An examination of the concepts of absolutism / despotism in the light of contemporary views and how these fit into the Russian context. Did this context make for political instability and `palace revolutions’? After examining the overthrow of Peter III, an examination follows of Catherine the Great’s efforts to come to grips with the problems of ruling Russia and of the problems of foreign policy, particularly with regard to Poland and Turkey. An examination of domestic reform in the wake of the Pugachev revolt, with a look at the progress of `enlightened’ currents in Russia. Continued foreign policy problems, under both Catherine and Paul; an examination of Paul’s reign as a reaction both to his mother’s and the French Revolution.