Putnam’s biography of Peter the Great continues to appeal to young readers for a number of reasons. Its subject is an intriguing and sinister character. Putnam shows that, if one individual, no matter how intelligent or well intentioned, attempts to impress his personal view of the way society should be organized and the way in which people live their lives, then the result will be disastrous for the society that the individual is trying to transform. In his own way, Putnam is arguing that no one should try to make other people live their lives in a certain manner. This message continues to be very attractive to young adults, who may resent such control by their elders.
Putnam wrote his biography of Peter when the Cold War was diminishing in intensity and efforts were underway to establish greater cooperation (such as in joint ventures into space) and greater understanding between the United States and the Soviet Union. The desire of many American students and teachers to learn more about Russia, along with Putnam’s readable style and the appeal of his subject matter, made the book an instant success. The many outstanding qualities of Peter, the Revolutionary Tsar ensure that it will continue to be a valuable tool for the teaching of history.