Northern Illinois University Press

Elise Kimerling Wirtschafter on Russian Diplomacy

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We asked author Elise Kimerling Wirtschafter three questions about her new book, From Victory to Peace: Russian Diplomacy after Napoleon, and her research on the history of Russian diplomatic thought.

1. What’s your favorite anecdote from your research for this book?

My favorite anecdote is really an admission of past omissions. When I wrote my first book, a social history of the Russian common soldier, I focused on sources that could illuminate the perspective from below. I consciously overlooked the voices of political and social elites. In this book, I rely on the official voices that previously seemed uninteresting. Because this book (my seventh) has brought me back to material that I did not consider significant or, more accurately, did not know how to use, I can now say that I have finished my homework.

2. What do you wish you had known when you started writing your book, that you know now?

Whenever I begin a new research project, it is because I want to understand a question or subject area that I find confusing. In other words, I begin every book from a position of ignorance about the topic I hope to study. For this reason, I always can say that I wish I had known more about the topic before I started to write the book. In the end, when a book is finished, I feel as if I have moved from a state of confusion to one of partial enlightenment or understanding. 

3. How do you wish you could change the field of History?

If I could change the field of History, I would try to reduce the influence of politics and increase the appreciation for source-driven empirical research. Invariably, historical understanding is enriched through the diversification of perspectives and methodologies; however, this sometimes means that the construction of alternative narratives garners more attention than growth of the knowledge base.

*Featured photo: St. Basil’s Cathedral on the Red Square in Moscow, Russia. Credit: Artem Beliaikin.

This book was published under Cornell University Press’s NIU Press imprint. Find out more.

Elise Kimerling Wirtschafter is Emeritus Professor of History at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. She is author of Religion and Enlightenment in Catherinian RussiaRussia’s Age of Serfdom 1649–1861The Play of Ideas in Russian Enlightenment TheaterSocial Identity in Imperial RussiaStructures of Society, and From Serf to Russian Soldier. See all books by this author.

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