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A Concise History of Poland (Cambridge Concise Histories) Paperback – 6 Jul 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (6 July 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521618576
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521618571
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.3 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 116,735 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

'… 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

Book Description

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.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
As the authors acknowledge, there is nothing yet in English to replace Norman Davies's two-volume "God's Playground" for a really detailed history of Poland. Still, this Concise History takes the reader smoothly through more than 1,000 years of the Polish past, and it is especially good on the 18th and 19th centuries. It is also remarkably fair in its assessment of the Communist period. While accepting that Polish Communism was not as ferocious as some of the varieties elsewhere in eastern Europe, many readers might want to see a bigger tribute paid to the democratic opposition activists who, after all, played such a crucial part in ensuring that the transition to a free society was peaceful.
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This is beyond a doubt the best history of Poland I have read so far (and I run a website on Polish History). It is concise yet detailed enough for any reader or for the curious. There are fascinating facts that one does not come across in any of the other histories which add to the general background and it is written in a eminently readable fashion. Lukowski is a very familiar name amongst students of Polish History - his account of the Partitions is a classic and the partnership with Zawadzki makes me want to read that historian's work also. I cannot recommend this book enough. If you want a History of Poland then this is the definative version.
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To start with this book does everything it says in the title and covers over 1000 years of history and spreads it over 350 ages.

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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hard going but I enjoyed the voyage through the centuries. A 'lighter' book would have been usefully read beforehand to give a gentler historical insight.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9a5a0b70) out of 5 stars 11 reviews
40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9aca1dbc) out of 5 stars Definative 13 May 2007
By Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is beyond a doubt the best history of Poland I have read so far (and I run a website on Polish History). It is concise yet detailed enough for any reader or for the curious. There are fascinating facts that one does not come across in any of the other histories which add to the general background and it is written in a eminently readable fashion. Lukowski is a very familiar name amongst students of Polish History - his account of the Partitions is a classic and the partnership with Zawadzki makes me want to read that historian's work also. I cannot recommend this book enough. If you want a History of Poland then this is the definative version.
35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a4d7318) out of 5 stars A great overview of Polish history 20 Mar. 2003
By Monica Wanat - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
If you have no knowledge of Polish history, this book is a good place the start. The authors recommend Playground of the Gods if you are looking for a more detailed history of Poland, but I haven't read those yet so I can't "offically" recommend them.
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.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a5b8a80) out of 5 stars A Solid Overview of Polish History 13 Aug. 2008
By Jan Peczkis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book gives balanced detail to the different epochs of Polish history beginning with prehistory and ending with the fall of Communism.

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.
30 of 38 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a456b40) out of 5 stars Best concise history so far-Better than the usual myths 12 Dec. 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In contrast to the usual myths, it is such a pleasure to read a more honest historical account written by two ethnic Polish writers, now, after many decades of war propagandas. As the authors of this book state: 'The 20th century has added its own myths ...after the Second World War, Polish historiography was want to depict a 'Piast Poland' whose boundaries were curiously congruent with those of the post 1945 state'. James Michener's book 'Poland' (claiming that Poland should have rightfully conquered Prussia), is also one of those myths perpetuating fictions. Michener, a fiction travel writer gentlemen, was taken in by his charming hosts, during the Communist Polish government, while writing his book. Some people take his fantasy book 'Poland' as factual history of Poland. In contrast the two authors of this book, Jerzy Lukowski and Hubert Zawadzki have done some factual research. High time that this 'Concise History of Poland' was written and published.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a3903b4) out of 5 stars Concise indeed 7 Sept. 2011
By ghtx - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As other reviewers have noted, the authors of this book have sacrificed clarity and narrative focus in an attempt to fit almost 1000 years of Polish history into a "concise" volume. Part I of the book, which deals with pre-partitioned Poland through 1795, is much more difficult to follow than is the second part. Even so, within Part I, the third chapter (The Commonwealth of the Two Nations, 1572-1795) is more enjoyable than the first two. The first two chapters are written largely non-chronologically. I found this to make those chapters exceedingly difficult to follow.

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.
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