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Nation and History

Nation and History: Polish Historians from the Enlightenment to the Second World War

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 420
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  • Book Info
    Nation and History
    Book Description:

    While featuring different approaches,Nation and Historyserves as the most comprehensive work on Polish historiography written in English.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2722-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-2)
    Peter Brock, John D. Stanley and Piotr J. Wróbel
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-17)

    History as a field and profession has played an extraordinarily powerful role in Poland’s political and cultural development: it has even been considered the ‘mainstay of national existence.’¹ Historians such as Naruszewicz and Lelewel often took on the role of prophet, calling on the nation to reform itself, while also serving as ideologues introducing new ideas into intellectual life. As a result, few peoples are so conscious of their past as the Poles: the nation’s history has for centuries been used to understand the present. Not surprisingly, historians in Poland have therefore assumed an important role, not only as curators...

  5. 1 Adam Naruszewicz (1733–1796)
    (pp. 18-51)

    Adam Naruszewicz is the first modern Polish historian.¹ In the words of his great successor Joachim Lelewel, Naruszewicz ‘opened the first secure access to the nation’s history.’² His historical work was carried out within the context of the Enlightenment: its philosophical principles, its approach to history, and its implementation in Poland.³ Naruszewicz demonstrated his ties to Enlightenment principles through his emphasis on didacticism, empiricism, humanitarianism, love of order, and secularism, along with his belief in Reason as well as Progress, and the related doctrine of the unchanging and universal character of human nature. Like thephilosophes, he embraced Natural Law...

  6. 2 Joachim Lelewel (1786–1861)
    (pp. 52-84)

    In Edward Dembowski’s letter to his wife on 17 December 1844, the young revolutionary leader not only recorded his impressions of his meeting with Lelewel, but he also touched on major themes of Lelewel’s life: exile, poverty, greatness.¹ As a member of the Polish Romantic movement, Lelewel cemented the Romantic tradition at the centre of Poland’s political and cultural life. He placed history not only at the service of his nation but also at the centre of his own life. Moreover, since the Polish state – the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth – no longer existed, the Romantic concept of ‘nation’ provided a new framework...

  7. 3 Józef Szujski (1835–1882)
    (pp. 85-100)

    Not many nineteenth-century statesmen questioned the argument that politics should find its inspiration in history. Among historians, this view, too, was not rare. Historical truth, it was asserted, is complicated, reveals many different faces, and has to be unravelled from a web of ‘falsehoods.’ In order to be a wise national leader, one who could select only the ‘correct’ path from a number of possible ones, it was imperative to know about the past and how to reject ‘false history,’ which in fact is ‘false politics’ – as the subject of this essay, Józef Szujski, maintained.¹

    Looking back at the genesis...

  8. 4 Bolesław Limanowski (1835–1935)
    (pp. 101-112)

    Bolesław Limanowski played an important role in Polish left-wing politics for over half a century.¹ A democratic socialist and ardent patriot, he was also the author of important works in the field of sociology and history. This essay discusses his contribution to Polish historiography.

    Limanowski was born on 18 October 1835 in the Dyneburg (Daugavpils) district of Livonia, in a milieu of middle and lower Polish gentry settled to the east of ethnic Poland. Until the Insurrection of 1863, some of these gentry played an important role in Polish movements for independence. Unlike Limanowski, however, most of them became gradually...

  9. 5 Tadeusz Wojciechowski (1838–1919)
    (pp. 113-122)

    Tadeusz Antoni Wojciechowski was born in Cracow on 13 June 1838. His father taught Polish literature at one of the city’s high schools. While his father’s family had belonged to the gentry before migrating to the city, his mother was of middle-class origin.¹ In October 1854, sixteen-year-old Tadeusz, having completed his high-school studies, enrolled in the Law Faculty of Cracow’s Jagiellonian University. It may surprise us that the future historian chose to study law instead of entering the Faculty of Philosophy where his interests lay. At that date, however, law opened the door to wider career possibilities. A graduate in...

