Cover image for The Revolution of Peter the Great
The Revolution of Peter the Great
Cracraft, James.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
ix, 192 pages : illustrations, maps ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DK131 .C73 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Many books chronicle the remarkable life of Russian tsar Peter the Great, but none analyze how his famous reforms actually took root and spread in Russia. In The Revolution of Peter the Great , James Cracraft offers a brilliant new interpretation of this pivotal era.

Linking together and transcending Peter's many reforms of state and society, Cracraft argues, was nothing less than a cultural revolution. New ways of dress, elite social behavior, navigation, architecture, and image-making emerged along with expansive vocabularies for labeling new objects and activities. Russians learned how to build and sail warships; train, supply, and command a modern army; operate a new-style bureaucracy; conduct diplomacy on a par with the other European states; apply modern science; and conceptualize the new governing system. Throughout, Peter remains the central figure, and Cracraft discusses the shaping events of the tsar's youth, his inner circle, the resistance his reforms engendered, and the founding of the city that would embody his vision--St. Petersburg, which celebrated its tercentenary in 2003.

By century's end, Russia was poised to play a critical role in the Napoleonic wars and boasted an elite culture about to burst into its golden age. In this eloquent book, Cracraft illuminates an astonishing transformation that had enormous consequences for both Russia and Europe, indeed the world.

Author Notes

James Cracraft is Professor of History, University of Illinois at Chicago.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

A scholar specializing in the culture of Peter I's reign, Cracraft has written major works about the period but now presents an introduction. He completely describes Peter's reforms, emphasizing how profoundly revolutionary they were. The reforms were so extensive, both physically and psychologically, that they altered how Russians thought about the world. Cracraft illustrates the various forms the new ways assumed, going into some detail about how the Russian language changed radically under the influence of an explosion in printing, which accompanied Peter's introduction of Western-style nautical, scientific, and governmental institutions. Cracraft also takes in architecture and visual imagery, laying at Peter's feet the credit for developing creative artists. An admirer of Peter and his achievements, Cracraft nevertheless evenly explains the intense opposition he and they aroused among traditionalists, a conflict that still resounds in Russian history. Essential reading for those seeking the origin of Russia's ongoing friction between Westernizers and nationalists. --Gilbert Taylor Copyright 2003 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Here, Cracraft (history, Univ. of Illinois) takes three previous books (The Petrine Revolution in Russian Imagery, The Petrine Revolution in Russian Architecture, and The Church Reform of Peter the Great) and creates a light and readable compilation. He argues that the Petrine Revolution was cultural, taking in architecture, imagery (including all facets of art), and verbal expression (including speaking and writing). Reform of the church hierarchy was paramount to the success of the cultural revolution and is an underlying theme throughout. Unfortunately, a major drawback is this work's being disconnected from the rest of Russian and contemporary European history. Those who know Russian history well enough to fill in the holes will not need this book, while those who read only this book will get a less than clear understanding of the Petrine Revolution. Thus, readers should also turn to Lindsey Hughes's Peter the Great: A Biography and/or the first three chapters of Stephen Lovell's Summerfolk: A History of the Dacha, 1710-2000 to get a better feel for Peter's life and times.-Harry Willems, Southeast Kansas Lib. Syst., Iola (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

In this diminutive volume, Cracraft (Univ. of Illinois at Chicago) makes his larger opus generally accessible, a tradition in Petrine studies most recently honored by Lindsey Hughes's concise Peter the Great (2002). The novelty of Cracraft's interpretation readily emerges when compared with another of the best, L. Jay Oliva's insightful Russia in the Era of Peter the Great (1969). Oliva placed Peter and his revolution squarely in early modern Europe; Cracraft proceeds according to the canons of a newer anthropological approach. He opens with a biographical chapter followed by two more on military and political revolutions. The heart of the book is the fourth chapter, which presents Petrine history's greatest historical significance as a cultural revolution transcending all other major changes in Russian life. Cracraft concludes with a chapter on the oft-neglected resistance to Peter's policies, a chapter on St. Petersburg as the enduring symbol of its founder's legacy, and a brief summary conclusion. A generous publisher supplies many aptly chosen illustrations, and a nice bibliography sets readers on the path to further explorations. This impressive little book, at once informative and intellectually interesting, is ideal for classroom use and library collections. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. All public and academic libraries. E. A. Cole Grand Valley State University

Table of Contents

Prefacep. vii
1 Peter and Companyp. 1
2 Military and Naval Revolutionsp. 29
3 Diplomatic and Bureaucratic Revolutionsp. 54
4 Cultural Revolutionp. 75
5 Revolution and Resistancep. 114
6 St. Petersburgp. 135
Conclusionp. 157
Chronologyp. 169
Notesp. 173
Further Readingp. 185
Indexp. 189