Thursday, April 26, 2007

Lindsey A.J. Hughes, 1949-2007

Word came from the UK today of the death of Lindsey Hughes, Professor of Russian History at University College, London. She had been ill on and off with cancer with several years, and it finally killed her today.

Lindsey Hughes wrote two superlative books in her specialty, Russia in the era of Peter the Great. One was a lengthy, academic study of Peter the Great, later shortened into a biography for general readers. I don't think I fully understood the transformation of the Russia under Peter before I read this work. She drew a general picture for the reader, then filled it in with all kinds of intriguing details, for example the exacting social and sartorial rules Peter imposed on the "new Russians" he forced to come to St. Petersburg to live in his mosquito-infested "Paradise." Peter so micromanaged their lives that he imposed a fine after a certain period of time for those who still did not learn how to sail, as European people did. Anyone caught using oars would be in big trouble. The other book she wrote that was so great concerned Sophia, Peter the Great's half sister. For many years prior to LIndsey's reappraisal, Sophia was a scheming witch hell-bent on destroying her half brother's life. In Lindsey's view, she was a highly intelligent, well-educated woman who wanted very much to rule herself--she certainly was every bit as capable as Peter--and, well, played hardball, used all the resources at her disposal to help her own cause. Lindsey was always surprising you, and she knew whereof she spoke. She worked in archives no westerner had seen before.

Lindsey was as down-to-earth as she was renowned. She was quick to laugh, told delightful stories of university life in Britain, and absolutely loved Cambridge, her alma mater and my personal favorite-ever university town. She will be missed at each and every conference and gathering in the future. Her books, however, assure that she will live on for years to come.

1 comment:

german said...

so what was her conclusion to peters last words. i heard he had trouble deciding who would or should succed him and he left it unanswered on his death bed.