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Recommended Poland's history books

pawian 224 | 24573
5 Nov 2023 #121
the cover picture of the figure is identified inside the book as Kosciuszko.

Yes, I guessed it. The atypical rendering of him when dismounted is sth that attracted my attention.
jon357 74 | 22830
5 Nov 2023 #122
Another group of rich folks (like King Stanislaw) who thought the whole uprising was a "hair-brained" scheme with no hope of success.

I remember reading Count Adam Zamoyski's excellent book and something that stood out for me was when he wrote that if people had listened to King Stanislaw, Poland would have emerged from the Napoleonic Wars in a similar situation to Belgium.
pawian 224 | 24573
5 Nov 2023 #123
if people had listened to King Stanislaw, Poland would have emerged from the Napoleonic Wars in a similar situation to Belgium.

Yes, Kosciuszko Insurrection was badly timed - Poles lost and the third partition took place. The tsarina Catherine the Great died soon afterwards and her son, who had a huge sentiment for Poles, took power. He freed Kosciuszko from captivity. But it was too late coz Poland had ceased to exist.
Ziemowit 14 | 4201
6 Nov 2023 #124
Yes, Kosciuszko Insurrection was badly timed

Possibly, but we cannot judge history from the perspective of later times. In 1794 no one knew yet when Catherine II, that German princess from Sttetin, would die. Also, few people could envisage if her son as a tsar would have a sentiment for Poles or not; to be honest, he was first of all against all what his mother did.

Poland after the second partition was nothing more than a Russian protectorate, a mere mockery of what she was before. As people of the time described her: Silly Poland without Poznań! (Głupia Polska beż Poznania!).
pawian 224 | 24573
7 Nov 2023 #125
we cannot judge history from the perspective of later times.

But you know that people love playing if games. :):):) So, the Warsaw Rising shouldn`t have broken out coz ......... etc.
marion kanawha 3 | 95
11 Nov 2023 #126
Some military history books covering the famous Polish heavy cavalry called the WINGED HUSSARS.

Just before King Bathory time the Poles absorbed and modified some foreign cavalry units that became the famous hussars.

The books listed below:
HUSARIA, THE WINGE HORSEMEN, Anna Wasilkowska, 1998. Published in Warsaw in Polish and English.
POLISH WINGED HUSSARS, 1576-1775, Richard Brzezinski, 2008. Part of Osprey's Warrior Series.

Both books are phenomenal. Well illustrated. Lots of details with pictures, something I personally love when reading history.
In reading Polish military history prior to 1795, I'm becoming fascinated by the "war hammer" called "nadziaki". Awesome weapon! The husaria knew how to use them well!

I'm also becoming impressed with certain military commanders called "hetmani".
Stanislaw Zolkiewski
Jan Karol Chodkiewicz
Stanislaw Koniecpolski
Stefan Czarniecki

I want to find out more about these commanders. Aside from Wikipedia and mention of them in survey histories I've read, not much is known about these fantastic commanders. Too bad no biographies of them exist in English. Impressive military careers. Two of them dying like heroes in the movies. I would love to know more.

The husaria on the battlefield were impressive. An entire Commonwealth army was only one third of a Swedish army. The cavalry was about evenly matched. The Swedes were destroyed. In a battle against the Russians the entire Polish army was not even 20% the size yet it destroyed the enemy.

But you can't keep this up. The husaria victories are impressive more so because the entire Commonwealth army was always much smaller than the enemy army. Not always but most of the time.

The failure came in NOT the greatness of the husaria but in FAILING to maintain a standing army. By the turn of the 18th century no matter what the Commonwealth cobbled together, it wasn't good enough.

As von Moltke said in his history of Poland. The greatest sin was the failure to provide a sound defense to protect the country.

marion kanawha 3 | 95
13 Nov 2023 #127
A HISTORY OF POLAND, Oskar Halecki, 1992, New Edition.

The new edition adds chapters, written by Antony Polansky, covering the years of Gomulka, Gierik, Solidarity and martial law. Thaddeus Gromada (who studied under Halecki at Fordham University in NYC) produced the afterward which brings Poland's history up to the end of communism and Lech Walesa's presidency.


