This is the first comprehensive modern study of Paul I, son of Catherine the Great and Tsar of Russia 1796-1801. Considered by some to have been a cruel despot verging on the insane, Paul has been seen by others as a progressive if flawed ruler who was overthrown because he challenged the privileged nobility.
Roderick McGrew explores the influences which shaped Paul's value and behaviour, assessing the role played by Paul's upbringing, his relations with his mother and her court, and the powerful effect of the French Revolution. He examines Paul's insecure, unpredictable, and often violent character, and traces his gradual evolution into a committed autocrat who combined enlightened humanitarianism with a firm belief in military discipline and hierarchy. As Tsar, he aroused fear, hatred, and contempt among his nobles, which resulted in a coup d'etat which ended his brief reign and his life.
Professor McGrew's intensively researched study not only offers a portrait of a complex ruler and his times, but also assesses the part played by Paul in establishing the deeply conservative political outlook which characterized Russia in the nineteenth century.
`McGrew's biography is the first comprehensive study of this tragic son of Catherine the Great. It is thoroughly researched and well written. It will remain a central work in the field for many years to come.'
The Historian, Autumn 1993 Vol 56
`This is a scholarly and well-written study of the most pitiable and most unlikeable ruler in the history of modern Europe.... McGrew deserves congratulation for having produced a book which is an important contribution to knowledge and also a fascinating psychological study.'
M.S. Anderson, Times Higher Educ. Supplement
'Roderick E. McGrew has ... had to sift through more than enough material on Paul's pre-imperial days, to which he devotes, of necessity, slightly more than half of his fine book.'
Times Literary Supplement
'McGrew's new book is history in the old style: highly literate, beautifully written, nicely paced, and supported by a meticulous examination of the sources. Even the more tedious aspects of Paul's story - for example, his platonic affair with Catherine Nelidova - are masterpieces of historical narrative and so well grounded in the issues of the period t at their relevance is always obvious.'
G.E. Snow, Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, Choice, June '93
'a balanced, thoughtful and readable account of Paul's forty-seven years ... On the much-debated question of Paul's mental state, McGrew marshals the arguments judiciously and find insanity not proved ... McGrew's carefully nuanced portrayal makes his subject both more comprehensible and more tragic ... Until the Russian archives relating to Paul have been thoroughly explored, this compelling biography will remain the standard English-language account.'
R.P. Bartlett, University of London, The Slavonic Review
'the only modern scholarly biography of Paul ... Oxford University Press has, moreover, singled out the book by its Clarendon imprimatur, reserved for works of special scholarly distinction. On several subjects the book is particularly strong. Paul's family setting is presented here with unprecedented authority. McGrew gives us a thoughtful and thorough definition of the history and historiography of the subject. The bibliography and the index are
comprehensive. The style of writing is simple and clear and might serve as a model for historians.'
Hugh Ragsdale, University of Alabama, Slavic Review, Summer 1993
'impressive biography ... McGrew offers much that is new. McGrew ... is commendably restrained in his use of psycho-history. Indeed, as one might expect of a work so long in the making, the style is fluent, the tone measured, the conclusions judicious. And the Clarendon Press has played its part by producing an elegant volume to crown a distinguished historian's career.'
Simon Dixon, Journal of European Studies, XXIII (1993)
'in a well-researched and very readable book, McGrew provides a measured account of the development of Paul's personality from child to adult.'
Ian D. Thatcher, Late Modern History
`The new study is invaluable...McGrew succeeds in making credible a figure whose actions on the throne were once thought mad.'
Journal of Modern History