From the acclaimed Wolfson Prize-winning author, a dazzling history of the world's emperors For millennia much of the world was ruled by emperors: a handful of individuals claimed no limit to the lands they could rule over and no limit to their authority. They operated beyond normal human constraint and indeed often claimed a superhuman or divine authority. In practice they ran the gamut from being some of the most remarkable men who ever lived, to being some of the worst and least remarkable. Dominic Lieven's marvellous new book, In the Shadow of the Gods, is the first to grapple seriously with this extraordinary phenomenon. Across the world peoples, willingly or unwillingly, fell into orbit around figures who reshaped or destroyed entire societies, imposed religions and invaded rivals. Lieven describes the anatomy of imperial monarchy and the principles by which it functioned. He compares the great emperors of antiquity, the caliphs and the warrior-emperors of the steppe before he turns to the Habsburg, Russian, Ottoman, Mughal and Chinese emperors, packing the book with extraordinary stories, astute observations and a sense of both delight and horror at these individuals' antics. The entire breadth of extreme human behaviour is here - from warlords to patrons of the arts, from political genius to feeble incapacity and pathological violence. As one of the great experts both on empires and on Russian history, Lieven is brilliantly qualified to write a book that brings to life a system of rule that dominated most of human history, as well as some of history's grandest and most dismaying figures.
'A compulsive page-turner ... a triumph of brilliant storytelling ... an instant classic that is an awesome, remarkable and exuberant achievement' Simon Sebag Montefiore Winner of the Wolfson History Prize and shortlisted for the Duff Cooper Prize In the summer of 1812 Napoleon, the master of Europe, marched into Russia with the largest army ever assembled, confident that he would sweep everything before him. Yet less than two years later his empire lay in ruins, and Russia had triumphed. This is the first history to explore in depth Russia's crucial role in the Napoleonic Wars, re-creating the epic battle between two empires as never before. Dominic Lieven writes with great panache and insight to describe from the Russians' viewpoint how they went from retreat, defeat and the burning of Moscow to becoming the new liberators of Europe; the consequences of which could not have been more important. Ultimately this book shows, memorably and brilliantly, Russia embarking on its strange, central role in Europe's existence, as both threat and protector - a role that continues, in all its complexity, into our own lifetimes.
TLS BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2016 FINANCIAL TIMES BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2015 WINNER OF THE PUSHKIN HOUSE RUSSIAN BOOK PRIZE 2016 'Magisterial... reveals how much is at stake for world order in Ukraine and Syria.' Rachel Polonsky 'As much as anything, World War I turned on the fate of Ukraine' The decision to go to war in 1914 had catastrophic consequences for Russia. The result was revolution, civil war and famine in 1917-20, followed by decades of communist rule. Dominic Lieven's powerful and original book, based on exhaustive and unprecedented study in Russian and many other foreign archives, explains why this suicidal decision was made and explores the world of the men who made it, thereby consigning their entire class to death or exile and making their country the victim of a uniquely terrible political experiment under Lenin and Stalin. Dominic Lieven is a Senior Research Fellow of Trinity College,Cambridge University, and a Fellow of the British Academy. His book Russia Against Napoleon (Penguin) won the Wolfson Prize for History and the Prize of the Fondation Napoleon for the best foreign work on the Napoleonic era.
Who were the members of the Russian ruling elite during the reign of the last Tsar before the Revolution? How did high-level politics operate in Imperial Russia's last years? In this highly original book, Dominic Lieven probes deeply into the lives of the 215 men appointed by Nicholas II to the State Council, which contained all important members of the Russian governmental system of that era. Basing his research on previously untouched Soviet archival sources, Dominic Lieven describes the social, ethnic, educational, and career backgrounds of these men, and he explores how their mentalities were shaped, what their political views were, and how their attitudes and opinions were influenced by their differing backgrounds and careers. Lieven looks not only forward to the causes of the collapse of the old regime but, in his introductory chapter, backward as well, tracing the history of the Russian ruling elite from its earliest origins and making comparisons with the ruling elite of other societies. His conclusions about the resilience of the old aristocratic Russian families and the operation of their self-protective, career-advancing network are striking and original. Lieven's book serves many purposes. It tells us a great deal about the balance of power between the bureaucrats and their monarchs, it brings to life the members of the last ruling elite, and it reveals interesting information about the role and personality of the Emperor Nicholas II. By making regular comparisons with aristocratic elites elsewhere, it sets the Russian experience in a broader European context. And by looking at Russia's problems through the eyes of its ruling aristocracy, it enables us to understand a good deal that is otherwise incomprehensible about the coming of the Russian Revolution.