Oskar Halecki (died 1973) gave a series of lectures in the USA in 1938. He was in France on a lecture tour when WW II started. With the help of the American Kosciuszko Foundation he arrived in the USA. He was a professor at Fordham and Columbia until 1961 then a visiting professor at various schools in the USA, Canada and Ireland.

Halecki's view of history concerning Poland is to constantly emphasize that Poland is a country that perfectly fits into the "Western Civilization" of Europe alongside Italy, France, etc. via its culture and religion. That Poland's history should not be lumped into Asiatic types of peoples which Poland oftentimes found itself the bulk work against potential invasions from them. Such peoples include the Russians and Turks.

His was one of the first Polish history books I read. I found Polish history difficult but his was very readable to such a novice. As time went by and I attempted to study Polish history with more effort I found out that any searches (from physical searches in a big city library to on line) oftentimes produced something Russian. Polish history was lumped in with Russian topics. I remember when I wanted to learn more about Poland's Turkish wars, I had to buy a history of the Ottoman Empire. It's only now, in this decade, that I can find interesting Polish history in English.

Today historians seem to downplay his particular philosophy of Polish history. It's too romantic; too idealized. Unfortunately, I don't remember where I read this. Personally, I won't dismiss him. I would recommend reading his work.

  • First paperback printing (1981) of the ninth edition (1976).

  • 1992 edition.
Bobko 26 | 2049
13 Nov 2023 #128
@marion kanawha

How about, instead of writing your middle school book reports, you give us an actual opinion?
marion kanawha 3 | 95
15 Nov 2023 #129
If you go back through the various books I've tackled, I do give my opinion of them. As a novice in Polish history I do report on how easy they were to read. How enjoyable the narrative was in dealing with the chronicle of events. Importantly how well they teach us Polish history.

What else do you want me to say?
pawian 224 | 24573
15 Nov 2023 #130
How about,you give us an actual opinion?

He does give his opinion on the books he has read. What is your silly problem???

What else do you want me to say?

Don `t bother about imperialist Russians who don`t understand what the thread is about despite its clear name: Poland`s history books.
marion kanawha 3 | 95
18 Nov 2023 #132
THE HISTORY OF POLAND SINCE 1863, R.F. Leslie, Antony Polonsky, Jan M. Ciechanowski, Z.A. Pelczynski, 1980. Part of the Soviet and East European Studies series of Cambridge University Press.

I am in the process of reading this history. Finished the first three chapters (1863-1914) with ease. Now I'm starting to read the emergence of independent Poland.

Has anyone read this book? Or heard of it? Some interesting chapters ahead: "The breakdown of parliamentary government" and "The rise and ebb of Stalinism". 15 of the 17 chapters cover Polish history up till the end of Gomulka (1970).

I wanted to know more about the 1863 insurrection. This book covers a tiny bit in a broad overview.

There are really no books in English that cover this uprising. I'm interested in it because it had a direct affect on my ancestors. It caused my ancestors children to rethink their futures and decide that Poland was not the place to be.

  • First paperback edition with epilogue, 1983.
pawian 224 | 24573
18 Nov 2023 #133
There are really no books in English that cover this uprising.

Yes, I have just checked it and you are correct - no serious quality publications - only websites. Strange. Probably the topic was too Polish for Am-Br historians/publishers.
marion kanawha 3 | 95
24 Nov 2023 #134
THE WAR OF THE POLISH SUCCESSION, King Rama VI of Thailand, 1901.

The author, Rama, was not meant to be king. In 1895 he was made Crown Prince after his half-brother died. By 1898 he finished at the British Military Academy (Sandhurst) and was commissioned an artillery officer. In 1899 he studied history at Christ Church, Oxford. Right after he wrote this little history he suffered appendicitis and missed graduating. He was made king and ruled 1910 to 1925, dying at the young age of 44.

He was a famous writer who translated English and French literature into Thai. He wrote modern novels, short stories, poems and plays in Thai. He introduced his people to mystery and detective novels. Besides this history he contributed newspaper articles and journal pieces.

Europe entered the 18th century with wars of succession. Countries interfering in other countries by trying to determine the next in line to the throne. These maneuvers were attempts at alliances for power.

Right off was the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) which could be considered a world war. It was fought in North and South America, the Caribbean and all over Europe. The death toll, including diseases, surpassed a million. The dead and wounded in three famous battles (Ramilles, Malplaquet, Blenheim) topped 76,000.

