Hughes, Lindsey 1949–
HUGHES, Lindsey 1949–
PERSONAL: Born May 4, 1949, in England; daughter of James and Audrey (Bond) Hughes; partner of James Cutshall (a civil servant). Education: Sussex University, B.A.; Cambridge University, Ph.D. Hobbies and other interests: Theatre, antiques collecting, cats, shopping.
ADDRESSES: Home—26 Rosemary Rd., London, SW2 4DD, England. Office—Department of History, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, Senate House, Malet St., London WC1E 7HU, England. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Historian. School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College—London, London, England, professor.
MEMBER: British Association of Slavonic and East European Studies (chair of study group on eighteenth-century Russia), Royal Historical Association (fellow).
AWARDS, HONORS: Heldt Prize, American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, for Sophia, Regent of Russia, 1657–1704; Alec Nove prize, for Russia in the Age of Peter the Great.
(Editor) New Perspectives on Muscovite History: Selected Papers from the Fourth World Congress for Soviet and East European Studies, Harrogate, 1990, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1993.
(Editor, with Maria Di Salvo) A Window on Russia: Papers from the Fifth International Conference of the Study Group on Eighteenth-Century Russia, Gargnano, 1994, La Fenice (Rome, Italy), 1996.
Russia in the Age of Peter the Great: 1682–1725, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1998, updated and abridged edition published as Peter the Great: A Biography, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2002.
(Editor) Peter the Great and the West: New Perspectives, Palgrave (New York, NY), 2000.
Author's work has been translated into Italian and Russian.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A study of responses to major landmarks in Russian culture: key buildings, paintings, and statues.
SIDELIGHTS: Lindsey Hughes teaches Russian history at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at University College—London, and has written and edited several well-received books on seventeenth-and eighteenth-century Russia and its rulers. In Sophia: Regent of Russia, 1657–1704, described by Linda Colley in the London Observer as a "fine and … erudite biography," Hughes examines the life and rule of Sophia, the daughter of Tsar Aleksei, who ruled Russia from 1657 to 1704.
Sophia was the first in a series of female rulers of Russia in the eighteenth century. In part, this was due to biological factors. According to Colley, except for one boy, who would later become known as Peter the Great, all of the male heirs to the Russian throne during this period were either mentally retarded or physically weak and frail, "whereas the women of the royal family were unusually tough and long-lived." Another factor Hughes notes is that because Russia was a deeply patriarchal society, it favored female leaders because they were seen as exceptions, not the rule, and therefore not threatening.
Sophia grew up in a terem, a secluded religious setting. Forbidden to show her face in public or to marry, she was supposed to spend her life praying. In 1682, however, an armed uprising offered her a chance to escape that fate. Her father was dead, her brother Ivan was retarded, and her half-brother—who one day would become the tsar known as Peter the Great—was a young child. She was the only member of the royal family who was able to rule, and she took power with a vengeance, ruling as regent for seven years.
Sophia claimed she was ruling in her retarded brother's name, securing his interest in the throne; because he was older he had been chosen over his stepbrother, Peter. Ivan officially took the throne with her, but she did all the governing. Her secluded upbringing would be her downfall; although a capable ruler, she was uncomfortable in dealing with the outside world and eventually was displaced by Peter and forced into a convent, where she died fourteen years later.
Hughes's book is the first modern biography of Sophia in any language. As Philip Longworth noted in the Times Literary Supplement, the historian examines the legends and stories that have accrued about Sophia and her reign and "probes such stories for exaggeration and invention, often providing evidence of their origins." Longworth also praised Hughes's balanced portrayal. "The result," declared the reviewer, "is a portrait stripped of false accretions in a context that describes an important phase of the transition from medieval to modern Russia. It may not solve the riddle of Sophia, but it comes as close to the truth as we are likely to get." The book was translated into Russian in 2001.
