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  • In MemoriamLindsey Hughes (1949–2007)
  • Janet Hartley

The tragic death on 26 April 2007 of Lindsey Hughes, from cancer at the age of 57, has saddened members of the Study Group on Eighteenth-Century Russia on both sides of the Atlantic and is a great loss for scholarship.

Lindsey Audrey Jennifer Hughes was born in Swanscombe in Kent, in southeast England, on 4 May 1949. She was a pupil at Dartford Grammar School for girls, where not only was she very happy (she wrote a chapter for the school's centennial volume some years ago), but she had the rather rare good fortune of being taught Russian. She studied Russian at Sussex University and then moved to Cambridge University for graduate work on Russian baroque architecture under the supervision of Nikolay Andreyev. Her academic career started at the Queen's University, Belfast, in 1974, at the height of the "troubles." She worked for three years in Belfast before moving to the University of Reading. When the Russian Department was closed down at Reading, she moved to the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London, in 1987 and became a professor ten years later.

Lindsey's extensive scholarship on late 17th- and early 18th-century Russia was remarkable in both its breath and its depth. Throughout her work she was able to combine political biography with a sophisticated understanding of Russian artistic and cultural life which made her work not only distinctive but also accessible to students and general readers as well as to specialists. Her work was based on a meticulous reading of archival and other primary sources, but she also managed to produce that most important, but sadly all too rare, quality of a historian: her books were simply a "very good read."

Her first monograph was a study of Prince Vasilii Vasil´evich Golitsyn (1643–1714).1 Golitsyn was a relatively sophisticated Westernizer, as well as a political intriguer at court; and Lindsey's study demonstrated that [End Page 705] cultural, and political, change was beginning to take shape in late 17th-century Muscovy, even before the traumatic experience of the reign of Peter the Great. Golitsyn was in the entourage of Sophia, Peter's half-sister, and she became the subject of Lindsey's next biography.2 Piecing together the history of this ruler (and even her appearance) was enormously difficult given the paucity and unreliability of the sources, but Lindsey's achievement was to give a balanced picture of an extraordinary situation: a woman ruling Russia alone during the minority of Peter and his half-brother Ivan.

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Figure 1.

Lindsay Hughes
Picture courtesy of Jim Cutshall

Up to this point, Lindsey's scholarship had served to open up a period of Russian history about which there was relatively little Western or Russian scholarship. Her skillful intertwining of cultural and political history portrayed a country on the eve of modernization. She then, however, moved boldly into an area that has been a constant source of fascination for historians: the reign of Peter the Great (1682–1725). Not one to move tentatively into this field, she staked her claim to be the leading expert with a substantial monograph Russia in the Age of Peter the Great (followed by the shorter Peter the Great: A Biography).3 [End Page 706]

Lindsey's study of Peter was a remarkable achievement. By examining the formative years of his childhood, his family relationships, and his personal demons, she was able to get under the skin of this, the most extraordinary of rulers, in order to explain the complexity of the man and the sheer restlessness of his character. But she also provided a coherent and comprehensive study of the country over which he ruled, and which he so radically changed. Her expertise in cultural history enabled her to explore the impact on the court, on elite society (including women) and on the cultural, as well as international, institutional, religious, and economic development of the country. Some of the most impressive sections of the book reflect Lindsey's own background in artistic and cultural history: the impressive chapter on the court, for...


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