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Recommended Poland's history books


Paulina 16 | 4,479
6 Dec 2022 #61
He's still Polish.

Yes, but his view is that of an outsider since he grew up in the UK. I didn't read his books, so that's all I can say, I'm afraid...

Here's a positive Polish review of one of his books though:

histmag.org/adam-zamoyski-polska-opowiesc-o-dziejach-niezwyklego-narodu-966-2008-recenzja-12594

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

I guess it depends on the context. What kind of passion did he mean? In romantic relationships? Being passionate about some cause? As a general personality trait?

The same with "romantic" - does Atch mean that Poles aren't romantic in relationships or from a historical point of view?
jon357 74 | 22,827
6 Dec 2022 #62
Yes, but his view is that of an outsider since he grew up in the

I like his stuff. And of course like Norman Davis, he's lived in Poland longer than most Poles.
GefreiterKania 31 | 1,326
6 Dec 2022 #63
Bend the knee to the old Polish nobility

I think I will join Milo in my lack of reverence for "old Polish nobility".

The nobles, not necessarily the ordinary szaraczki but especially those from grand old families were the worst scumbags of all. They exploited peasants, blocked all the attempts at reforming the country, defended their overblown privileges, broke Sejm sessions, started rokosz rebellions etc. etc. In simple Irish terms - they were c*nts of the first order. It was their selfishness and greed that eventually led to the downfall of Poland and her disappearance from the map of Europe for 123 years.
Atch 20 | 4,153
6 Dec 2022 #64
does Atch mean that Poles aren't romantic in relationships or from a historical point of view?

I don't mean in relationships. I mean in the broader definition of romantic. I mean in the other sense, as defined by our old friend the Oxford dictionary:

"having an attitude to life where imagination and the emotions are especially important; not looking at situations in a realistic way"

I think Poles are very down to earth.

his view is that of an outsider since he grew up in the UK. I

Perhaps not what you would consider 'Polish' but listen to him speak and you will see that he is a deeply thoughtful and reflective person who has more than a superficial idea of what it means to be Polish. And when you think of the people with whom his parents were on pretty intimate terms, he knew Anders etc. I don't think you can dismiss that and say he's an outsider. If anything he's more of an insider :)
Atch 20 | 4,153
6 Dec 2022 #65
grand old families were the worst scumbags of all. They exploited peasants, blocked all the attempts at reforming the country,

You mustn't throw out the baby with the bath water though. The Zamoyski family were one of the grandest and most powerful families but have a history of service to Poland. One of them took part in the November uprising. He was exiled as were other members of the family at different times. Have you read about the Zamoyski Code in the 18th century? It was one of the attempts at reform which laid the grounds for the May Constitution. The Zamoyskis were political and social reformers, good businessmen and patrons of the arts. Pity you didn't have more like them.
GefreiterKania 31 | 1,326
6 Dec 2022 #66
You mustn't throw out the baby with the bath water though.

Zamoyskis might have been a spoonful of honey in a barrel of tar, but as a social class in general nobility were a disgrace.

Pity you didn't have more like them.

Pity indeed.
Atch 20 | 4,153
6 Dec 2022 #67
Zamoyskis might have been a spoonful of honey in a barrel of tar,

There were others.

"Father enjoyed explaining, especially to the boys, the life of the forest, they way is should be governed and loved. It was the same with animals. Only weak or sick ones were shot. Father was familiar with each of the best deer individually, and he would only kill the first of them when he was sure that enough were living in the woods to sustain a reasonable level. "

Thus Jadwiga Stadnicka writing of her father Adam Zbigniew Stadnicki. He established one of the first forest reserves in Poland and look at what Poland's politicians get up today, decimating the forests. Not just in Bialowieza but all over Poland, acres of mature trees are felled every year for commercial gain in areas of supposedly protected forest.

Today in Warsaw, I heard a deafening roar of machinery and looked out to see some eejit sitting on a huge contraption, sucking the leaves up off the grass. Instead of allowing the leaves to decompose and rot back into the ground, they're clearing them up, destroying the eco-system and adding to the existing air pollution with their petrol driven machinery and adding to the already considerable noise pollution.
GefreiterKania 31 | 1,326
6 Dec 2022 #68
There were others.

As I said, a couple of spoonfuls of honey in a barrel of tar. For every one of your Zamoyskis and Stadnickis we could find ten others who were thieves, traitors and warchołs. If this hadn't been the case, Poland wouldn't have lost independence for 123 years and regained it only in very favourable historical conditions, when even dwarves like Latvia or Estonia were declaring their independence.
Barney 16 | 1,680
6 Dec 2022 #69
As I said, a couple of spoonfuls of honey in a barrel of tar.

