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Senate House Library

M.S. Anderson Collection

The Collection

Subject: History 

Approximately 1,850 titles documenting western European (especially English) perceptions of Russia between 1525 and the Revolution of 1917, with particular emphasis on nineteenth-century publications. Travel narratives, diaries and other personal accounts of time spent in Russia, and other general descriptions form major components of the collection. Further significant subjects include Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, and the Eastern Question. The Crimean War is prominent among the various wars covered, followed by the Napoleonic Wars. There are several works of popular nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction, from Madame Cottin’s Elisabeth, or, The Exiles of Siberia to G.A. Henty.  

Landmark titles in the field abound, with works by such writers as Giles Fletcher, Adam Olearius, Jodocus Crull, William Coxe, Claude Carloman de Rulhière,  Peter Simon Pallas, and Elizabeth Craven, sometimes in multiple editions. Other books are obscure and rare or even unique, such as German schoolteacher Georg Heinrich Kayser’s Kurze Geschichte und Geographie des Russischen Reichs (1812) and A. Uzanne’s poem La journee d'Austerlitz (1806), the earliest literary response in the collection to a battle of the Napoleonic Wars. About seventy per cent of the material is in English. Pamphlets and Parliamentary reports supplement the books. 

Numerous translations both into and out of English indicate the spread of interest in works about Russia and the communality of knowledge across Europe. Yellowbacks and other examples of cheap publishing provide tangible insight into nineteenth-century publishing history.  

The collector was Matthew Smith Anderson, Professor of International History at the London School of Economics (1922-2006). He started by collecting material to support his first book, Britain’s Discovery of Russia 1553-1815 (1958), and expanded as his academic interests broadened (see ‘M.S. Anderson, Writer of History Textbooks’, The Independent, 23 Mar. 2006). Anderson’s Trustees donated the collection in 2008.


For an overview of the entire collection, do a mixed classmark search on [M.S. Anderson] or an author search on “Anderson, M. S. (Matthew Smith)” as former owner. Material published after 1850 is held off-site and requires 48 hours (excluding weekends) to be fetched.

Related material 

History and travel literature in the research collections. 

Further reading