Book review: Paul Werth’s 1837.

Just finished Paul Werth’s 1837 ( He is to be congratulated. It is a gem of a work. Rather than A-then-B-then-C history, Paul provides a snapshot in time, a few-year period in the late 1830s when a lot was going on in Russia. Paul’s “horizontal” approach is something only a well-tenured professor or a non-academic historian could get away with. That is, it’s readable, enjoyable, jargon-free and not trying to score points in some obscure debate among academics. Non-specialist readers will come away with a sense of time and place that narrower works of history struggle to deliver.

My favorite chapters were on Glinka’s opera, Alexander’s tour, and the “important” one on the state peasant reform.

His book was not written as a guide to the perplexed about Russia’s current troubles, but Russia as a lumbering behemoth seemingly always struggling to keep up does come out. Highly recommended.

You can also hear an interview with the author on the New Books Network : University of Nevada-Las Vegas Oxford University Press