Faculty Book: Cynthia Hyla Whittaker
Cynthia Hyla Whittaker
Russian Monarchy: Eighteenth-Century Rulers and Writers in Political Dialogue
(Northern Illinois University Press, 2003; 320 pp.)
In this highly original work, Cynthia Hyla Whittaker challenges the view of Russian monarchs as majestic despots, ruling over a vast, servile empire that was isolated from the rest of Europe. The idea of monarchic rule was anything but solidified, she argues, uncovering a political dialogue about the nature and limitations of monarchy in eighteenth-century Russia. Starting with Peter the Great, Russian rulers shifted their claims to legitimacy from divine right to a more secular basis, including a felt responsibility to reform. At the same time, hundreds of writers engaged rulers in a sophisticated public discourse—influenced by European Enlightenment ideas—in printed publications intended for the eyes of the monarchs as well as an educated elite. Russian Monarchy shows how this dialogue revolutionized the concept of rule and gave writers a role in shaping their political environment. Cynthia Hyla Whittaker is professor of history at Baruch College and The Graduate Center.
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Submitted on: JUN 9, 2003