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on 17 July 2001
This book is truly epic in scale, you not only get Peter, but Malborough, Charles XII of Sweden, The Sun King, William of Orange, Augustus Of Poland and the Ottoman Empire. The amazing thing is,this mass of information is pulled into a narrative that is so well written, that you scarcely realise that you've just ploughed through 850 odd pages. Fantastic
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on 23 March 2001
Robert K. Massie is one of the best historical authors, he deals with his chosen topics on the human level and manages to combine the human issues with the Bigger picture. From his rise to power and through the conversion of a backward country into a true world power. Through Peter's travels an insight is provided to the whole of Europe at the time. Massie manges to balance the personal and political aspects of the story brilliantly. Overall a fascinating account of a man and the country he changed forever.
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on 7 March 2001
Peter the Great is one of the pivotal characters in Russian and world history. Before him Russia was a rural, inward looking collection of regions that had little to do with the western world, save for trade in furs etc. He is thought of as both a cruel autocrats who repressed his subjects and a major reformer dragging Russia into the modern era.
After Peter, she was a major player on the European stage, having a Baltic port built a great expense in both money and lives. Proving herself a military force to be taken seriously by beating the Swedes at Poltava and having a navy based on the English and Dutch models.
Massie details Peter's childhood from his play army of friends from the villages surrounding his home to the trauma of seeing his relatives horribly murdered by the Streltsi Militia during a Kremlin power struggle. An event that coloured his attitude to 'Old Russia' for the rest of his life. He deals with Peter's private life excellently with his love for his second wife and disappointment in his son weak character, whom he came to despise and is eventually thought to have had murdered, coming across particularly well.
The Northern War, military campaigns against Sweden from the disasterous battle of Narva through to the final victory at Poltava are also explained by Massie together with the cause and effect of securing Russia's borders and sea access to the Baltic.
Peter's travels to Western Europe, where he learned the art of shipbuilding in Holland and England before hurrying back to deal with another Streltsi revolt, is possibly the darkest period of his reign. His crushing of the uprising, however, was no worse than any other eighteenth century monarch faced with the same problem, but is always portrayed as the most brutal repression possible. Not so by Massie as he avoids a condemnational approach, giving a well-balanced argument on both sides.
Robert Massie obviously likes Peter for all his faults and strengths, and I find this infectious. It reads like a good novel. I have seen this book described as 'less than scholarly' possibly because of the use of anecdotes and readable style. If this is the case - give me more 'less scholarly' history now!
Highly Recommended.
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on 30 September 2004
Whilst it would be difficult to make a history of Peter the Great uninteresting, Massie's biography is one of the best history books I've read.
Sufficiently detailed for the 'serious reader', it is also a wonderfully well written general account of the early eighteenth century. The book also contains numerous anecdotes; my favourite being how Peter's entourage stayed at John Evelyn's house in Deptford - and destroyed the grounds by racing in wheelbarrows before tipping people into hedges.
Highly recommended.
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on 13 February 2000
I found this book a gripping and very entertaining read. Mr. Massie makes Peter the Great truly come alive in this book, and of course the subject matter helps: the hair-raising events of his early youth, his crushing of the Strelsky revolt, the war with Sweden, his travels to Western Europe and his attempts to modernize Russia. And since all this happened before the invention of human rights, the Geneva Convention and political correctness, some of the stories in this book are not for the faint of heart. At the same time this book offers a good insight into the basically eastern-ness of Russia and into the apparently unchanged character traits that bedevil Russian society to this very day. I cannot truthfully say I couldn't put this book down, but this was only because of the sheer number of pages. Once I started reading however I picked it up to continue reading at every opportunity. Worthy of everyone of its 5 stars!
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on 18 December 2003
I've read numerous books on russian history but this is surely the finest(I know it's a big statement!).Massie combines a marvelous attention to detail with a narrative that reads like a work of great fiction.
Never mind about lord of the rings-this book about Peter the great's life would make a wonderful film.
I could go on but I lack the vocabulary to do justice to this simply brilliant book.
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on 27 May 2001
This book is a real gem! It gives an excellent account of Peter's life, his times and his place in Russia's history. It provides many details about Peter's military operations, his personal development and Russian culture. On the whole this is a book I would recommend to everyone. The narrative is fast paced and one really feels the drama of each moment. This book was a better read that most of the best seller novels out there today!
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on 24 August 2011
Lots of good insight into the period and context, as well as to into Peter's unique personality. Massey is clearly a big fan and always sees the best in PTG - other historians are not always so well-disposed.

Although this is a cold-war era book this has aged well - there's little silly axe-grinding about Russia or Communism. The downside is that there is no attempt to draw out the implications of Peter's attempt to transform Russia from the top down, which would be interesting - especially in the context, say, of contemporary China.

An unexpected bonus was the material about Charles XII of Sweden - in some ways the book is almost a co-biography of the two men, and could perhaps have been written that way. I must find a bio of Charles now!
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on 10 October 2000
Robert Massie has written a most excellent book, not only charting the history of Peter the Great, but Russia as a whole during his lifetime. From the first chapter (which describes the sights and smells of Moscow) I was enthralled.
This book also doubles up as a marvellous biography of King Charles of Sweden, and his heroics across Europe serve to overshadow Peter's deeds in several instances.
A marvellous book, simply the best I have ever read
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on 11 March 2013
This is a superb book. The only reason I have given it four rather than five stars is that the illustrations are difficult to make out on the Kindle, and I suspect that the paper edition would have had pictures of the major characters which are not on the e-reader. If it doesn't, this would confirm a four star rating for the work as a whole.

Mr Massie paints a balanced picture of Peter, warts and all. We see the autocratic ruler, the reformer determined to drag his country into the modern world, the jovial seaman unwilling to stand on ceremony and the paranoid character who sees plots to depose him everywhere. Perhaps the most poignant event is the death of the Tsarevitch Alexis from torture ordered by his father. That Peter emerges from this event without appearing a monster is a tribute to the author's skill. We also have fascinating impressions of Peter's major contemporaries, especially Charles Xll of Sweden who emerges as a major protagonist in the book.

This is a major work conveying not just the details of Peter's life, but a sweeping observation of all aspects of Russian life. The style is eminently readable. I never thought I would find detailed analysis of an 18th century battle interesting, but in the skilled hands of Robert Massie, the description of Poltava is a real page-turner. Highly recommended!
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