Catherine the Great
  • Alternative view 1 of Catherine the Great
  • Alternative view 2 of Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great

2.9 15
by Simon Dixon
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

In 1745 a little-known German princess named Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst married the nephew of Empress Elizabeth of Russia. Seventeen years later she overthrew her husband to become Catherine the Great, one of the most celebrated monarchs in history, turning eighteenth-century Russia into arguably the largest and most powerful state since the fall of the Roman Empire.

Overview

In 1745 a little-known German princess named Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst married the nephew of Empress Elizabeth of Russia. Seventeen years later she overthrew her husband to become Catherine the Great, one of the most celebrated monarchs in history, turning eighteenth-century Russia into arguably the largest and most powerful state since the fall of the Roman Empire.

Admired for her achievements and satirized for her personal life, she wrote the most revealing memoirs by any European ruler. She promoted radical political ideas and emphasized moderation in government. Ruthless when necessary, she charmed everyone she met, joking at private dinner parties in the Hermitage, which she had built for her own use. Determined to endear herself to the Russians, she made religious devotions in which she never believed.

Intimate and revealing, Simon Dixon's new biography examines the lifelong friendships that sustained the empress throughout her personal life, and places her within the context of the royal court: its politics, its flourishing literature, and the very culture that became central to her exercise of absolute power.

Editorial Reviews

Catherine Merridale
“Like Catherine herself, Simon Dixon’s new biography is attractive, engaging, and very intelligent. It wears its scholarship lightly, too, but established fans of the Russian empress will find plenty of new material and those who are meeting her for the first time will be dazzled.”
Simon Sebag Montefiore
“There is lots new in this superb biography . . . [Dixon] manages to be scholarly, refreshing, commonsensical and compelling, vividly portraying the charismatic Empress and her times.”
Library Journal

A minor princess from the German backwater of Anhalt-Zerbst, Catherine the Great parlayed a loveless marriage into rule after her unattractive husband, Peter III, was deposed in a bloodless coup. Six months later, Peter was dead, strangled by the brother of a court favorite. (There is no evidence that Catherine colluded in his murder.) Intelligent and energetic, Catherine was influenced by Montesquieu, Beccaria, and the English jurist Blackstone and soon set about reforming her backward empire. A patron of the arts and letters, she corresponded with Voltaire, d'Alembert, and Diderot. Her attempts to lighten the burden on the Russian serfs failed, but she improved domestic administration and established a permanent footprint in the West when the last parts of independent Poland were absorbed into Russia in 1795. Dixon effectively details the minutiae of court life, explicating the importance of display in signaling imperial power. He doesn't slight Catherine's numerous affairs but notes that she didn't confuse affairs of the heart with affairs of state. This admirable biography elucidates aspects of Catherine's life-both what she did and did not achieve in a long and colorful reign-and is warmly recommended for both specialists and readers new to the subject.
—David Keymer

From the Publisher

'a concise and closely argued study of a crucial period in the making of Russia'BBC History 'a splendid book, thoughtful, graceful, and insightful' Russian Review 'a stimulating and lively study...contributes not only to our understanding of Catherine's Russia but puts the Russian experience firmly within the broader context of ancient regime' History

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060786281
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
04/06/2010
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
949,359
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.30(d)

What People are saying about this

Catherine Merridale
“Like Catherine herself, Simon Dixon’s new biography is attractive, engaging, and very intelligent. It wears its scholarship lightly, too, but established fans of the Russian empress will find plenty of new material and those who are meeting her for the first time will be dazzled.”
Simon Sebag Montefiore
“There is lots new in this superb biography . . . [Dixon] manages to be scholarly, refreshing, commonsensical and compelling, vividly portraying the charismatic Empress and her times.”

Meet the Author

Simon Dixon is Sir Bernard Pares Professor of Russian History at University College London.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Catherine the Great 2.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago