[History of Poland]
paperback, 452 pp., 2. edition
published: january 2022
recommended price: 460 czk
Polish historian Marceli Kosman (* 1940), a professor of history and political sciences at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, is one of the leading experts of the late medieval and modern history of Poland, Lithuania, Belarus and the Ukraine. All of these territories were in different periods and to a different extent part of the great Polish and Polish-Lithuanian state, which was at the dawn of history, around 1000, and again between 14th and 17th centuries one of important powers of our continent. Due to his specialization as well as thanks to the fact that he examines the past of his country from Poznań, not from Warsaw, Kosman has a refined sense of territorial division and inner variety of Polish history.
In eight balanced sections, Kosman's synthetic work presents the complicated development and stabilization of the Polish state during the reign of the Piast dynasty, its expansion during the rule of the Jagiellons, the period of the Polish-Lithuanian monarchic and aristocratic "republic" and its decline and division between Russia, Prussia and Austria, the restored statehood and its problems, the suffering and resistance during World War II, the Soviet dominance and finally the birth of new Poland at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s. He focuses on the history of the state and society, cultural and religious development, paying attention also to everyday life in the different historical periods. Apart from the Poles, he also covers other ethnic groups and neighbouring nations, including the Czechs. It is all the more true since it was written for the Karolinum Press and Czech readers, although it has been also published in an extended edition in Polish.
Polish history shows different dynamics in different periods. While the unignorable period of the feudal disintegration may seem to a reader to be an impenetrable thicket, the period of the flowering of the Polish state and fights with the German crusaders or the development of the great crises in the 18th - 20th centuries are as gripping as Sienkiewicz's stories, which Kosman knows well and interprets with erudition. The scholar does not hide his engrossment in the theme, which becomes more pronounced as he is approaching the present day. Nevertheless, at the same time he remains a critical historian, perhaps surprisingly critical to the Poles and their historical illusions and mistakes. In this sense, Kosman's work represents not only a factual contemplation of the thousand-year history of one of influential European nations, but also a reply to the question of the roots of the current development of our northern neighbour. It is a book, which will enrich not only historians, political scientists and humanities students but also a wide public.