Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good introduction, but feels biased in places, 25 Nov 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: God's Playground A History of Poland: Volume II: 1795 to the Present: 1795 to the Present Vol 2 (Paperback)
This book is, for the most part, fairly easy to read and provides a good introduction to the history of Poland. For the periods I knew nothing about (up to 1918) or not much about (after 1945) I found it useful. For the intervening period where I knew a little already, I found the book a disappointment.

For a start, 1918-39 was the one period under consideration when Poland was actually an independent country and hence had an impact on the wider world, and I felt this period deserved more than the one chapter it got in the book. It also struck me that the book often seemed to assume the reader had prior knowledge. Do you know what the BBWR was? OzON? These concepts are introduced well before they are explained. Do you know where Zaolzie is, and that when Davies refers in passing to its occupation, he is referring to the Polish invasion of Czechoslovakia in the aftermath of the Munich agreement in 1938? If the sins of Józef Beck have been "especially exaggerated", it would be useful to know by whom, and roughly what arguments they advanced, before being presented with Davies' counterarguments.

It feels in several places like Davies has an excessively pro-Polish perspective. This is perhaps natural given that he is married to a Pole and apparently lives there at least partly, but is worth keeping in mind. The book seems to have developed a semi-official status in Poland also, which he is proud to tell the reader about from within its own pages.

While he doesn't shy away from criticising individual Poles and Polish society when he feels it appropriate, in foreign affairs he seems to consistently take Poland's side, sometimes on what seem to me rather flimsy grounds. For example, the wars with the short-lived West Ukrainian republic and Lithuania, where in both cases there was a predominantly Polish city (Lwów and Wilno respectively) surrounded by predominantly non-Polish countryside. Rather than take the opportunity to point out the impossibility of drawing a neat border that respected "the self-determination of peoples", and regret the violent means by which these issues were "solved", he criticises the Ukrainians for "demanding their national rights in full and at once" and the Lithuanians for their "sorry obsession with the city of Wilno, in which hardly any Lithuanians were then living", without reflecting that similar criticisms could easily be levelled at Poland also.

He seems very keen to excuse Józef Beck, who largely determined Poland's foreign policy in the run-up to the Second World War. While it may be true that nothing he did would have made any difference, was invading Czechoslovakia and bullying Lithuania really the best thing to spend Poland's energies on in 1938-9? Davies assures us that this was done to "prevent encirclement by the Germans". I have thought for a while about what this could possibly mean, but am still at a loss. It seems to me that it gravely weakened Poland's international reputation, while making no military difference when the Nazi invasion did arrive a few months later.

As a final point, he has special ire reserved for British liberals, such as David Lloyd George, John Maynard Keynes and E.H. Carr, who had a mostly critical stance towards Poland and its deeds in this period. Rather than offering suggestions of why they might have developed such views, he instead chooses to place their statements about Poland alongside those of Hitler and Stalin, and suggests they should have considered "the company they were keeping". It seems you could do the same e.g. with statements by Churchill and Hitler about Bolshevism, and arrive at similar conclusions. I may consider myself thoroughly opposed to someone, but that doesn't mean I have a moral obligation to disagree with them on every single subject!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in

Review Details


4.2 out of 5 stars (4 customer reviews)
5 star:
4 star:
3 star:
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
£35.99 £30.60
Add to basket Add to wishlist

G. Bache

Location: Göteborg, Sweden

Top Reviewer Ranking: 169,413