Davenport’s Proud History of Raising Famous Historians (Pt. 1)

Hello loyal readers.  This OurDavenport contributor remembers a final paper she wrote at around this time last year–it was 20 pages analyzing a collection of Romanov photo albums that we have here at Yale University.  And her go-to secondary sources were three books all written by a historian named Robert K. Massie. Massie is a Pulitzer Prize winning historian who focuses on the Romanov dynasty (Russia’s royal family from 1613 to 1917).

And Massie studied United States and European history when he was a Davenporter at Yale!  From there he went on to be a Rhodes Scholar and a journalist for Newsweek and the Saturday Evening Post.  In 1867, before moving to France with his family, he published his breakthrough book (which was, again, very helpful for someone’s final paper) called Nicholas and Alexandra. It is a biography of the last Emperor and Empress of Russia. Interestingly, Massie moved his historical focus to the Romanovs when his son Robert was born with hemophilia, a disease which also afflicted Nicholas and Alexandra’s son, Alexis. Robert and his then-wife Suzanne wrote about French and American health care systems and about their experience having a son with hemophilia in their 1975 book, Journey.  In 1981, Massie won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography for Peter the Great: His Life and World.  Massie has gone on to write a number of books since 1981, including most recently,  Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman, published in 2011.  This book won the 2012 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction and the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography.

Nicholas and Alexandra was turned into an 1971 Oscar-winning movie and Peter the Great was the inspiration for a 1986 Emmy-Award winning NBC miniseries.

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