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Professor Spence is described on the dust-cover of this book as 'perhaps now the leading historian of China in the English-speaking world'. Without doubt he is the most imaginative and the most versatile scholar working in that field. The Gate of Heavenly Peace, first published in 1981, was a history of modern China as seen through the lives of Chinese writers and intellectuals.
Russian historiography has been richly endowed with numerous topics of enduring interest such as the founding of the Kievan Russian State in the ninth century and its later demise, the Mongol conquest in 1236-40 and its consequences, the rise of the Muscovite state between 1300 and 1514, serfdom, Ivan the Terrible and his Oprichnina, Peter the Great and Westernization, the revolutions of 1
Admiral Eduard Baltin, wrestling in mid-1997 with the consequences of the division of the ex-Soviet navy between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, took a moment to reflect on the creator of the imperial Russian Black Sea fleet: "a loose woman and non-Russian, Empress Catherine the Great was a greater Russian patriot than today's rulers of Russia.