Enterprising Empires traces the commercial relationship between Britain and Russia from the eighteenth century to the end of the Napoleonic Wars. With the exception of the Continental Blockade coerced by Napoleon, Britain, heavily dependent on Russian naval materials, was Russia’s greatest foreign trading partner throughout the course of the eighteenth century. Even so, a compelling central argument of the book is that Britain typically met frustration and fell short of its aspirations in its trade negotiations with Russia because the leverage and circumstances were in Russia’s favor (3).

The story is sprawling, but Romaniello’s prose, albeit highly detailed, is lucid and compact. His emphasis on the “importance of geopolitical stability for trade” keeps the geopolitical dynamics and trade interests at the forefront (8). It provides a vista from which we can view exchanges at, and memos dispatched from, the Russian court as nodes in a wider world of dynamic, globe-stretching...

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