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Recomended Poland's history books

marion kanawha 2 | 31
24 Oct 2022 #31
I really appreciate any input. Thanks all. The history of Poland up till the partitions is a very difficult topic. That's over 850 years of constantly changing history. It's a challenge but it's exciting.
pawian 197 | 19,976
24 Oct 2022 #32
The history of Poland up till the partitions is a very difficult topic.

No, it isn`t. Just like any other country`s. It is the partition period and afterwards which is special!! No other country in Europe decided to vanish from the maps and then fight for independence for 123 years. Amasing!!!
marion kanawha 2 | 31
26 Oct 2022 #33
It is a little bit daunting. All I ever heard about Poland in world history classes was the partitions. No reason was ever even for such actions.

I tried to study Polish history years ago but there were not too many books available.
Now I think there are good books available. I was just hoping some forum members had a more in-depth knowledge of history books on Poland in English.

Can you recommend a forum that deals with Polish history? Even if it's a Polish language forum, that's OK.
marion kanawha 2 | 31
30 Oct 2022 #34
Concerning Stone's THE POLISH-LITHUANIAN STATE, 1386-1795. I'm reading this history book but I became disappointed with his coverage of how Russia became Poland's "protector" around the turn of the start of the 18th century.

You turn the page and Russians are everywhere taking care of the Polish state. There is no clear cut explanation of how this happened. It lacks a detailed progression.

Concerning the Deluge period, Stone has done an exemplary job. He laid out, step by step, what happened. It was very understandable for someone relatively new to Polish history.
pawian 197 | 19,976
30 Oct 2022 #35
how Russia became Poland's "protector" around the turn of the start of the 18th century.

He probably meant the "protector" against Swedes and Saxon Germans.
Kashub1410 5 | 467
31 Oct 2022 #36
Not only, the Szlachta begun to surrender to the critiscism of it's surrounding neighbours regarding authoritarianism seeing the emerging powers of Prussia, Austria and Russia with it's use of mass amounts of infantry (military wise) due to Lost battles with Sweden and how Sweden begun losing ground to those said powers.

How their states were organised gave them the possibility to conscript at will and be in charge of society compared to Poland-Lithuania were everything had to be duscussed before taking a decision, wether in parlament or anywhere else. Leadership wasn't so evidently clear and had to be proven by speech mostly.

In a peaceful relaxing time during boredom it's a good way to avoid escalating conflict, but it's No good if the enemy doesn't abide by those rules and attack you mercilessly anyway.

So many of the conservative and older members of the Szlachta (especially the richest) saw No other option then to become partitioned and end this non-functionality for sure.

The youngest Szlachta however disagreed and would not accept the fate of Poland to die without a fight. Rest is more or less history
Ziemowit 14 | 4,404
31 Oct 2022 #37
A very good recent book on the history of Poland-Lithuania by Robert I. Frost.

Volume I (1385-1569) is available in print and as an e-book on ($38.84). Some even say the book reeds like a history thriller.

The two remaing volumes in preparation. The whole works will be the first (in English) full history of the Polish-Lithuanian Union from its formation to its final liquidation at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Volume one was published in June 2015.


marion kanawha 2 | 31
7 Nov 2022 #38
A very good recent book on the history of Poland-Lithuania by Robert I. Frost.

I saw this book but it only covered up till the union. It must be very detailed. It probably would be too much for me who is new to Polish history. It is my intention to get it eventually. First I need to get a better understanding of the timeline of events. Currently I'm tackling A CONCISE HISTORY OF POLAND by Jerzy Lukowski and Hubert Zawadzki, Second Edition, 2006. The is part of the Cambridge Concise Histories series. I'm only going to read Part I, up til 1795. This is another book that has been on my bookshelf for years.

Zawadzki ----- How do you pronounce it? za-VAD-zki or za-VA-jeki ???
marion kanawha 2 | 31
7 Nov 2022 #39

One thing I've noticed so far in reading Polish history during the Commonwealth period (1600-1795) is that the commonwealth never had enough money. Being a decentralized state monies were poorly collected, corruption seems rife. Certain families were richer than God Almighty yet during this period of early modern history funds were always lacking to get anything done. This is a time when great nation states were being consolidated into modern countries (England, France, Spain, Russia, Prussia, Austria, Sweden).

It's just an observation. Poor tax collecting, poor tariff control, poor currency, no concept of investments, poor banking system, etc., etc.
Kashub1410 5 | 467
7 Nov 2022 #40
@marion kanawha
Caused by the continued way of thinking that reigning king = state
State resources = king's resources

Among nobility, a king (and his family) was just another competing faction in an competing group of people.

It's after the French Revolution and ideas of a brotherhood across social groups (later on across faith/culture/language too for that matter) begins to emerge.