  10. 6 Tadeusz Korzon (1839–1918)
    (pp. 123-140)

    In 1862, Tadeusz Korzon was more likely to be shot as a conspirator against the Tsarist monarchy than he was to become one of Poland’s leading historians. Although destined to become an eminent ‘positivist’ historian and a leader of the Warsaw school, Korzon had neither taken up historical studies at that time nor entertained any scholarly aspirations. Luckily for Korzon and for the development of Polish historiography, the authorities spared Korzon’s life, and he went on to write works that remain classics more than one hundred years after their publication.

    Korzon was widely acclaimed in his day and after his...

  11. 7 Michał Bobrzyński (1849–1935)
    (pp. 141-164)

    ‘We had no government, and that is the one and only cause of our decline.’¹ In an often-quoted and characteristically forceful statement, Michał Bobrzyński revealed three prominent aspects of his historical thought: his guiding interest in the explanation of the fall of the Polish state, his ‘pessimistic’ interpretation of Polish history, and the centrality of the state in his evaluation of historical phenomena. A hard-headed, diligent scholar, Bobrzyński represented the post-1863 generation of Polish intellectuals who subscribed to positivism and believed they could apply scientific method to establish historical and political truth and thereby revive national fortunes in a time...

  12. 8 Władysław Smoleński (1851–1926)
    (pp. 165-179)

    A characteristic element of positivist thought was the conviction that the humanities should model themselves on the methodologies used in the natural sciences. It was believed that the numerous generalizations and laws formulated within the context of the natural sciences could be adapted to fields such as sociology, ethnology, and history. This viewpoint, which in the history of learning was usually referred to as naturalist or scientific, was often supported by the postulates used in the pursuit of ‘pure’ science, which were free from political-ideological tendencies and subordinated to the pursuit of pure cognitive goals. It was believed that transplanting...

  13. 9 Stanisław Smolka (1854–1924)
    (pp. 180-196)

    The life and professional engagement of Stanisław Smolka were closely related to several transitions in the history and culture of partitioned Poland, in the internal and external politics of the three partitioning powers, and in the nature of advanced learning throughout Europe during the second half of the nineteenth century. Within Poland, the years around the mid-nineteenth century marked two interrelated shifts in the social response to one historical, political, and moral problem: the demise of an independent Polish Republic about sixty years earlier. The first shift was a transition from a Romantic towards a critical and analytical sensibility in...

  14. 10 Aleksander Brückner (1856–1939)
    (pp. 197-212)

    For many reasons, it is not an easy task to give a foreign reader a fair idea of Aleksander Brückner. First, this great scholar was one of the most prolific of Polish writers. His literary output was prodigious. When his friends celebrated his seventieth birthday by publishing a volume of essays dedicated to him,¹ the bibliography of his works at the end of that volume contained more than twelve hundred items.² Many of these items were, of course, small communications or reviews of books. However, the bibliography also enumerated more than fifty separate books, some of them bulky; and this...

  15. 11 Oswald Balzer (1858–1933)
    (pp. 213-220)

    The task of legal history is to show law as it develops in its historical context, thus displaying its connection with the past, with tradition. Without consideration of this historical aspect, there is indeed great danger of law being utilized for political and social purposes.¹ Legal history has naturally attracted many outstanding practitioners among Polish historians, among whom Oswald Balzer occupies a foremost place.²

    Balzer was born on 11 January 1858, in Chodorów (Khodoriv), a small town in the eastern part of Austrian Galicia. His father held the post of district government administrator, and his mother was of German descent....