Good man, its the same the world over.

Keep thinking and you will become a good socialist in time.
GefreiterKania 31 | 1,326
6 Dec 2022 #70
socialist

It's not about a political system but about total depravity of man. It is, by and large, a theological question not a political/economic one.

Of course, in certain conditions and countries men are allowed to indulge in the sinfulness of their wretched hearts more than in others, and that was the case in Poland. Let's not forget that Polish nobles were in overwhelming majority members of the apostate popish cult, so being deprived of proper religion they allowed all their worst faults to flourish.
Barney 16 | 1,680
6 Dec 2022 #71
It is, by and large, a theological question not a political/economic one.

I disagree, and would suggest that confessional allegiance is incidental however I dont want to drive the thread further off topic.
jon357 74 | 22,827
6 Dec 2022 #72
The nobles, not necessarily the ordinary szaraczki but especially those from grand old families were the worst scumbags

Most were vile, regardless of their country. The 'ordinary' szlachta (who were not in any real sense nobility) were just common or garden exploiters, many of them degenerate.

The Zamoyskis however may have started cruel and led a parasitic existence for most of their history did at least in recent times produce some more decent people, Count Adam Zamoyski among them. Whether that's through circumstance, having lost most of what the family had taken from others or for another reason is an impossible question to answer.

Stadnicki

That family certainly had their moments too: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanisław_Stadnicki

members of the apostate popish cult,

As opposed to what?
marion kanawha 3 | 95
6 Dec 2022 #73
Getting back to Polish history books.....................

Reading Zamoyski's THE POLISH WAY. So far I like it. I like his style of historical narrative. It flows quite well.
I was finishing up the chapter dealing with cultural history (literature, poetry, music, architecture, religion, etc.).As the 16th century was closing the vernacular speech was starting to be used all over Europe.

Up until the mid-16th c. lots of Polish literature daling with politics, philosophy, religion, government, science, medicine, etc., etc. was written in Latin and oftentimes this literature made its way throughout Europe. By the 1550s Polish became the official language of the state, the language of politics and of literature. It was then that Polish thought stopped filtering into Western Europe. More and more Polish culture was becoming fenced off because of the vernacular language. This shocked me a little but it's understandable.
Lyzko 42 | 9,502
6 Dec 2022 #74
I'd be curious as to whether there's a book out there outlining cultural peculiarities/idiocincracies about Poland similar to Susanne Steiner's "These Strange German Ways" etc. The volume could be in Polish or in English!
marion kanawha 3 | 95
15 Jan 2023 #75
UNDER A COMMON SKY, ETHNIC GROUPS OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF POLAND AND LITHUANIA, 2017. Published in the English language by Muzeum Historii Polski in Warsaw. Translated into English by William F. Hoffman.

Fantastic book! Looking at all the threads on this forum you get the idea that many people want to know about different ethnic groups as they relate to Poland. This book does a great job of covering the ethnicities that made up the Commonwealth. Twelve contributing experts cover Lithuanians, Belarusians and Ukrainians, naturally of course.

But Jews, Tartars, Karaites, Gypsies and Scotsmen, among others, are well covered. Best part of history books like this is that you don't have to read it in order. You can go to the chapters you're interested in. Highly recommended. Well researched, Great reference bibliography.

Like I mentioned in another thread, you can get books through your library most of the time. This is for USA readers. If you belong to a library, go there and ask them how to use the lending-library system. If another library in your region has these books then you can get them for free usage.



jon357 74 | 22,827
15 Jan 2023 #76
@marion kanawha
That looks a fascinating book. And it has the Karaim. There are still a very few in Poland even today.

Good that it mentions the Scottish families. There were also English people. In 1939 the Church of England parish in Warsaw had 1800 families on their parochial register.
marion kanawha 3 | 95
15 Jan 2023 #77
POLAND, A BRIEG OUTLINE OF ITS HISTORY, Ladislas Konopczynski, 2017. This is an interesting book because it was originally published in Warsaw in 1919 as A BRIEF OUTLINE OF POLISH HISTORY. For those who don't know, 1919 was the beginning times of the Second Republic. You would think that this history would be an ultra-nationalistic narrative but it's not. It's a level-headed outline of Poland's history up to the start of the 20th century. A nice quick narrative read. Clear, concise and to the point. Maybe that's why a 100+ year old book is still published. It has historical worth.

