Notes from around the Human Experience…
CAPSULE BOOK REVIEW: Peter the Great: His Life and Times By Robert K. Massie: For most of the biographies we’ve read over the years we had at least a passing acquaintance with the subject. Not so with Peter the Great. We knew the name and the words “tsar” and “Russia” came to mind and that was about it.
Dry, Technical Matter: Peter the Great ruled Russia from 1682-1725. Up until 1696 he was co-tsar with his half-brother Ivan V and in 1721 he was promoted to Emperor. By any measure, he took Russia from an isolated kingdom with little standing in Europe to a major European power.
Sweden’s King Charles XII could have been given secondary billing, too, because Massie spends no small amount of time on him. As he should have because Russia and Sweden spent 21 years at war, though most of that time they weren’t actually fighting. Known to History as the Great Northern War, it resulted in a Russian victory, not to mention Charles XII’s death.
As a monarch, Peter was the product of his times. He went to war and was faced with the usual intrigues and uprising monarchs faced and retained power by purging, torturing and killing those who got in his way. To be a Russian under Peter the Great wasn’t easy. With wars and new cities and a new navy to pay for Russians were brutally taxed with the only dividend being a hard life.
But they obeyed, and when Peter died he had spent two decades at war and reinvented his nation and left his country no debt. A single generation of Russians carried their tsar on their backs.
Peter did have formal schooling, of course, but to a great extent, Peter was self-educated. He had boundless curiosity and endless energy and he did an excellent job of teaching himself what he wanted to know and put the work in required to find out what he needed to know to be a monarch. And, importantly, knew what both he and his subjects didn’t now, and brought in no small amount of foreigners to provide their knowledge and experience.
Let’s Pause For The Official Daily Dose Rating Scale: A, B, C, D and F, just like in school. We’re tough graders here at your Daily Dose, and A is reserved only for the very best our species can offer. C, actually, is the base rating, a good book deserving of your time. B might seem like second place, but it is actually a work of great merit, perhaps a notch below the very best our species has produced.
Get Your Official Daily Dose Ranking Right Here: B.
Massie has produced one heck of a biography. There are times when you feel you could look up and see Peter – and Charles XII, too – sitting in your living room with you. If you are very knowledgeable about this time and place you will like it, and if you are merely a well-read student of History, you will like it, too. Be advised, Peter the Great: His Life and Times is not short, over 850 pages, which took us a couple of months to get through, but we’re slow readers.
HUT, HUT, HIKE: Sid Luckman of the Chicago Bears breaks the NFL single-game records for most passing yards and most touchdown passes in a 56-7 win over the New York Giants on this date in 1943.
Luckman completed 21 of 32 passes – which was a lot passing in 1943 – for 433 yards and seven touchdowns.
FunFact: The record for touchdown passes in a game still stands, though it has been tied seven other times. The record for most passing yards in a game stood until October 31, 1948, when Sammy Baugh threw for 446 yards.
Oh, Jesus H: The current record is 554 yards, set by Norm Van Brocklin of the Los Angeles Rams in 1951.
USA! USA!: Mariner 9 enters orbit over Mars on this date in 1971, the first spacecraft to orbit another planet. Like any tourist, Mariner 9 wanted to take pictures, but on arrival in Martian orbit a large dust storm was discovered, so picture taking was out off for a couple of months.
Oh Yeah: Mariner 9 was shut off the following October. It’s 7,329 images sent back covered over three-quarters of the Martian surface. It remains in Martian orbit, though it is expected to crash to the surface in 2022.
Quotebook: The tragedy of life is not that man loses, but that he almost wins. – Heywood Broun, American journalist
Answer To The Last Trivia Question: The first five players inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame were Walter Johnson, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner and Christy Mathewson. They were inducted in 1936.
Today’s Stumper: Who succeeded Peter the Great as emperor of Russia? – Answer next time!