The whole point of the system was to have the head of state as powerless as possible so that other members of society were more free.

Compared to the monarchies at the time and an growing merchant style republic growing in the U.S who were far more in control of their own countries.

If you are a politician planning wars of conquest then Poland-Lithuania was not for you, and that was the biggest concern and worry for most people except of the opportunistic and warmongerers.
pawian 197 | 19,976
7 Nov 2022 #41
funds were always lacking to get anything done

That was the reality. Noblemen were always afraid the king might use those funds against them. That is why they supported the eternal state of poor finances to make the king as weak as possible.

Eventually, Polish elites led to the disintegration of Poland as a state. It wasn`t bad Russia, Prussia or Austria which dismantled us. It was Poles who had first dismantled their own country. Sad but true.

The same style of treasonous approach can be observed in today`s Polish rightwingers under PiS. They are also ready to destroy the Polish state in order to have their little dirty interests done.
marion kanawha 2 | 31
8 Nov 2022 #42
I like the way @pawian and @Kashub1410 comment on the overall state of affairs. To me it's a decent summary of what I've been reading. I'm assuming, but could be wrong, that both of you were educated in Poland. Therefore you have a better overall view of the issues that occurred before 1795.
pawian 197 | 19,976
8 Nov 2022 #43
I like the way @pawian and @Kashub1410 comment

Me too., :):):)

They are also ready to destroy the Polish state in order to have their little dirty interests done.

How? E,g. the EU is offering Poland huge funds for covid recovery on condition PiS stops violating the independence the judiciary. PiS ritards aren`t able to conform coz they need to control the judiciary to have their own dirty gangster interests covered and absolved. In this way PiS ritards are destroying the country in the double manner: by losing the EU funds and destroying the legal system in Poland.

Most Polish elites did similar things in the past, which eventually led to partitions.
marion kanawha 2 | 31
8 Nov 2022 #44
A comment on reading Polish history in English.
In addition to the books I've mentioned in previous posts, I've also finished quite a number of Polish history books that were of a more simple nature.

Examples are John Radzilowski's A TRAVELLER'S HISTORY OF POLAND, 2007; Anira Prazmowska"s A HISTORY OF POLAND, 2004; Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski's POLAND, AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY, 2000; Robert Bubczyk's A HISTORY OF POLAND IN OUTLINE, 2006. I've also read Pawel Jasienica's A TALE OF AGONY, THE COMMONWEALTH OF BOTH NATIONS, Vol. III, 1992 and Patrice Dabrowski's POLAND, THE FIRST THOUSAND YEARS, 2016.

So what is my comment?
I've always enjoyed reading all types of history. When I read the history of France or Sweden or the Ottoman or Seljuk Turks or the Mongols or China or Vietnam the PROPER NAMES are always, always consistent when I read these histories in ENGLISH.

When I read Polish history in ENGLISH not so. Names of towns, of cities, of titles, of provinces, of regions, first names, surnames, foreign names, currency, military, book titles, schools, histories, etc., etc. are always all different. Some of the previous history books I mentioned above even have a preface chapter dealing with PROPER NAME and how they're used. Only Polish history books in ENGLISH have this. No other history books of non-English speaking countries have this unique problem. Not even Chinese history books in English have this problem.

Why is that? Why is there absolutely no consistency what so ever where Polish proper names and nouns are used ???
It's like you're trying to decipher hieroglyphics !!! The ONLY consistency is when the names of rivers are mentioned, That's it !
pawian 197 | 19,976
8 Nov 2022 #45
no consistency what so ever where Polish proper names and nouns are used ???

You should quote an example or two to bring it closer.
marion kanawha 2 | 31
13 Nov 2022 #46
Here's a quick example off the top of my head. Why do they say "Sigismund"? Oh, why "Cracow"? "Casimir", "Jagello"? Different history books about Poland in English keep jumbling names around. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, if I read a Chinese history book in English everything is consistent. The same goes for a Turkish, German or even Russian history book in English. Proper names are always consistent. It's Polish (and I must admit Ukrainian also) that nothing is consistent.

How do you spell Kosiusko? There's a bridge in New York City with this name. When I listen to the radio and the traffic reports it's pronounced "KO-see- yus-ko"
pawian 197 | 19,976
13 Nov 2022 #47
Proper names are always consistent

Consistent in what way?? That it is always Sigismund and never Zygmunt or always Zygmunt and never Sigismund???

Oh, why "Cracow"?

Coz it is an international name of that city. In Polish history books, London is Londyn, Köln is Kolonia and Roma is Rzym.
I think you are blowing it out of proper proportion. I am sure that when they mention Sigismund for the first time, they always explain in footnotes it comes from Zygmunt.

How do you spell Kosiusko?