Poland's history is super-complicated. There are a lot of "outline histories" of Poland. I recommend this one for starters, especially those who are Polish but English speaking and know little or nothing about Poland's one thousand fifty-six years of history. Wow!!! That's a lot!

Like I mentioned in another thread, you can get books through your library most of the time. This is for USA readers. If you belong to a library, go there and ask them how to use the lending-library system. If another library in your region has these books then you can get them for free usage.


  • Another Polish history outline book.
marion kanawha 3 | 95
16 Jan 2023 #78
POLAND, AN HISTORICAL SKETCH, Helmuth von Moltke, 2020. This book was originally published in Berlin in 1832, fifty-seven years after the last partition of Poland. It was written by a young Prussian officer who would become the architect of German military strategy over the next century. His plans came to fruition in the wars against Denmark, Austria and France. In the end Prussia became an empire.

I read this book to see how bigoted Moltke would be in his summation of Polish history. Surprise, he wasn't!!! He just states historical facts. It's a chronicle laid out in a nice readable narrative. He points out the positives and negatives of the Commonwealth. You need to realize that he's writing during the rise of the great nation-states (empires) after Napoleon, e.g. United Kingdom, Russia, Austria. I have to admit that his explanations of some of the Commonwealth's faults were better explained than in some of the histories I've been reading. A simpler explanation. The taxation system for example.

I think his viewpoint could be summed up in a speech he gave to the German "parliament" in 1874.
"EXISTENCE is the first necessity of a state, but in order to exist it must secure itself externally. THE GREATEST CRIME A GOVERNMENT CAN COMMIT IS TO LEAVE A COUNTRY DEFENSELESS." (my capitalizations for emphasis)

Get it! Read it!!



Ziemowit 14 | 4,201
16 Jan 2023 #79
AN HISTORICAL SKETCH, Helmuth von Moltke, 2020. This book was originally published in Berlin in 1832

It is always interesting to read the history of a nation written by a foreigner as they look through their own nation's experience and thus can see things in another nation's history in a slightly different light.

The year of the original publication has probably something to do with the year of the November Uprising of 1831 as the Polish military refugees were warmly welcomed in Germany after the uprising failed.
marion kanawha 3 | 95
19 Jan 2023 #80
HISTORY OF POLAND, A CAPTIVATING GUIDE TO POLISH HISTORY, 2022. This book is what you would consider a summarized history. It summarizes 1000+ years into 150 pages. This book is part of the "Captivating History" series. No author is listed. A table of contents and a reference bibliography are listed. There is no index.

For those who want to study the gamut of Polish history but don't have the time,I recommend this book. It's a "bare bones" outline type of book. To me I find the section on the beginnings of Poland, the Piasts and Jagiellonians pretty good. It has a nice explanation of the szlachta. It has a decent summary of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth up to the partitions. After that it becomes very summarized. There's just too much to cover. But this is not a bad thing. I think it does a good job. It "captivates" your attention.

The world wars, the birth of the 2nd Republic and communism are good summaries. Like I said this is good for those who have no real overview of Polish history at all. It's short. You can take it from there.

For anyone who wants to get involved with genealogy, I think an overview of Polish history should be a requirement. Many questions I read on other threads show me that many have no idea about Polish history. This would definitely help when dealing with regions, cities, towns, villages that Polish people came from but no longer even contain Polish culture, oftentimes being in other countries.



marion kanawha 3 | 95
13 Feb 2023 #81
THE OXFORD HISTORY OF POLAND-LITHUANIA, Vol I: The Making of the Polish-Lithuanian Union, 1385-1569, Robert Frost, 2018.
I am finally reading this history book. Warning! It is highly detailed to the highest degree. The book is 494 pages long. Plus TWENTY-NINE pages of bibliography alone; plus 41 pages of a glossary and index. The footnotes are within the body of the book.

Anyone who knows anything about Polish history knows about the marriage of Jagiello and Jadwiga and the beginning of the Commonwealth. This book covers the union, how it happened, why, the backgrounds of peoples and individuals, the repercussions of the union both vertically and horizontally. Vertically through the various estates or classes which were also undergoing changes. Horizontally it covers the lands of Poland moving eastwards and south-eastwards across the map to other peoples. In depth it covers how this union was viewed, reviewed, modified, challenged over the period Jagiello was alive. ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY-ONE PAGES just dealing with his life during this union!!! Wow!

This is definitely not a book for the casual reader. You had better have a good outline understanding of the period from Jagiello to the Union of Lublin. Go back to Norman Davies, GOD'S PLAYGROUND, Vol I. That's easy reading compared to this.

