The Historian and the Empress: Isabel de Madariaga’s Catherine the Great
Isabel de Madariaga (1919–2014) was in her fifties when she secured her first permanent academic position but nonetheless emerged as one of the preeminent historians of Russia of her generation and the world’s leading specialist on Catherine the Great. This chapter examines de Madariaga’s representation of Catherine, arguing that her principal contribution was to present the empress as a highly talented politician, a female monarch who “ruled as well as reigned.” This view would go on to shape a profound reconsideration of Catherine in the latter part of the twentieth century, in effect rescuing her reputation from the disparaging assessments provided by preceding generations of mostly male historians. At the same time, de Madariaga’s portrait has little to say about gender directly, largely stepping around the issue. The chapter reflects on the reasons for this, linking de Madariaga’s representation of Catherine to the story of her own remarkable scholarly life and career.