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Catherine the Great Paperback – 18 Mar 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (18 Mar. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861977778
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861977779
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 488,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

A superb biography ... scholarly, refreshing, commonsensical and compelling, vividly portraying the charismatic Empress and her times (Simon Sebag Montefiore Sunday Telegraph)

Dixon brings his subject to life admirably in this scholarly and sympathetic biography of a remarkable woman (Maria Fairweather Mail on Sunday)

Dixon is impressive at description, building with intricate detail, and the book swarms with terrific characters. (Duncan Fallowell Daily Express)

Lively and readable (Paul Byrne Irish Times)

Book Description

Empress, empire-builder, intellectual, art-collector, lover - this magnificent new biography does full justice to a truly remarkable ruler.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Feanor on 25 May 2010
Format: Hardcover
What a woman Catherine was! Intellectually rapacious, sexually voracious, a great correspondent, a product of the Enlightenment, a socially conscious queen, coquettish and stern, motherly when the occasion demanded it, at other times filled with hauteur. Forever associated with Russia, this greatest of 18th century European monarchs was a product of her times and yet in many ways managed to transcend them.

And she wasn't even Russian. Born into a minor Germanic Protestant nobility, she was lucky enough to marry the hapless Crown Prince of Russia. Having converted to Orthodoxy and allegedly having engineered her husband's death, she ruled as absolute monarch of all the Russias for decades thereafter. This biography is a superb account of her rise, her tribulations and loves, her cultural achievements, her zenith, and the curious suppression of her fame after her death.

When your average totalitarian despot says to you that she values your opinion, you would do well to obfuscate. In Catherine's case, people actually took her at her word, and that was a complete break with the past. They could provide her facts without fear, and so her administrative drives were based on some semblance of reality. After her time, people tried to malign her reputation - calling her a slut and a thief of other people's immoral ideas. Simon Dixon shows that she did borrow much of her thoughts on governance from the great philosophers of the Enlightenment, and she, more than any other monarch in Europe, tried hard to ameliorate the lives of her subjects. In contrast to the centralising tendencies of her predecessors, she was able to delegate civil and military duties. She was successful in diplomacy and in war. For these alone she can truly be called the Great.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dr. G. SPORTON on 9 Jan. 2011
Format: Paperback
Dixon's Catherine seems less great and more workaday for most of this book, relying as it does on court journals and furniture orders for its evidence of her prowess. It is an approach that leaves the reader wondering about the value of the historical Catherine and elides her achievements by failing to express them clearly. For Dixon it is the method through which she made history and not the significance of that history that appears the most important. Whilst this is an achievement of sorts, it becomes a sin of omission when it is impossible to see the magnitude and impact of her efforts. Her status as a woman and a usurper, the boldness of her affairs (and their irresponsibility to the House of Romanov), her legislative and territorial achievements come off second best to the often oblique evidence of running her household. This being said, she certainly comes across as the first modern woman, corresponding with Voltaire, commissioning new palaces for St. Petersburg, writing plays and memoirs as well as expanding the Russian Empire and reforming or founding many of its institutions. Bogged down in detail, Dixon rarely steps away to show us the bigger picture, or to indicate the historical implications of her decisions, though there were many. As a result, Catherine gains little credit for her vision or foresight, but we certainly know about the dinner service that lovers could expect to receive once their affair with her was over.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 9 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
having read bits about catherine in other history books, it was great to read a balanced biography that didnt concentrate solely on the scandalous and salacious that has been prevelent on the subject. i found simon dixons book very fair and informative. and a good read.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By itsasecret on 1 July 2010
Format: Paperback
It takes a chapter to get into but after that this is an amazing read!
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