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Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Catherine the Great

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Catherine the Great

Portrait of a Woman

by Robert K. Massie

Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie X
Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2011, 656 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2012, 672 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elizabeth Whitmore Funk
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Beyond the Book

This article relates to Catherine the Great

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The Memoirs of Catherine the Great

Robert K. Massie constructed his biography of Catherine the Great relying heavily on material from her memoirs (now published by Random House under the title The Memoirs of Catherine the Great), which provided him with rare, honest views of an eighteenth century royal's life.

The Memoir of Catherine the Great These memoirs make for rewarding reading in their own right and are vastly supplemented by the dramas, letters, journalism, and political theory that she published in her lifetime. Though they were originally written in French, her preferred language, they have since been translated into numerous languages and published throughout the world.

Catherine began writing her memoirs in her early teens and revised her work throughout her life, continually polishing the written accounts of her days - from her youth in Prussia, to the assassination of her husband Peter III, to her "long and eventful reign" over Russia from 1762-1796.

portrait of Catherine the Great Similar to Massie's portrayal in his biography, Catherine's writing shows a person who is both a ruler and a woman. As translators Mark Cruse and Hilde Hoogenboom note, Catherine uses the memoirs to argue that she was a fair, kind sovereign whose absolute rule over Russia was just.

To get a glimpse of Catherine the Great's writing, click here for an excerpt from her memoirs.

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This "beyond the book article" relates to Catherine the Great. It originally ran in February 2012 and has been updated for the September 2012 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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