Apr 16, 2023·edited Apr 16, 2023Liked by Thomas Prosser

Modern Polish history is as much a case of mythologising events as it is anything else. Some things get downplayed (the Pilsudski era, everything that wasn't Solidarity and JP II under communism) whilst over things are massively overplayed - the Warsaw uprising, the many failed 19th century uprisings, Walesa (no diacritics on this laptop).

Add in a succession of poor governments since I first went there in 2005, and the country missed a chance to be the champion of the new ascension states.

I've read a few of Davies' books and he's often criticised for being too pro-Polish. I've never found this a real problem, but tracing a line between the "liberalism" of the first commonwealth and the modern EU colony of Poland is quite a stretch. It's not the same people, place, heritage or institutions as any previous Polish iteration. An interesting historical trend is how the non-Poles - notably ethnic Jews and Germans - were responsible for a lot of Poland's middle classes until the devastations of the second world war. It's perhaps associated with the modern urban/rural divides in the country where there's not the level of opportunity and economic activity in smaller places that more western countries have.

The high trust in the family is perhaps best explained by the relative weakness of civil society in Poland. You have family, work and church; membership in other organisations is rare and many such groups never recovered from communist rule.

Partition does remain fascinating too - modern voting patterns largely follow the lines of the 3 parts of partition Poland, and the country's infrastructure is still impacted by being started off by three separate empires.

I'm interested where Poland will go, but worry that the general lack of political ideas and talent which plagues the whole continent of Europe is there too. Polish politics has been pro/anti PiS for over a decade, and that stifles anything good or innovative. Their russophobia, and childlike trust in American military protection, mean that they're not necessarily making long term the best policy decisions now, Poland is no more of a military bulwark against Russia than Ukraine has proved to be and the thought of the Polish jamnik against the Russian bear fills me with dread.

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Apr 14, 2023Liked by Thomas Prosser

That's an interesting historical recap. But I didn't follow the first bit. Surely a good history book is one that retells events accurately, completely and without additional colour. So why must a history have a "theory" and what does that mean exactly? How exactly would one have a theory of Polish history?

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