de Madariaga, Isabel 1919–

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de Madariaga, Isabel 1919–

(Isabel de Madariaga)


Born August 27, 1919, in Glasgow, Scotland; daughter of Salvador and Constance de Madariaga. Education: University of London, B.A. (with honors), 1940, Ph.D., 1959. Hobbies and other interests: Music, gardening.


Office—School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London, Malet St., London WC1, England.


Writer, educator. Associated with British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC), in monitoring service, 1940-43; Ministry of Information, London, England, in civil service, 1943-47; University of Sussex, England, lecturer in European history, 1966-68; University of Lancaster, Bailrigg, England, senior lecturer in Russian history, 1968-71; University of London, London, England, reader in Russian studies, 1971-81, professor of Russian studies, beginning 1981, emeritus professor of Russian Studies.


Royal Historical Society (fellow).


John Marshall Prize from School of Slavonic and East European Studies of University of London, 1940.


Britain, Russia and the Armed Neutrality, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1962.

(With G. Ionescu) Opposition, Past and Present of a Political Institution, Watts (New York, NY), 1968.

Russia in the Age of Catherine the Great, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1981.

Catherine the Great: A Short History, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1990.

Politics and Culture in Eighteenth-Century Russia: Collected Essays, Addison Wesley Longman (New York, NY), 1998.

Ivan the Terrible: First Tsar of Russia, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2005.

Contributor to journals, including Slavonic and East European Review, European Studies Review, and Journal of Modern History. Member of editorial boards of Slavonic and East European Review, Government and Opposition, and European Studies Review.


A longtime lecturer in Russian history and studies, Scottish author Isabel de Madariaga has written numerous historical studies about Russia and its leaders. Her Russia in the Age of Catherine the Great was termed "compelling" by Los Angeles Times critic Michael Stern, who added, "Madariaga evokes especially well the young Catherine as a courageous, intelligent Stendhalian heroine stifled by venal, vapid respectability." De Madariaga once told CA: "I find eighteenth-century Russia fascinating because it fit in so well with that cosmopolitan, optimistic age." In her 1990 title, Catherine the Great: A Short History, de Madariaga provides further insights into the life and work of this Russian leader, while in the 2005 Ivan the Terrible: First Tsar of Russia, she turns her attention to another of Russia's major historical figures.

Ivan the Terrible, also known as Ivan IV, lived from 1530 to 1584 and ruled as Tsar from 1547 to his death. During the more than three decades of his reign, Russia was transformed into not only a multiethnic state, with the conquest of the Khanates of Kazan, Astrakhan, and Sibir, but also into an empire of multiple religions. As a three-year-old, upon the death of his father, Vasili III, Ivan became the Grand Prince of Moscow, with his mother acting as temporary regent. Then, with his mother's death when Ivan was only eight, power was placed in the hands of boyars, or high-ranking Muscovite nobility. At the age of sixteen he became tsar, leading his country to conquests over Asiatic steppe tribes and greatly increasing the size of his empire. His first wife died in 1560, a death that Ivan attributed to poisoning by unfaithful boyars. There followed a series of assassinations and disputes between the tsar and these nobles, as well as a litany of sadistic abuses personally committed by Ivan, including rapes, impalings, boilings, beheadings, poisonings, and the destruction of entire families, which gave Ivan the sobriquet of "the Terrible." The latter half of Ivan's reign was far less successful than his early years, decades marked by prolonged wars. A violent argument between father and son led to the accidental death of the latter in 1581, with Ivan the Terrible dying three years later, perhaps the victim himself of poisoning.

De Madariaga details all the events of this remarkable career and life in Ivan the Terrible. Writing in Foreign Affairs, Robert Legvold noted that despite Ivan's importance in Russian history, there are not many biographies of the man. Legvold felt that de Madariaga's biography "fills that void masterfully." The same reviewer observed that de Madariaga "has a great gift for distilling information to clear, sensible, compelling essentials." Writing in Booklist, Gilbert Taylor noted that though the book has an academic purpose, it is still "a narrative of Ivan's life … that will be of interest to general readers." Similarly, a Publishers Weekly reviewer felt Ivan the Terrible will be "the definitive work on Ivan for some time." Russian Life reviewer Paul E. Richardson also had praise for the biography, noting: "Ivan, de Madariaga shows, was a creation of his own personal history—of his times, and he acted in the constraints and on the opportunities presented him by a very patriarchal, theocratic, traditional, brutal, war-torn society." Likewise, Library Journal contributor Harry Willems termed the work a "superior book," while Canadian Journal of History reviewer Andrew Gentes found it "compelling, if somewhat unsettling, reading." Orlando Figes, reviewing the biography in the New York Review of Books, likewise commended de Madariaga's effort: "Almost every page of her magnificent biography is illuminated by the wisdom gained by its author from a lifetime of learning and reflection about the place of Russia in the wider world." And a critic for Contemporary Review called the work a "perceptive and balanced biography."



Biography, fall, 2005, review of Ivan the Terrible: First Tsar of Russia, p. 713.

Booklist, May 1, 2005, Gilbert Taylor, review of Ivan the Terrible, p. 1562.

Canadian Journal of History, winter, 2006, Andrew Gentes, review of Ivan the Terrible, p. 545.

Contemporary Review, November 1, 2005, review of Ivan the Terrible, p. 313.

Foreign Affairs, May-June, 2005, Robert Legvold, review of Ivan the Terrible, p. 145.

Harper's Magazine, August, 2005, John Leonard, review of Ivan the Terrible, p. 81.

Historian, winter, 2006, Daniel Rowland, review of Ivan the Terrible, p. 869.

Library Journal, June 1, 2005, Harry Willems, review of Ivan the Terrible, p. 141.

Los Angeles Times, April 30, 1981, Michael Stern, review of Russia in the Age of Catherine the Great.

New York Review of Books, fall, 2005, Orlando Figes, review of Ivan the Terrible, p. 34.

New York Times Book Review, April 19, 1981, review of Russia in the Age of Catherine the Great.

Publishers Weekly, April 11, 2005, review of Ivan the Terrible, p. 40.

Russian Life, March 1, 2006, Paul E. Richardson, review of Ivan the Terrible, p. 60.

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de Madariaga, Isabel 1919–

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