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«Res publica» Redefined?

The Polish-Lithuanian Transition Period of the 1560s and 1570s in the Context of European State Formation Processes

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Miia Ijäs

The union of Poland and Lithuania was ruled by the Jagiellon royal house from 1385–1572, after which a political transition to an elective monarchy was undertaken. This book studies the political transition from the Jagiellon dynasty to an elective monarchy as a political decision-making process in the 1560s and 1570s. It focuses on the Polish-Lithuanian nobility and clergy as ‘king-makers’ and their relationship with the monarchy. In addition, special attention is paid to the issue of transnational influences and the way in which the international state system affected events in Poland-Lithuania. Thus, this particular political transition is considered in the context of the great events of early modern Europe, such as the Reformation and state-formation processes.
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3. Identification of the forthcoming change

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3.  Identification of the forthcoming change

We have a king, a precious man to our nation but mortal just like any of us. His death will be the death of the Polish Kingdom if you gentlemen shall not resolve this matter on time.188

As the above quotation by Stanisław Orzechowski from 1566 makes clear, contemporaries foresaw the forthcoming transition of the Polish-Lithuanian political system and its monarchy. In fact, the forthcoming change was as inevitable as a man’s death. This acknowledgement is important for the analysis of the decision-making process, as the political actors need to be aware of their situation. This forthcoming change, however, was not seen as a possibility for ‘progress’, but was faced with feelings of uncertainty. The religious change brought about by the Reformation movements of the sixteenth century created another challenge to the traditional social and political order and added to the concern. Consequently, the main goal for different camps in the political negotiation was to secure the continuity of the Polish-Lithuanian state in the changing circumstances. Thus, identification of the forthcoming change as the first step of political decision-making process emphasizes especially the social functions of goal-attainment and continuity.

In this analytical chapter I focus firstly on the understanding the contemporary Polish political thinkers had of the Polish-Lithuanian state and its socio-political structure. These contemporary ideas on Polish-Lithuanian statehood will function as a starting point for the analysis of the political negotiation during...

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