- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers; Revised and updated edition edition (20 July 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780007556212
- ISBN-13: 978-0007556212
- ASIN: 0007556217
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.9 x 19.8 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 340 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 58,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Poland: A History Paperback – 20 Jul 2015
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‘Invaluable and eye-opening’ Boyd Tonkin, Independent
‘An excellent book’ Financial Times
‘Fresh, different and brilliantly readable…It is the perfect introduction for those who know nothing about the country, yet will also provide some positive food for thought to those who imagined they knew it all too well’ Spectator
‘A dramatic history of Poland that captures the spirit of its people…Such an extraordinary national trajectory demands an accessible and scholarly accounting. Zamoyski succeeds admirably in providing both’ Daily Telegraph
‘For the past 25 years, thanks to the efforts of Adam Zamoyski, we have been better informed about the history and character of Poland than about any other East European country…Zamoyski’s new perspective on an old culture and its modern political liberty is…presented with a new, confident sense of freedom’ The Times
‘Eminently readable’ TLS
‘Shrewd…an excellent section on the country and its politics since ’89’ Independent on Sunday
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The Western reader, even with good knowledge of Europe’s turbulent history, will be overwhelmed by that people’s suffering and misfortunes and surprised by its accomplishments. That is so, because like other eastern countries Poland has always lived in the shadow of Western Europe and few foreign people knew its language or its story.
Did you know that the University of Krakow, founded in 1364, was the second one north of the Alps after that of Prague? Or that Krakow operated the first printing press in 1472, just two decades after Gutenberg’s invention? Or that the Golden Age of the Renaissance opened in Poland around 1500 and lasted a century and a half? Or that the first newspaper was printed in 1661? Or that the age of the Reformation resulted in religious freedom and tolerance certified by law?
Considering geniuses such as Copernicus, Chopin and Marie Curie, you would think the Poles should have marched side-by-side with Western Europe in the upsweep of modernity, but alas, that was not in the cards. Rather you might say, the Poles’ trail of tears, their long path of anguish, began in 1648 and persisted with few interruptions for three and a half centuries, i. e. until a decade or two ago. The epitome of such suffering should have been WW I, when they were forced to fight on both sides in a war that wasn’t theirs. However, even that was outdone by the murderous hell sent down upon them by Hitler and Stalin in WW II, and the 44 years of Soviet tyranny to follow.
History decreed torture and on many countries, as we all know, but Poland stands out. Why was that so? In my view, the chief reason was geography. If it had been the Poles who transferred to England instead of the Angles and Saxons 1600 years ago, they would have created a magnificent empire and the lingua franca of today’s world would now be Polish, not English. Instead, they lived in the land of the Vistula surrounded by powerful enemies, east, west, north and south. During endless ages when history was written by brutal passion and the sword, they never had a chance.
Z amoyski is cautious in predicting the Poles’ ability to master their future challenges. I am more optimistic. It is a land just barely recovered from a grave illness. It is free now and protected. Given a little more time, it may at last open up like a gorgeous flower and be the pride of Europe.
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