Author Archives: Alison Smith

About Alison Smith

Professor, University of Toronto, Department of History; Author of For the Common Good and Their Own Well-Being: Social Estates in Imperial Russia (Oxford University Press, 2014)

Ivanovo: Energy Crisis

Firewood showed up in my last post in what was for me a rather unexpected way, as the source of artistic inspiration. It also showed up in other accounts of Ivanovo in the 1830s-1860s in a very different way: as … Continue reading

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Ivanovo: Patterns (literally)

One of the things that’s a bit tricky about working primarily with written texts about old Ivanovo is that the major work of the village/town is obscured. Ivanovo was not just a center of textiles in the sense that it … Continue reading

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The Russian Manchester

I’ve been following a thread from my work on soslovie that has led me to do some reading on the then village of Ivanovo in the early parts of the nineteenth century. I came across references to a number of … Continue reading

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Common Good: Collectives

I intended to post a second response in the conversation a while ago, but thoughts about cheese and then a trip intervened. I’ve been thinking about the commentary here a lot, though, and in particular about another aspect of the … Continue reading

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On cheese

Who knew, when I started writing about the Swiss cheese master Tinguely last November, that cheese would become the star of its own foreign policy drama? And yet, here we are. Type “cheese” and “Russia” into twitter’s search field and … Continue reading

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Common Good: The Eighteenth Century

First, let me thank Josh for organizing this conversation, and Alex, Lindsey, Charles, and John for taking time at summer’s end to take part in it. You are all very kind, and I’m thrilled to have the chance to think … Continue reading

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Lists, researching, and writing

My posts on the dead cheese master may have made one thing about me as a researcher very clear: whenever I come across a list—of people, of things, of places—I am drawn to copy it. Last summer, as I started … Continue reading

Posted in Imperial Russia, Research & Practice, World War I | 3 Comments

Imperial Apocalypse–Introduction

Welcome to the second blog conversation of summer 2015. Our next conversation is Russian History Blog contributor Josh Sanborn’s great Imperial Apocalypse: The Great War and the Destruction of the Russian Empire (Oxford University Press, 2014). Josh has brought a … Continue reading

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The Case of the Dead Cheese Master, Part XII: The End of the Cheese Master’s Story

I’ve mentioned before that I was a bit inspired by the podcast Serial when I started writing this series of blog posts. The idea of taking one archival file and looking at it deeply is of course not at all … Continue reading

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The Case of the Dead Cheese Master, Part XI: People

I’m a week late in posting this installment of the cheese master’s story because I spent all of last week at Disneyworld on a family trip, and that wasn’t conducive to posting (though I did finish a conference paper!). This … Continue reading

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The Case of the Dead Cheese Master, Part X: Cheeses, Cows, and Contracts

The various reports of Tinguely’s possessions disagreed on a few specifics, but agreed that those possessions included a significant amount of cheese, and that the cheese was valuable. The long list of his possessions concluded that he had produced cheese … Continue reading

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The Case of the Dead Cheese Master, Part IX: The Historian’s Confession

I could probably put this post off for another two weeks while I go a bit further into the story of the cheesemaster’s cheeses, but I’m eventually going to have to confess something so it may as well be now. … Continue reading

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The Case of the Dead Cheese Master, Part VIII: The Other Things He Left Behind

Before I get to the fate of the cheeses, I want to take a post to talk about the other things Tinguely left behind. The archival file includes two inventories of Tinguely’s private property, virtually identical. The first (ll. 6-7) … Continue reading

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The Case of the Dead Cheese Master, Part VII: The Things He Left Behind

Tinguely’s death, as sudden as it seemed to be, wasn’t one that had to be solved. It’s true that the exact circumstances of his death were a bit uncertain, but none of the later investigation ever seemed to suspect foul … Continue reading

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The Case of the Dead Cheese Master, Part VI: Palace, Villages, Town

Over the last couple of posts, I’ve thought a lot about Tinguely’s long-distance travel—of the ways he moved around between Switzerland and France, and then of how he might have made his way to Russia. It turns out that there’s … Continue reading

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The Case of the Dead Cheese Master, Part V: Twists and turns

I initially planned this post to focus on the lands around Gatchina proper where the cheese master lived and worked. But then I started following up on a couple of comments made about the last post, and suddenly I’d written … Continue reading

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The Case of the Dead Cheese Master, Part IV: The Cheese Master’s Documents

The archival file from the Gatchina Town Administration that records the case of the dead cheese master includes three official documents—only three—that attest to his life before and during his tenure at Gatchina. Two of the documents give a sense … Continue reading

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The Case of the Dead Cheese Master, Part III: The Emperor and the Palace

The Swiss cheese master was an employee of the palace of Gatchina at the time of his death. He’d been hired just a couple of years before, at a time when Gatchina—both the palace and the village—were undergoing some significant … Continue reading

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The Case of the Dead Cheese Master, Part II: A Taste for Cheese

Why was a Swiss cheese-master (or perhaps a Swiss-cheese master) working for the administration of Gatchina in 1799? There are (at least) two ways of answering this question. The first has to do with the development of a taste for … Continue reading

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The Case of the Dead Cheese Master, Part I: The Body

On the morning of August 8, 1799, the peasant Pavel Spiridonov found a dead body on the road near his village. And he found not only “a dead male unknown body,” but close to it a saddled chestnut horse. What … Continue reading

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