A critic for the TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT said this work "...will define the contours of this field (history of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth) for the next generation...a comprehensive history, but is, in fact, much more than that: a fiercely argued and superbly developed study of what is meant for Poland and Lithuania to join their political fortunes in the late Middle Ages."



marion kanawha 3 | 95
7 Mar 2023 #82
THE OXFORD HISTORY OF POLAND-LITHUANIA, Vol I: The Making of the Polish-Lithuanian Union, 1385-1569, Robert Frost, 2018.

I am making my way through this history book. INTENSE !!! Two major themes keep rising to the forefront. These themes are issues that arise ALL THE TIME - EVERY TIME.

In today's world, in 2023, one can say that these issues I list below are normal. They are part of what a country does for its people today.But I'm at the year 1500. The first issue is that Poland and Lithuania NEVER really seemed to agree on what the "union" should be. The "union" was always a problem. In retrospect Lithuania should have sought some sort of ALLIANCE with Poland --- not a union. From the late 14th c. to 1500 the idea of a "union" was always causing problems. The concept of "incorporation" was always in contention.

To keep the union alive there was always deals and oftentimes there were concessions that further weakened the authority of the government a century or more later on. Yet Lithuania needed Poland. Muscovy always pushed Lithuania into Polish arms.

Secondly is religions. In Western European history by 1500 the countries were usually one religion PERIOD. Examples: France was Catholic, Muscovy was Orthodox, etc. Poland-Lithuania were EVERYTHING. I'm just waiting until I get to 1530, 1550. They'll be Protestantism, Islam, heresies of all types, etc., etc. And this caused problems that NEVER seemed to be rectified.

So these seem to be the problems that I keep reading page after page: 1.) what exactly does the union mean to both and 2.) religions and religions and religions..........

The Polish political system seems to have developed at a very sophisticated, very early level in world history. From a modern viewpoint many countries in today's world don't have the rights, the privileges, the freedoms, the legal mechanisms that Poland had in 1500. One hears how "enlightened" Poland was in 1500. Compared to the rest of Europe, maybe so, but you can see that she never managed to solve these problems and they contributed to her downfall. The author states that, overall, "It's (Poland's) failure to confront the problem of statehood was a weakness."
Laxask - | 3
4 Apr 2023 #83
I would really recomend Adam Zamoyski's book about the last king of poland. The king really tried to make a difference and its just mind blowing how liberal he really was and forward thinking he and most of the polish nobility were in those times.
jon357 74 | 22,827
4 Apr 2023 #84
the last king of poland

He was a great man; much underrated.

most of the polish nobility

Szlachta? They werem't real nobility as such, only the magnaty. Some were indeed enlightened, many were just a degenerate rabble.
marion kanawha 3 | 95
5 Apr 2023 #85
@Laxask
RE: Poland's last king.
Bought the book years ago. Have it on bookshelf. I'm going to tackle it as soon as I finish Robert Frost's book listed above. That book is INTENSE!!!
jon357 74 | 22,827
8 Apr 2023 #86
Have it on bookshelf. I'm going to tackle it

It's actually very readable. It goes into s lot of detail about specific magnaty.
marion kanawha 3 | 95
11 Apr 2023 #87
@jon357
I'm so glad you mentioned that.I'm fascinated by the topic but it's so confusing to me. How a bunch of rich people actually ran the country. Wow!
johnny reb 50 | 7,256
11 Apr 2023 #88
Israel's national Holocaust memorial has criticized a new agreement renewing Israeli school trips to Poland, saying it recommends a number of "problematic sites" that distort history.

msn.com/en-us/news/world/israeli-holocaust-memorial-criticizes-deal-with-poland/ar-AA19IX2a?ocid=hpmsn&cvid=587ff15673034b199178a6fe4d404e80&ei=16
jon357 74 | 22,827
11 Apr 2023 #89
How a bunch of rich people actually ran the country

The Polish magnaty have a lot of parallels with the Whig Ascendancy in Britain and Ireland.

Some of the Polish ones were fascinating, the sane families owning huge estates and both holding things back as well as producing some remarkable intellectuals.

Did you know that Stanisław August tried to introduce lamb to the Polish diet. He'd grown to like it when he was in England and Scotland and wanted to popularise it in Poland. It didn't catch on
Miloslaw 20 | 4,859
11 Apr 2023 #90
Israel's national Holocaust memorial has criticized a new agreement renewing Israeli school trips to Poland

I think that this is a bit of a non story as this debate has been going on for years.


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