  16. 12 Szymon Askenazy (1865–1935)
    (pp. 221-245)

    During its long history, Poland has had many outstanding historians, but only a few were able to change the course of Polish historiography and set new trends. Szymon Askenazy belonged to this small group, and his name constitutes a milestone in the history of Polish historical scholarship. He opposed positivist historiography and, together with Karol Potkański (1861–1907), became one of the two most important precursors of neo-Romantic and modernist trends in Polish historiography. He was a co-founder of the historical ‘school of national independence’ (szkoła niepodległościowa), and his writings formed the scholarly foundation of the early twentieth-century Polish independence...

  17. 13 Wacław Sobieski (1872–1935)
    (pp. 246-259)

    Wacław Sobieski’s biographer entitled his bookThe Angry and Unsubmissive Historian.¹ This title well sums up the historian’s personality: that independent character of his, which had already been formed during his childhood. He was brought up in a spirit of warm Polish patriotism. In addition, a legend existed in his family that they were related to the royal Sobieskis of the seventeenth century; and the middle names his parents gave him – Konstantyn Jakub – recalled the regal Sobieskis and the heroic King Jan III.

    Sobieski the historian was born on 26 October 1872 in Lwów, then capital of the Austrian province...

  18. 14 Wacław Tokarz (1873–1937)
    (pp. 260-279)

    Tokarz’s biographer, Andrzej Zahorski,¹ himself an expert on the same period as Tokarz, has summed up the essence of his eminent predecessor’s unusually centred professional career:

    The independence of Poland was the most important theme in Wacław Tokarz’s writing. What interested him most was his nation’s struggle to regain its own independent state. He became the historian of Poland’s insurrections and, on the basis of an enormous array of primary sources he had collected, he proved the need for armed resistance to the violence of the partitioning powers which questioned the Poles’ right to rebuild the Commonwealth. He demonstrated the...

  19. 15 Franciszek Bujak (1875–1953)
    (pp. 280-296)

    In April 1967, Fernand Braudel delivered a lecture at the University of Warsaw during which he commented: ’Social and economic history was, of course, born in Poland, in the midst of that group which gathered around that most extraordinary historian, Franciszek Bujak.’ He added that Bujak had created the sub-field of price history, ‘anticipating in this the work done only later by the English, the French and the Germans.’¹ Bujak’s conception and development of social and economic history is clearly his greatest professional contribution not only in the context of Polish historiography, but also in the context of the historical...

  20. 16 Stanisław Kutrzeba (1876–1946)
    (pp. 297-306)

    Stanisław Kutrzeba died on 7 January 1946, less than a year after the end of the Second World War. A former rector of the ancient Jagiellonian University of Cracow, at the time of his death he was professor of the history of Polish law at the university and acting head of the prestigious Academy of Letters (Polska Akademia Umiejętności, PAU). A member of many learned societies in Poland and abroad, Kutrzeba was the recipient of numerous honours from his own country as well as elsewhere. His passing symbolized the end of an epoch, both in the history of the Jagiellonian...

  21. 17 Adam Skałkowski (1877–1951)
    (pp. 307-319)

    ‘Physically Kościuszko does not appear to be a Polish type.’¹ That one sentence at the beginning of Adam Skałkowski’s little book on recent research on Kościuszko, modern Poland’s most heroic figure, was considered to be an outrage by those who idolized the national past and an affront to a man regarded since his death almost as a saint. In fact, even if Skałkowski, writing from the viewpoint of the mid-1920s, had indeed aimed at provoking discussion on the post-partition history of his country and its heroes, he composed the work on the basis of two decades of intense study. It...

  22. 18 Władysław Konopczyński (1880–1952)
    (pp. 320-335)

    In 1880, the year of Konopczyński’s birth, a Polish state did not exist. Backward and internally weakened, it had been partitioned by its three neighbours, Russia, Austria, and Prussia, towards the end of the eighteenth century, and the situation remained essentially unchanged throughout almost the whole nineteenth century and on to the end of the First World War. In 1952, the year of Konopczyński’s death, Poland found itself under the yoke of Stalinism, subjected politically and economically to the Soviet Union, which had imposed on the country a totalitarian regime. And it was just at that moment that this regime...

