Robert K. Massie’s volume is a massive biography that delivers a good look at its subject. “His Life” is covered in ~850 pages covering from his childhood and the later parts of the reign of his father, Czar Alexis, and the unstable politics that produced the co-reign of his half-brother Fedor and himself in 1682, through his death in 1725 with an epilogue that outlines the politics that produced four reigning empresses, ending with Catherine the Great.

The “and World” part of the title also gets good coverage with various extended asides that help bring the 17th-18th centuries alive, starting with a description of Moscow ca. 1680. Peter is the nominal focus of the entire book, but in true Massie fashion, any subject that catches his eye along the way (such as Charles XI of Sweden) gets an extended treatment in it’s own chapter. Peter, of course, had two extended trips into western Europe, and these also serve as a springboard into a look at the situation there as well, helping provide a wider context to Peter the Great’s life and just what he was trying to emulate in Russia.

As a popular history, it does not delve into historical controversy, and presents Peter solidly in his typical role as the hero of ‘westernizing’ Russia, even while clearly showing the tyrannical side that (for instance) pursued suspicions of a conspiracy against him with relentless torture and executions, and that his reforms almost entirely relied on threats and force from Peter himself. I particularly would have liked a better look at the great families of Russia that were important in the state at this time, though I guess that Massie felt they were only important near the beginning and again at the end of his life, and it would have distracted too much from the core of his book to delve into them in any depth.