Sep. 10th, 2010

purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (books)
Catherine the Great by Simon Dixon is another fruit of the great parental book-shelf raid. I'm not quite sure why I picked up a book on her, as opposed to Frederick the Great (or even both of them). It turns out that this book isn't really a biography but more an examination of Catherine's methods of rulership.

My knowledge of Russian history is virtually zero, so I kept getting distracted by questions like "who was Elizabeth?" (that's when I wasn't accidentally assuming the book was referring to Elizabeth I of England). There does seem to have been a fascinating sequence of female rulers in 18th century Russia and even more fascinating is Catherine's rise to power as a foreigner, first through a political coup and then by assassinating the previous ruler (who happened to be her husband). I also got side-tracked by the Russian serfdom system. This was only briefly touched upon in the book, mostly in relation to Catherine's apparent powerlessness to do anything about it, but I'd be interested to see an analysis of why such a system persisted in Russia long after it had become out-moded elsewhere in Europe. I couldn't help wondering if the serf-owning system contributed to the very low levels of literacy and if they, in turn, contributed to the obvious difficulties Catherine had in finding competent, or even adult, people to appoint as local government officials and the like.

I'm not expert in history but this seemed like a pretty solid examination of Catherine and her rule. It covered various themes such as Catherine's use of iconography, her engagement with the Englightment, political culture, her relationship with the nobility and so on and so forth. I felt handicapped by my general ignorance of Russian history but not to the extent that I couldn't follow the arguments or was alienated from the subject matter.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (books)
Catherine the Great by Simon Dixon is another fruit of the great parental book-shelf raid. I'm not quite sure why I picked up a book on her, as opposed to Frederick the Great (or even both of them). It turns out that this book isn't really a biography but more an examination of Catherine's methods of rulership.

My knowledge of Russian history is virtually zero, so I kept getting distracted by questions like "who was Elizabeth?" (that's when I wasn't accidentally assuming the book was referring to Elizabeth I of England). There does seem to have been a fascinating sequence of female rulers in 18th century Russia and even more fascinating is Catherine's rise to power as a foreigner, first through a political coup and then by assassinating the previous ruler (who happened to be her husband). I also got side-tracked by the Russian serfdom system. This was only briefly touched upon in the book, mostly in relation to Catherine's apparent powerlessness to do anything about it, but I'd be interested to see an analysis of why such a system persisted in Russia long after it had become out-moded elsewhere in Europe. I couldn't help wondering if the serf-owning system contributed to the very low levels of literacy and if they, in turn, contributed to the obvious difficulties Catherine had in finding competent, or even adult, people to appoint as local government officials and the like.

I'm not expert in history but this seemed like a pretty solid examination of Catherine and her rule. It covered various themes such as Catherine's use of iconography, her engagement with the Englightment, political culture, her relationship with the nobility and so on and so forth. I felt handicapped by my general ignorance of Russian history but not to the extent that I couldn't follow the arguments or was alienated from the subject matter.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/18604.html.

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