  23. 19 Natalia Gąsiorowska-Grabowska (1881–1964)
    (pp. 336-351)

    Natalia Gąsiorowska-Grabowska, one of twentieth-century Poland’s most outstanding economic historians, was born on 20 May 1881 at Orzyc in then-Russian Poland. The Gąsiorowskis belonged to the landed gentry (szlachta) but became impoverished as a result of the repressive policy the Russian authorities adopted towards the patriotic landowning class after the unsuccessful Insurrection of 1863. Shortly before Natalia’s birth, the family had moved to Warsaw. In 1886, her father died, and her mother was left almost penniless with seven children between the ages of three and fifteen. The older ones now had to go out to work, while Natalia herself was...

  24. 20 Marceli Handelsman (1882–1945)
    (pp. 352-385)

    Marceli Handelsman was one of the most distinguished historians of the Polish Second Republic. An enormously productive scholar, he published works of lasting value in both medieval and modern history. Moreover, he was unique among major Polish historians of his era to concern himself with theoretical and methodological issues, and he made singular contributions in this field as well.¹ In addition to works of scholarship, Handelsman was an indefatigable contributor to the development of the historical profession. He was a member of innumerable editorial boards and represented Poland in several international organizations. His accomplishments at the University of Warsaw, with...

  25. 21 Marian Kukiel (1885–1973)
    (pp. 386-406)

    ‘The Polish nation,’ wrote Marian Kukiel in 1943, ‘learnt to live dangerously.’¹ Indeed, one may add, in Poland, every generation witnessed at least one war, one uprising, a foreign invasion, or an occupation. They fill a prominent place in the books on Polish history. Surprisingly, however, military historiography developed relatively late in Poland. The first publications devoted exclusively to military history appeared in the mid-nineteenth century.² The first generation of Polish military historians consisted mostly of amateurs, who worked outside scholarly institutions; they were considered a potential threat by the Russian, Prussian, and Austrian authorities and were closely watched by...

  26. 22 Stanisław Kot (1885–1975)
    (pp. 407-428)

    Like a long line of historians beginning in antiquity, Stanisław Kot was both a writer of history and a politician who helped to shape events. Whereas in his scholarly writings he preserved a calm impartiality with any polemical thrust usually concealed from the reader’s view, Kot from his high-school days emerged as ‘a passionate politician, evoking strong emotions and partisan prejudices.’¹ His political activities in adulthood, and his scholarly career as well, were rooted in his early years in Austrian Galicia (Małopolska) where he spent childhood, adolescence, and then young manhood at the province’s two Polish-language universities of Lwów and...

  27. 23 Oskar Halecki (1891–1973)
    (pp. 429-442)

    Oskar Halecki belongs among the most outstanding Polish historians who reached maturity during the inter-war years; he continued, too, to produce important work after 1945.¹ He occupies a special place not only because of his eventful life but also because of his distinctive views on Polish history as a whole and his country’s place in Europe and Western civilization. Throughout his life, he consistently defended an optimistic vision of Polish history and sought, for the sake of posterity, to extract from it those elements of greatness that are of value today for Poland and its neighbours – indeed, for Europe and...

  28. 24 Adam Próchnik (1892–1942)
    (pp. 443-450)

    Adam Próchnik succeeded in filling his comparatively short fifty-year lifespan with a number of rich and varied experiences.¹ Two subjects inspired him throughout his career: history and politics. They were linked indissolubly in his mind, and they appeared interlinked in much that he wrote and did. Socialism and national independence were his political ideals, and he devoted his whole life to them. While espousing Marxism, he supported a social democracy truly representative of the people.

    Próchnik was born in Lwów on 21 August 1892 into a middle-class Jewish family.² Already as a high-school student he became active in left-wing politics...

  29. Chronology of Polish History
    (pp. 451-456)
  30. Contributors
    (pp. 457-458)
  31. Index
    (pp. 459-493)