In Russia in the Age of Peter the Great: 1682–1725 Hughes examines the life and times of Tsar Peter I, the leader who attempted to Westernize Russia and establish it as a modern state and a military power. Published in 1998, Hughes' scholarly work supplants extensive studies penned decades earlier that have become dated as more information about Russia and its history is unearthed and reviewed by post-cold-war scholars. In fact, as Paul Bushkovitch noted in the Journal of Modern History, many biographers of Peter relied on "the huge mass of manufactured anecdote, legend, and myth about Peter that arose after his death." Rather than relying on this early form of "spin," Hughes bases her history on the account of Russian historians Jacob Stahlin and A. A. Nartov, contemporaries of the Eastern European ruler. Her work, according to Bushkovitch, "frees Peter 's life from virtually all the myths and legends created by the commercial journalism and court rumors of the eighteenth century." Critically praised when it was first published, even when compared to Robert Massie's enduringly popular 1980 biography Peter the Great, Hughes's work has also been updated and abridged for the more general reader as Peter the Great: A Biography.
"Rather than advance her own interpretation of Peter's reign or accept one of the existing interpretations," commented reviewer Richard Pipes in the New Republic, "Hughes summarizes—reliably and objectively—the full spectrum of scholarly opinion, leaving the reader to make up his mind." While Pipes dubbed this approach "not quite satisfactory" for such a controversial historical figure, Hughes was repeatedly praised for presenting a "formidably encyclopedic account of Peter's reign and the Petrine age," in the words of an Economist reviewer. Marc Raeff, writing in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, declared with Russia in the Age of Peter the Great Hughes provides readers with "a clear and comprehensive description of the activities of Peter I that aimed at transforming 'traditional Muscovy' in the empire of St. Petersburg…. She also gives a full account of those measures and events in the seventeenth century that paved the way for Peter's innovative policies. She ef-fectively puts to rest some hoary myths, cliches and anecdotes that cannot be reliably documented. It is one of the book's strengths … that she is extremely careful to subject the evidence to critical examination." Raeff praised the author's "enviable ability to present a vast and varied array of facts in clear and readable fashion, which yields a vivid, yet carefully balanced and documented picture of events and personalities." While commenting that the lack of critical analysis on the author's part regarding Peter and his reign diminishes the book's impact, Raeff added: "Hughes has given us the most reliable and readable store of information on a seminal period in the history of modern Russia. She has no competitor in English. We are much in her debt."
Peter the Great: A Biography was also praised by critics, with Norman E. Saul writing in History: Review of New Books that the book "clearly surpasses" other more recent biographies and as a shorter—at only 275 pages—version of her longer work serves to "engage general readers." In Library Journal Harry Willems also termed the book "an admirable job," although he added that, by her efforts to "shorten the work she has eliminated intriguing background material" and some continuity within Peter's long life. A Publishers Weekly critic predicted that Peter the Great: A Biography "will likely become a standard for scholars and students."
Hughes once told CA: "The main aim of my career has been to provide a subtle, challenging, and accessible interpretation of Russian history and culture, both for my students and my readers. Russian is still poorly understood in the West."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, February, 1992, p. 250.
Biography, spring, 2003, Douglas Smith, review of Peter the Great: A Biography, p. 378.
Booklist, October 15, 2002, Gilbert Taylor, review of Peter the Great, p. 383.
Choice, May, 1991, p. 1546.
Contemporary Review, October, 2002, review of Peter the Great, p. 253.
Daily Telegraph (London, England), September 5, 1998.
Economist, November 28, 1998, p. 88.
English Historical Review, June, 1994, p. 731.
Historian, autumn, 1991, p. 126.
History: Review of New Books, fall, 1991, p. 34; winter, 2003, Norman E. Saul, review of Peter the Great, p. 80.
History Today, August, 1991, p. 47.
International Herald Tribune, December 30, 1998.
Journal of Modern History, March, 1993, p. 234; September, 2004, Paul Bushkovitch, review of Peter the Great, p. 732.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2002, review of Peter the Great, p. 1196.
Library Journal, September 15, 1998, p. 94; November 1, 2002, Harry Willems, review of Peter the Great, p. 100.
Literary Review, August, 1998.
Los Angeles Times, March 21, 1999.
New Republic, October 19, 1998, pp. 46-49.
New York Review of Books, September 20, 1998.
Observer (London, England), December 2, 1990, p. 64.
Publishers Weekly, August 17, 1990, p. 58; August 3, 1998, p. 66; August 19, 2002, review of Peter the Great, p. 77.
Russian Review, April, 1993, p. 270.
Times (London, England), August 13, 1998.
Times Literary Supplement, March 22, 1991, p. 11.
Virginia Quarterly Review, spring, 1991, p. 56.
Women's Review of Books, May, 1992, p. 28.