A Concise History of Poland (Cambridge Concise Histories) Paperback – 6 Jul 2006
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'… the best short guide to Polish history currently available in English.' English Historical Review
'… the best short guide to Polish history currently available in English.' Robert I. Frost, King's College London, Oxford Academic Journals
'… two chapters, on the partitions era to 1918, are excellent … a judicious balance of pertinent information and lucid, thoughtful analysis.' History
''Jerzy Lukowski and Hubert Zawadzki's joint contribution to the Cambridge Concise Histories series was enthusiastically received by most reviewers following its initial publication in 2001 … In their contrasting styles, both authors are masters of the English language; Lukowski exhibits mordancy, Zawadzki equipoise …Authoritative and lucid, A Concise History of Poland has become by some margin the best one-volume history of Poland available in any language.' Central Europe
This second edition has been revised throughout and updated to include most recent developments from 1989–2005, notably Poland's accession to the European Union in 2004. The authors have also expanded and updated the bibliography, included new illustrative material, and added a chronology.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Any historian is able to tell you that the history of any Eastern European country is complex at best and confusing most of the time. This book is excellent at explaining that Poland did not just appear after the First World War, it takes you to before the Russian, Austrian and Prussian annexation and partition in 1795.
It explains the rich history that the Poles have and how their neighbours have taken from the country, usued and abused the people and the land. They cover a long period bringing it up to the 1989 when Poland became a free country once again when the Soviet war invader finally went back to Russia.
This is an excellent very readable and well researched book that I would recommend.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This book covers basic events and ideas that occured in Poland for the past 1000 years. In addition to politics and military events, the authors attempt to list cultural figures, such as Chopin, and how those figures reflected or affected Polish events.
There were few details on events most people normally think about when they think of Poland, such as concentration camps and WWII. However, these issues aren't ignored entirely, just given the same coverage as other events in Polish history.
Many interesting facts are presented in this book. For instance, the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Krakow was completed in 1397. (p. 52). In the 19th century, Russian revolutionaries Herzen and Bakunin supported the resurrection of the Polish state. (p. 163). In 1909, the Boryslaw-Drohobycz oil fields accounted for 5% of the world's oil production. (p. 162). Finally, Kiev had a large and thriving Polish intelligentsia as recently as 1917. (p. 164).
Some writers have claimed that Marie Curie-Sklodowska, following her move to France, increasingly distanced herself from her Polish heritage. In apparent refutation of this, the authors point out that Curie always maintained close contact with Poland, and was instrumental in establishing the Radium Institute in Warsaw in 1932. (p. 163). This was shortly before her death.
During the interwar period, popular illiteracy was reduced from 33% to 15%, and mortality rates were cut in half. A modest beginning was made in mechanization. In 1939, Poland had 2,000 tractors compared with France's 30,000. (pp. 221-222). (Of course, much agriculture all over Europe at the time was still non-mechanized).
A unique aspect of this book is its detailed list, in the back, of all of Poland's rulers, beginning with the dynasties. The list includes foreign rulers of Prussian-occupied, Austrian-occupied, and Russian-occupied Poland, as well the Communist rulers of Poland in the 20th century. There is even a listing of leaders of the Polish Government in Exile in London, which existed in the years 1939-1990.
Having said that, the book is very interesting, because of course of its subject matter. The question of national identity has always been especially important to Poland, especially given its history of coming in and out of existence and/or independence. I would have preferred that the authors take a more narrative approach to the material. That is, nonfiction books, even "concise history" books, ought to be ultimately telling the reader a story, not merely listing to him or to her loads of facts. The facts were interesting, but a different tone in the writing would have helped the final product.