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At the Crossroads: 1865–1918

A History of the Polish Intelligentsia – Part 3, Edited by Jerzy Jedlicki


Magdalena Micińska

The three-part work provides a first synthetic account of the history of the Polish intelligentsia from the days of its formation to World War I. The third part deals with the period between 1865 and 1918. It is the period of numerical growth of the intelligentsia, growth of its self-consciousness and at the same time of growing struggles and rivalries of various political streams. The study concludes with the moment when Poland regained the independence that had been lost in 1795. The work combines social and intellectual history, tracing both the formation of the intelligentsia as a social stratum and the forms of engagement of the intelligentsia in the public discourse. Thus, it offers a broad view of the group’s transformations which immensely influenced the course of the Polish history.


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Chapter 2: Styles of life


The eventful social phenomena covered so far: the pauperisation of the nobility; the liberation of women and the emancipation of the Jewry, were not the only challenges faced by the Polish intelligentsia during the second half of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century� This period was also marked by considerably deepening differences in the standards and styles of life of the individual groups classed as ‘(the) intelligentsia’� Family and social connections, professional ca- reer, the size of one’s clientele – for the liberal professions, and the simple fact of having a permanent job or tenure, with an opportunity to fulfil one’s potential with the learned and trained line-of-work, plus residence in one of the country’s intellectual centres, or in the provinces: all these factors determined not only the intelligentsia member’s welfare but also his, or her, style of life and hierarchy of values� It might apparently seem that the gap between a wealthy professor of medicine in Warsaw or Krakow, pursuing an extensive practice among the city’s financial elites, and a student renting out a bed in a shared room, or, a provincial-town teacher, was much greater than any inter-Partition difference, and much harder to eliminate than the dislike with which women, or Jews-under-assimilation, were ‘welcomed’ into the labour market� Given the context, it could also seem that to speak of a bond tying the intelligentsia as a whole, and of an ethos shared by all the members of this social group, would be an abuse on...

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