The History of Russia, 1682-1825

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Paul Keenan SAR 2.13


This course is available on the BA in History, BSc in Government and History, BSc in International Relations and History and BSc in Politics and History. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

May be taken by 3rd years, General Course students and as an outside option where regulations, timetabling constraints and teaching capacity permit.

Course content

The course provides an introduction to the history of Russia in all its major aspects from the reign of Peter I to the accession of Nicholas I. The following topics are studied: Russia in 1682; the impact of the reign of Peter I on the internal development and international position of Russia; the social and political developments of the period 1725-1762; popular revolt during the eighteenth century; the domestic and foreign policies of Catherine II; the impact of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution on Russia; Russia and the Napoleonic Wars; the failure of constitutional and social reform in the first quarter of the nineteenth century; the policies towards non-Russians within the empire; the Decembrist Revolt of 1825. The course is taught chronologically but several main themes are addressed throughout the period. These themes include: tsarist rule as an instrument of both reform and reaction; the relationship between the ruler and the major social groups; the significance of serfdom for Russia's economic, institutional and legal development; the 'missing' middle class; the nature and impact of Western ideas on Russia; the role of the Orthodox Church within the Russian state; the growth of a disaffected elite in Russia; the relationship between Russia and other European powers; the development of Russia as a 'great power'; the policies towards the non-Russians in the multi-ethnic empire; the growth of a Russian national consciousness.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 1 hour of lectures in the ST.

There will be a reading week in Michaelmas and Lent terms. There will be a revision lecture in Summer Term.

Formative coursework

Students will be required to write three essays, one of which will be done under examination conditions

Indicative reading

A full reading list will be provided at the start of the course. Useful introductory works include: J Hartley, A Social History of the Russian Empire 1650-1825; S Dixon, The Modernization of Russia: 1682-1825; M Raeff, Understanding Imperial Russia: State and Society in the Old Regime; J Billington, The Icon and the Axe; An Interpretive History of Russian Culture; A Kahan, The Plow, the Hammer and the Knout: An Economic History of 18th Century Russia; P Dukes, The Making of Russian Absolutism, 1613-1801; E Kimerling-Wirtschafter, Russia's Age of Serfdom; D Saunders, Russia in the Age of Reaction and Reform, 1801-1881.


Exam (85%, duration: 3 hours) in the summer exam period.
Presentation (15%).

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2018/19: 20

Average class size 2018/19: 10

Capped 2018/19: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills