The Historiography of Peter the Great.

#1
Three main schools of thought about change in Russia during his reign, Orthodox, Revisionist and Post-Revisionist. Orthodox view was promoted by contemporaries and generally accepted up until the 1950's especially in Russia, the Revisionists developed their theory in the 1950's and Post-Revisionist became popular in the 1990's.

Orthodox View

-Peters reign was a watershed in Russian history marking a transformation from vast barren backwater in the east to a more integrated European state and a genuine power.

-Took Russian culture away from being one of superstition and planted the seeds of reason and enlightenment. Made Russia more western both literally and figuratively.

-Thoroughly deserved the title The Great

The Revisionist View

-Peter was still a despot in a very Russian way, not to much western enlightenment to his rule. Barbaric.

-Change was there but not by any means a watershed. Not a revolution of sorts, evolution. Russia was already undergoing change and westernisation when Peter came to power. Contact with Europe and the beginnings of integration were already their.

-Westernisation was a means to an end not an end its self. The overall goal was to strengthen Russia and this was Peter's way of doing it. Peter still saw Russia as being intrinsically different from Western Europe.

Post-Revisionist

-Change more sporadic than previously thought. Some areas were change immensely but some were showed great resistance to change or as often was the case ideas for change were formed but never carried out. Socially and economically Russia was still pretty backward.

-Peter's reign represented increased polarisation in society. The wealth gap between rich and poor was larger when he died than when he lived.

-Although Peter had changed Russia greatly he had brought her finances to her knees and political divisions were showing.

-Made Russia a viable power in Europe as well as weakening rivals (Sweden), achieved aims doing so and is thus great.

I made this thread because firstly I think that the historiography of Peter's reign shows very well how the study of History has become more nuanced in time, no more grand narratives or ideas of inevitability. But I also created it because it means that we can look at the idea of 'great man theory' using one of the great examples. When I look at the reign of Peter the Great I do see how history is often driven forward by individuals and small groups and not always by socio-economic necessity, philosophical development and great collectives. Yes, to a degree Peter was a product of the society and the role he was born into but would a lesser man have dragged Russia out of the dark ages and into the (then) modern world, no. In parts Peters rule and reform was hindered by the inertia of Russian society but the amount of change during his rule was incredible.
 
Dec 2009
11,340
Ozarkistan
#2
I made this thread because firstly I think that the historiography of Peter's reign shows very well how the study of History has become more nuanced in time, no more grand narratives or ideas of inevitability.
This is effectively our acknowledgement that cause and effect is much more complicated than we historically have allowed. But we're still not nuanced enough, still too cock-sure about why things happen (the happenings themselves only imperfectly perceived).
 

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