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Book versus Power

Studies in the Relations between Politics and Culture in Polish History


Edited By Jacek Soszyński and Agnieszka Chamera-Nowak

This volume considers the various interactions between the culture of the book and politics in Polish history. Each of the fourteen authors deals with a different topic, chronologically starting with the beginnings of the early Piast monarchy in the 10 th century up to contemporary times: for instance, E. Potkowski discusses the political ambitions of Duke Mieszko I and his descendants with regard to the introduction of early writing and reading in Poland; A. