8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
An Excellent History for the General Reader,
This review is from: Poland: A history (Hardcover)
This is a well written, clear and straightforward history of Poland and is the ideal book for those new to the subject. The book is not academic and contains no references but is aimed at the general reader who would like to understand something of the complicated and disastrous history of this most unfortunate country. Other books are available for those who want to study sections of Polish history in more detail and Zamoyski's own book, `Warsaw 1920' is an excellent example, being an account of a Polish - Russian war that is almost unknown to Western readers and which has endless reverberations in recent Polish history. The book is very helpful in understanding the relationship between Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, later to become the Polish Commonwealth. The borders of the country change with bewildering frequency and Zamoyski helpfully includes line maps to illustrate the changes. Poland has been singularly unfortunate in being situated between the German states and Russia and the first unprovoked partition of the country in 1772 comes as quite a shock to the reader as no war was in progress at the time.
The author devotes a lot of space to describing the constitution of the country and the almost unique tolerance of the people up to the 18th century to a multi-racial society in which Jewish immigration was welcomed and Germans, Poles, Lithuanians, Ukrainians etc., all lived side by side. This tolerance was subsequently destroyed by repeated partition of the country and the exploitation of racial difference by the regimes of Hitler and Stalin.
The description of the comings and goings of post 1989 governments can become a little tedious as proportional representation has not done the country any favours and most administrations appear mediocre. This perhaps leaves the reader with a somewhat downbeat end to the book, having seen Poland re-emerge from tyrannical oppression a prediction of a more favourable future might well be the wish of most readers. The book is a little long at over 400 pages and might have been improved by some editing although it is not easy to see what should have been omitted. Very informative, very well written and recommended.