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Ivan the Terrible
"[A]s displayed in her numerous influential writings on Catherine and the eighteenth century, de Madariaga brings to her new subject a probing intelligence that exposes the flabby reasoning of previous scholars and pulls the foundations out from under shaky interpretations with gusto. Ivan the Terrible is a persuasively argued, widely researched and impressively authoritative work that casts new light on the Tsar, his reign, and Russia in the sixteenth century." Douglas Smith, Times Literary Supplement (read the entire Times Literary Supplement review)
Synopses & Reviews
The definitive biography of Ivan the Terrible, setting the Tsar’s infamous cruelty within the context of his time
Ivan IV, “the Terrible” (1533–1584), is one of the key figures in Russian history, yet he has remained among the most neglected. Notorious for pioneering a policy of unrestrained terror—and for killing his own son—he has been credited with establishing autocracy in Russia. This is the first attempt to write a biography of Ivan from birth to death, to study his policies, his marriages, his atrocities, and his disordered personality, and to link them as a coherent whole.
Isabel de Madariaga situates Ivan within the background of Russian political developments in the sixteenth century. And, with revealing comparisons with English, Spanish, and other European courts, she sets him within the international context of his time. The biography includes a new account of the role of astrology and magic at Ivan’s court and provides fresh insights into his foreign policy. Facing up to problems of authenticity (much of Ivan’s archive was destroyed by fire in 1626) and controversies which have paralyzed western scholarship, de Mad-ariaga seeks to present Russia as viewed from the Kremlin rather than from abroad and to comprehend the full tragedy of Ivan’s reign.
"De Madariaga accomplishes a lot in this significant biography of the 16th-century Russian czar, contextualizing his life without minimizing his brutality. From a compendious knowledge of both primary and secondary sources, de Madariaga shows how Ivan increased his power in an attempt to assert his authority in a vast land still ruled by local princes. He also expanded Russian control to new areas, particularly western Siberia. She doesn't neglect his abuses of power. But the needs of ruling an enormous, divided country don't explain that brutality — both in extracting money from the peasantry to pay for his lengthy wars and in the capricious violence he inflicted on those he suspected of treason. Here de Madariaga admits the role of psychopathology. Nor does the author (Russia in the Age of Catherine the Great), a professor emeritus of Russian studies at the University of London, neglect other aspects of Ivan's reign. She deftly describes the active role that religion, magic and astrology played in Ivan's life and court. In fact, Ivan's belief that violence was necessary to purify himself and his people drove many of his actions, she argues. The book is written for scholars and students, but general readers willing to plow through the dry prose will be amply rewarded with what is likely to become the definitive work on Ivan for some time. Illus., maps not seen by PW. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The definitive biography of Ivan the Terrible, setting the Tsar's infamous cruelty within the context of his time.
This compelling biography is the first to encompass the entire life of Ivan the Terrible and to view him in the context of his own time. Notorious for a policy of unrestrained terror—and for killing his own son—Ivan is credited with establishing autocracy in Russia. The book illuminates his tragic reign and foreign policies, as well as his marriages and disordered personality.
About the Author
Isabel de Madariaga is emeritus professor of Russian Studies in the University of London. She is the author of Russia in the Age of Catherine the Great, published by Yale University Press.
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