On the other side of Europe, at the same time, the Polish Civil War was going on during the Great Northern War. This was also a war of succession. Round two in the 18th century wars of succession was the War of the Polish Succession (1733-1735).

Rama covers different phases of the war. See the contents page image. Nations used this war as an excuse to gain their own diplomatic edge. Overall it was a Bourbon-Hapsburg duel with the Bourbons gaining Naples & Sicily.

On the Polish theater of operations there are some facts that were clarified for me. Firstly, August II of Poland, when he was getting sick, attempted to bribe Frederick William (Frederick the Great's father) of Prussia by offering to partition parts of Poland plus Polish Prussia and Courland in order to ensure his son got the Polish throne. August II feared the Austrian and Russian reaction so in a desperate move he tried to partition parts of Poland between them. Luckily the scumbag died finally.

Then Rama covers the details of Stanislaw Leszczynski's election and the debacle that followed. It seems that Theodore Potocki, the Primate Interrex, was an unsung hero.

But all was for naught. The Russians showed up along with Polish "malcontents" and King Stanislaw fled to Danzig. The siege of Danzig was described in detail and it ranks as another fiasco. This was the first time French and Russians faced off against each other.

"The appearance of a Russian army, for the first time in European history, on the banks of the Rhine, undoubtedly did much to hasten the conclusion of peace."

The Russians helped Austria. For Poland it was an unfortunate war. It reaffirmed the fact that Polish internal politics were in the hands of Europe's great powers. It reaffirmed the fact that Poland had no foreign diplomacy whatsoever. Poland lost Latvia to Russia and the Pacification Sejm ratified whatever Russia wanted. Augustus III of Saxony became king.

I needed to Google certain things as I read the book. The siege of Danzig and the southern Italian campaign are well written, understandable and covered in depth. Some Polish leaders, the confederation that supported King Stanislaw, the "malcontents" are skimmed over. I needed to further investigate them.

I will say one character who showed up really aggravated me. MICHAEL WISNIOWIECKI. The very first time he decided to switch sides he should have been assassinated.

That's one thing I noticed in reading Polish history. Traitors, who caused death and destruction, were often embraced and forgiven. In Italy they would be assassinated Machiavellian-style, in Russia they were butchered at banquets, in the German states they faced firing squads, they were drawn and quartered in England, flayed in Turkey. In Sweden the traitor who provoked the Great Norther War was smashed on the wheel, limb by limb.

Lastly there are no good books or sources available covering the Commonwealth and the Great Northern War. This era was the beginning of the end of Polish independence. I'm in search of a book on the entire war that covers Poland's role in depth.

Any recommendations???

  • Title page.

  • Contents.
jon357 74 | 22830
24 Nov 2023 #135
King Rama VI of Thailand

He was a highly moral person; if he was King today, Thailand would be strongly supporting Ukraine. He also built an airport in 1914 which was very forward thinking.

Thank for pointing out this book.
Bobko 26 | 2049
28 Nov 2023 #136
He was a highly moral person

The current Thai King appears to be a not so moral person.

Germany has not affected him well.

Alien 21 | 5279
28 Nov 2023 #137
The current Thai King

He represents his country as best he can.
marion kanawha 3 | 95
14 Dec 2023 #138
In 1899 the city of Vilius had a population of 40% Jewish, 31% Polish and 20% Russian. One hundred years later in 1999 the city had a 58% Lithuanian population, 19% Polish and 14% Russian. If you know how that happened then this book will be an interesting, easy read.

THE RECONSTRUCTION OF NATIONS, POLAND, UKRAINE, LITHUANIA, BELARUS, 1569-1999, Timothy Snyder, 2003. I'm one-third through the book and even though it's not the easiest read I am not struggling. You need to have a basic understanding of the old Commonwealth history to grasp the flow of the history. Critics, both professional and those on Amazon, say it is academic and a reader might need reference help, e.g. Google or Wikipedia.

So far, I didn't need any help reading the history. It's the study of how modern Eastern European nations descended from the old Commonwealth. The new nations were based on ethnic, linguistic and religious persuasions. But along the way came lots of wars, ethnic cleansing, various types of reconciliation and a growth of neighborly relations. Note that this was written years before the Ukrainian War.

The caption below the man sitting on the steps. This caption highlights how much things have changed.

