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Catherine the Great
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Simon Disxon is Professor Modern History at the University of Leeds in 1999. He is the author of "The Moderisation of Russia, 1876-1825 "(1999).

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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, Modesto, CA Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

'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"

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