucky, Massie spent much of his youth there and in Nashville, Tennessee. He studied American history at Yale University and modern European history at Oxford University on his Rhodes Scholarship. Massie went to work as a journalist for Newsweek from 1959 to 1964 and then
“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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