"An inhabitant of Rowno. The town is today Rivne, Ukraine. Towns in interwar Volhnyia were largely Jewish and increasingly Polish. The countryside almost entirely Ukrainian. Today Volhynia is in the Ukraine, and the towns resemble the countryside."

  • (see comment above)
marion kanawha 3 | 95
16 Dec 2023 #139
In reading Polish history, this 1621 battle is often mentioned. When I saw this book in English I grabbed it to read about all the intricacies of the campaign. I definitely wasn't disappointed.

THE KHOTYN CAMPAIGN OF 1621, POLISH, LITHUANIAN AND COSSACK ARMIES AGAINST THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE, Michal Paradowski, 2023. This is book No. 107 in the "Century of the Soldier, 1618-1721" series published by Hellion & Co., UK.

The author is an independent researcher who lives in Scotland. His specialty is early modern warfare especially the Polish-Swedish wars. He has an interesting blog called KADRINAZI. Type the word into Google to get to his blog. It's in Polish but just switch the Google translator to English.

As background the author covers in excellent detail the previous disastrous 1620 Cecora campaign.

Additional chapters are devoted to the military systems of all the major combatants: the Commonwealth, Ottomans, Cossacks and Tatars. Other chapters deal with the biographies of commanders, logistics, actual army strengths, the campaign and the wider scope of the war that was going on. The appendix section is full of info about units involved, commanders, strengths, etc. the primary references are almost exclusively from the 17th and 18th centuries. Many are from the 1620s!!!

I was impressed with the contemporary illustrations that appeared in the book. I've copied some examples. There are also modern renditions of soldiers (in color) like Osprey Publications produces. The example I've listed is in B&W. The modern artwork was done by Sergey Shamenkov, a Ukrainian military history artist. His specialty area is the 16th and 17th centuries with an emphasis on the Swedish army of Charles XII.

I'm about 30% through the book. For me it has been an "eye-opener" of a history going through the internal mechanisms of the Commonwealth. When I'm done I might make some comments.

marion kanawha 3 | 95
30 Dec 2023 #140
1444: THE BATTLE OF VARNA, Anthony Holland, 2023.

"The Battle of Varna was, above all, a lesson in the weighty consequences of underestimating one's opponent..."

The battle was a "...tectonic realignment --- a pivotal point when the geopolitical fault lines shifted, altering the continental landscape in ways that would be felt for centuries" central Europe, especially the Balkans would see ramifications up till the end of the 20th century, e.g. the disintegration of Yugoslavia.

Also this battle would be considered the last religious crusade in European history.

The author, Anthony Holland, produces a fine historical narrative starting out from the geopolitical situation in 15th century central Europe. The book is a quick (216 pages) exciting read. Holland covers protagonists, compares armies; does tactical analysis, covers the campaign, the battle and aftermath.

The crusader army was outnumbered about three to one but they managed to hold the line against the Ottomans because they had more firearms. Holland then describes the events that led up to the debacle crated by Wladyslaw III Jagielo's actions. Casualties were high on both sides. Even Sultan Murad was not immediately sure he won a victory. After three days he finally grasped the scale of his victory. He wasn't jubilant but wearily acknowledged the triumph amidst at least 25,000 who perished on the battlefield.

Holland does an interesting analysis of Wladyslaw. He believes history is not just dichotomies but the personal choices made by individuals. It's the protagonists that act as "wild cards" in the unfolding of history.

I never knew that much about Wladyslaw. How he became king of Poland then Hungary. How he decided to stay in Hungary. Interesting!!! I need to investigate him more. But Wladyslaw made a big difference at Varna.

The only chapter I DID NOT read was a chapter entitled "Alternative Scenario". I'm not a big fan of "what if", alternative histories. It's too much science fiction for me to handle. Maybe I'll check it out later. I find rea history more exciting than any fiction.

pawian 224 | 24573
30 Dec 2023 #141
Curious facts:
The Polish king died at the battlefield. Allegedly Ottomans cut off his head while the body was never found.

He was only 20 years old.

In some countries urban legends claimed that the king survived and went into hiding under a different identity.

There is a mausoleum to the King in Varna - I visited it during our trip to Bulgaria in 1970s. Below.

