M. Müller u.a. (Hrsg.): Polen in der europäischen Geschichte, Bd. 3

Die polnisch-litauischen Länder unter der Herrschaft der Teilungsmächte (1772/1795–1914).

Müller, Michael G.; Kąkolewski, Igor; Holste, Karsten; Traba, Robert
Polen in der europäischen Geschichte 3
Stuttgart 2020: Anton Hiersemann
Anzahl Seiten
VIII, 725 S.
€ 364,00
Rezensiert für H-Soz-Kult von
Jarosław Kita, Fakultät für Philosophie und Geschichte, Institut für Geschichte, Universität Lodz; Kita Agnieszka, Państwowe Muzeum Auschwitz-Birkenau w Oświęcimiu

The work under review is the third volume of the four-part survey, “Poland in the history of Europe”. This high-quality publication covers the period of the “long” nineteenth century (1795-1914) when, as a result of three partitions of the Republic of Poland—carried out by neighboring Russia, Prussia, and Austria—the Polish state did not exist. The 700-page volume was prepared by an international team of researchers, mainly from Germany and Poland. The result of their collective endeavor is a comprehensive, critical analysis of prior historiographical findings, using the most important sources for the epoch.

The volume consists of five large chapters, divided internally into smaller sections. The first and last chapters (“Die Epoche” and “Polnische Frage, polnische Nationsbildung und polnische Judenheit im 19. Jahrhundert”) are presented largely in a problem-based format, while the three middle chapters (“Neue territoriale und politische Ordnungen [1772/95–1815]”, “Wege aus dem Ancien Régime [1815–1863/64]”, “Multiple Modernitäten, konkurrierende Nationalismen [1850–1914]”) are written in both a chronological and problem-based order. The analyses are supplemented and illustrated by eight statistical tables and ten maps. The indices at the end of the volume help potential readers to navigate.

The arrangement of individual chapters allows a balanced presentation of the most important political events and significant concurrent industrial, social, and cultural changes, which in the particular partitions did not always take place at the same time and with the same intensity. The authors maintain an appropriate balance between the histories of individual partitions, with their specificity in the national space, and specific political, social, and economic developments. The volume thereby avoids the tendency to present the history of Poland during that period as three separate stories, unfolding in different parts of the Polish lands. Instead, the editors and authors present a history of autonomous formations, with different situations and patterns of events, as a history of the Polish nation that transcends its divisions. This is an essential difference from earlier syntheses of the history of Poland in the 19th century (except for a highly valued synthesis by Andrzej Chwalba[1]), in which the political and economic history of the Kingdom of Poland, under Russian control, clearly dominated. The conceptual layout used in this publication refers to the synthesis by Andrzej Chwalba, who is notably one of the co-authors of this survey.

In the second chapter on “New Territorial and Political Orders,” familiar issues are presented in a traditional arrangement: the policy of the partition powers towards the lands and inhabitants of the former Polish Republic, the reaction to the partitions in the country and associated emigration, and the Duchy of Warsaw and the Polish issue in the Napoleonic era. The narrative ends with the decisions made on the Polish issue during the Congress of Vienna, when the next partition of Polish-Lithuanian lands took place. The third chapter, entitled “Ways Out of the Ancien Régime,” ends with the defeat of the 1863 January Uprising, the Poles’ greatest uprising for independence, aptly recognized by Theodore R. Weeks as an extremely important turning-point in the history of 19th-century Poland. After that failure, the romantic concept of the insurrection as a road to independence broke down in favor of the positivist concept of “organic work” and the construction of a modern Polish society modeled on Western Europe. Tomasz Kizwalter refers to the formation of new social strata (intelligentsia, petty bourgeoisie, bourgeoisie, workers) and the transfer of the focus of social life to urban centers. The fourth chapter, “Multiple Modernities, Competing Nationalisms,” focuses primarily on internal problems of the former Polish lands, with an emphasis on the ongoing modernization processes in various spheres of social, economic, and political life. Of particular note here is the special emphasis on the emerging national issues at that time, mainly in the Lithuanian and Ruthenian lands (Piotr Szlanta), a topic that previous Polish handbooks and syntheses have tended to neglect.

The considerations in the opening and closing sections of the volume constitute a synthesis of the social history of the Polish-Lithuanian lands in the nineteenth century and the Polish issue against the background of European history. Compared to other publications on the subject, Maciej Janowski and François Guesnet offer quite an innovative approach in the closing section, by looking at the history of the Polish-Lithuanian lands through the prism of the role of Jews, especially in the economy. Particularly stimulating is also the opening chapter, in which Karsten Holste and Michael G. Müller try to find an answer to the question of what Polish history in the 19th century is. In addition to the Polish struggles for national liberation, they reflect upon simultaneous modernization processes in society, economy, and mentality. They also point to the Europeanization of the Polish lands in the second half of the 19th century, during which residents adopted more and more patterns typical of bourgeois and secular culture, in place of the noblemen’s lifestyle and Catholic practices. At the same time, they emphasize that in this period the territorial scope of Polish history cannot be clearly and precisely defined, due to the emergence of new nationalisms in the Eastern Borderlands, where “small homelands” of local Polish elites existed.

One of the strengths of the volume is undoubtedly the embedding of the history of the lands of the former Republic of Poland in a broad European context, with particular emphasis on references to the history of the partitioning powers. While the subjects addressed by each author may differ—some place their work more in socio-economic contexts, and others analyze political aspects—the editors have managed to combine them into a coherent whole.

The publication deals with the most important issues of Polish history in the 19th century or, as the authors propose, the history of the inhabitants of the Polish-Lithuanian lands deprived of their own sovereign state. It is a well-executed alternative to the existing syntheses of the history of Poland of that period.[2] The volume will therefore serve as an excellent introduction to Polish history for researchers, students, teachers, and history enthusiasts, and may well inspire further, in-depth research. The rich bibliography, as well several indices, will prove helpful. Thanks to its transparent conceptualization and appealing narration, almost any such reader will find this volume accessible, and see that the history of Poland in the 19th century is not “exotic,” but closely related to the history of Europe. This concern, which had already been advanced in the previous volume[3], is consistently continued by all individual authors. Summing up, we recommend the third volume of “Polen in der europäischen Geschichte” as a very successful undertaking, that proves that it is impossible to understand the history of Europe in the 19th century thoroughly without considering events and actors living in the Polish-Lithuanian lands.

[1] Andrzej Chwalba, Historia Polski 1795–1918 (Geschichte Polens 1795–1918), Kraków 2000, 2005, 2007.
[2] Stefan Kieniewicz, Historia Polski 1795–1918 (Geschichte Polens 1795–1918), Warszawa 1968; Jerzy Zdrada, Historia Polski 1795–1914 (Geschichte Polens 1795–1914), Warszawa 2005.
[3] Hans-Jürgen Bömelburg / Michael G. Müller (eds.), Polen in der europäischen Geschichte, 2 (Frühe Neuzeit. 16. bis 18. Jahrhundert), Stuttgart 2017.

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