Kosciuszko. But foreigners` problem here is with pronunciation, not spelling.
Ziemowit 14 | 4,404
14 Nov 2022 #48

KoŚciuszko is the proper spelling.

- Patrz, Kościuszko, na nas z nieba! -
raz Polak skandował
i popatrzył nań Kościuszko,
i się zwymiotował.

Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński
Kashub1410 5 | 467
14 Nov 2022 #49
@marion kanawha
That's caused by use of Latin in Poland to a much higher degree then other european states. (Especially compared to England, a English queen was quite taken aback when dealing with Polish diplomats due to Polish trade ships being attacked by english privateers. Due to useage of latin, which the queen had to brush up on.)

So many translations or use can be more connected to latin, then Polish. Sigismund (scandinavian is Sigmund) is latin version of Zygmunt and so on.
marion kanawha 2 | 31
15 Nov 2022 #50
@pawian @Kashub1410
OK thanks for the info.
So my point is, when I read a Polish history book in English, the name Zygmunt should always be used. Correct?
Kashub1410 5 | 467
17 Nov 2022 #51
@marion kanawha
Your most welcome, glad to be of assistance to you.

When Polish history is read in Polish, it is grammatically correct to use "Zygmunt" due to it being the Polish version of the Latin name Sigismund.

Due to English history rarely touching the subject of Poland in the past, when great minds and historians decided in an orderly fashion which versions and words to use in the English language. It's fairly open to interpretation which form is best used. I would advice to use the form which is easiest for an English reader to read, as it's aimed at an English audience by use of English (or international with the use of English).

I would have consulted more with a somebody majoring English language, and history to solve that question
Miloslaw 14 | 4,551
17 Nov 2022 #52
A couple threads mention Davies' GOD'S PLAYGROUND

In my opinion the best book on Polish history.Full stop.

The Polish Way- Adam Zamoyski

In my opinion Zamoyski makes too many false assumptions about Poles and I found his book unreadable.
marion kanawha 2 | 31
18 Nov 2022 #53
This is my next book to read. I've read Zamoyski's newer book, POLAND, A HISTORY but I decided to also read his older (1987) book THE POLISH WAY. You're comments immediately caught my eye.

If you have time can you please tell me more. What I mean is if you can give a couple examples of "false assumptions". Being new to Polish history, I'm in the process of absorbing everything. I can't make a scholarly decision as to weather the historian is presenting a good narrative or is the historian writing with some sort of agenda in mind.

What i can tell at this time is if the historians I read cover certain periods in a satisfactory manner. (At least to me) Examples: One history book did not cover the problems that led up to the Deluge in enough depth to make sense. Another history book did not cover how Russia became involved in every aspect of Poland's internal and external affairs. One chapter you're talking about a Saxon king; the next chapter Russia is "running" Poland. I can tells gaps like this but anything more sophisticated I'm at a loss.

That's why I'm so interested in your comments.
Atch 17 | 3,687
1 day ago #54
In my opinion Zamoyski makes too many false assumptions about Poles and I found his book unreadable.

What assumptions would those be? I enjoyed his book.

Now it's Polish history until 1795.My next phase will be Polish history IMMEDIATLY after WW II.

Why are you skipping everything in between? You can't really understand the history of a country if you skip a big chunk like that. It's better to get a broad outline of the whole history and then go back and study each part in detail. Each series of events in a country's history prepares the ground for the next.
GefreiterKania 16 | 749
1 day ago #55
You can't really understand the history of a country if you skip a big chunk like that.

Especially if, in case of Poland, you skip November and January Uprisings - such momentous and national mythos-creating events; as well as 123 years of struggling to regain independence, then the Polish-Soviet war, the 2nd Rzeczpospolita period (which, believe it or not, still influences political life in Poland today), the September Campaign, WW2, Home Army, Volhyn massacre etc. etc. Why would anyone seriously interested in Poland's history decide to do it? Strange.
Miloslaw 14 | 4,551
19 hrs ago #56
"false assumptions

What assumptions would those be?

He states very early in his book that Poles are not passionate people.

That told me straight away that he did not understand Poles.
Atch 17 | 3,687
4 hrs ago #57
Well now, he is Polish so .......... his understanding of Polish character is as valid as that of any Pole. I would say he has a very objective view of Polish history. He's quite right in my view when he says that Poles are neither romantic nor passionate, rather I would say that they're pragmatic and resourceful and far from being romantic, they're much more inclined to be cynical.
mafketis 35 | 11,226
4 hrs ago #58
I would say that they're pragmatic and resourceful and far from being romantic, they're much more inclined to be cynical.

I pretty much agree... the self-image is passionate but the reality is a bit different. Absolutely resourceful (and capable of more sang-froid when needed than I could ever manage).... The cynical part comes, I think, from the communist period.

Soviet style government induces massive cynicism in any population subjected to it....

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