During WW2, Americans were looking for a pretext to eliminate Japanese Navy admiral Yamamoto. They thought it was immoral to kill such an important commander just like that. They searched historical archives and found the case of the Polish kings who was killed in battle. That fact gave green light to shooting down Yamamoto`s plane.

marion kanawha 3 | 95
30 Dec 2023 #142
Whoa!!! That information is intense. History has recorded the name of the person who beheaded the king. A mercenary in the employ of the Ottomans named Kodja Hazar. They never found anything of the king after the battle. Evidently his body was in pieces and dispersed through the winds. Absolutely intense!
marion kanawha 3 | 95
1 Jan 2024 #143
I'm finding that Polish history is more intense than any historical novel, or TV series, or movie franchise could ever be. The reality of Polish history leaves any fiction writers wildest attempts at drama in the dust. Literally it takes my breath away. I don't understand why more people aren't interested in it. Thinking about that you can think about how Polish historiography changed from the late 19th century, to the interwar years, to the communist era up to the turn of this century. Plus we're talking one thousand years.
Torq 8 | 1032
1 Jan 2024 #144
I'm finding that Polish history is more intense than any historical novel, or TV series, or movie franchise could ever be.

No kidding! ;)

I love your enthusiasm. Keep studying, it's worth it! *thumbs up*
pawian 224 | 24573
1 Jan 2024 #145
Of course, let`s be honest, Polish history is as fascinating as any other country`s. We are not special in any way. I suppose Albania or Caucasian Georgia has an equally fantastic past. :):):)
Alien 21 | 5279
1 Jan 2024 #146
I suppose Albania or Caucasian Georgia has an equally fantastic past. :):):)

I don't think so.
marion kanawha 3 | 95
2 Jan 2024 #147
I agree with @Alien. Polish history is much, much more fascinating than those countries mentions. If you said Armenia or Iran (Persia) then I'd agree. Otherwise Poland, especially the Commonwealth, was a major player in European history. As the 18th century dawned it just got overshadowed by Russia and that's the way it is to this very day. Ask pretty much anyone and no one knows anything about central & eastern European civilization other than about Russia, in all it's wretched iterations, e.g. barbaric Muscovy, tsarist, communist. corrupt federalist.
pawian 224 | 24573
2 Jan 2024 #148
I agree with @Alien. Polish history is much, much more fascinating than those countries mentions.

That`s because you are either Polish or had a contact with Polish culture and real Poles.
While an average Albanian who loves his/her country also considers their history fascinating and ignores others`
If I knew and contacted Albanian natives more often or went to Albania and spent there some time, I would also get interested in their history and probably find it fascinating.
jon357 74 | 22830
18 Jan 2024 #149
Not a typical history book but very worth reading. I've only just found this and it's fascinating.

It's called: Warsaw: Memoirs of an American Teacher in Poland by Anne Waterman Cooley,

She came to Warsaw in 1946 to teach English at the newly re-established university and wrote about the situation there in those strange and difficult times.

I recommend it. It's out of print now however you can sometimes find used copies.

marion kanawha 3 | 95
20 Jan 2024 #150
WARSAW, MEMOIRS OF AN AMERICAN TEACHER IN POLAND, Anne Waterman Cooley, 2011. This book is available.

This is an interesting memoir published posthumously by Amme Waterman Cooley's family. It was published in 2011, one year after her death and it is the first edition so it's never been published before.

Anne Waterman (1925-2010) graduated from Vassar College and took a position as a lecturer in English Literature at the University of Warsaw. I believe the Waterman family is Polish and they originally hailed from Connecticut in the USA.

She taught in Poland from 1946 to 1948. This was a time when Poland was trying to rebuild itself under the Stalinist yolk. This is the time when the Marshall Plan was extended to Eastern Europe. Molotov rejected any such idea. When Poland expressed an interest in attending a conference, Stalin squashed it.

Stalin was going to take care of helping rebuild Poland. We all know how that went. Stalin gutted Poland of everything he could in order to rebuild the Soviet Union.

This short memoir (under 100 pages) presents life in the immediate ruins of post-WW II. She records a lot of what was transpiring in 1946-48, and we all now know a lot was happening.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, this cute book is 76 YEARS TOO LATE! If it was published in 1948 then maybe the general public would get a better idea of life under Stalin. Pretty much nothing about Poland made the news back then, even the printed news. Then maybe Poles in America would have gotten a glimpse of just how awful life was under "Uncle Joe".

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