"Teissier has extracted from the notes and memoirs of thirteen travellers dozens of paragraphs (more rarely, whole pages), and rearranged them by area (Volga, Caspian, Central Asia, Eastern Caucasus), and by theme (towns, peoples, history and legend, science, trade and geography). The result would be a meal of hors d'oeuvres, were it not for Teissier's introductions, commentaries and notes: she is succinct and precise, yet highly informative, expert in an impressively wide range of fields... superbly compiled."—Times Literary Supplement
“Beatrice Teissier’s book is a broad and comprehensive anthology of the writings of British travellers to the Russian peripheries over the course of the 18th century… The particular excellence of this book… is the introductions and commentaries attached to each chapter. She is able clearly and concisely to put the authors and their writing into the context not only of Russian and indigenous history, but also of British travel writing of the era, as well as other contemporary Russian Scholarship and travel writing… Teissier’s work is not only a pleasure to read, but also provides much food for thought about the past and future of Russia’s frontier.”—Asian Affairs
“Dr Teissier has assembled and arranged fascinating material as a scholarly and most welcome addition to travel anthologies in general and to those devoted to the Russian empire (and its far less well-known corners) in particular.”—Journal of European Studies
The vast and expanding Russian empire of the eighteenth century was inhabited by a great number of peoples. This book, part anthology, part commentary, is the first of its kind to bring together British travellers’ accounts of the peoples and places of the lesser known but key parts of Russia s frontiers: the Lower Volga, Azerbaijan, parts of Kazakhstan and ‘independent Tartary’ or central Asia. In the course of their journeys the travellers variously encountered indigenous Finnic groups, diverse sedentary and nomadic Tatars and Mongol Oirats (Kalmyks). With the exception of central Asia, Russia made significant inroads into these regions from 1700 onwards, with a resulting cultural impact on their non-Slavic inhabitants that included forced Christianisation, the restriction of pastures and the settlement of foreign and Russian colonies. The majority of writers included here were working in Russia and travelled in the course of their duties, visiting parts little known to Western Europeans. Their observations include ethnographic, scientific, antiquarian and contemporary historical analysis. They reflect eighteenth-century enlightenment curiosity and the writers personal voices but were also coloured by experiences at the hands of the state and by Russia’s spectacular growth, which prompted feelings ranging from admiration to alarm. Commentaries contextualise the texts, and include references to contemporary observers working for the St. Petersburg academy of sciences (academicians) and other foreign travellers as well as to modern scholarship. This anthology, which spans nearly one hundred years, introduces the reader to the various areas regionally, thematically and chronologically, and while giving an overview of the history of the times, reveals geopolitical issues that still deeply affect many of these regions today.
BEATRICE TEISSIER is an associate member of the Oriental Institute, Oxford. She is a writer/researcher working on eighteenth-century Orientalism, travellers to the east and the history of collections.
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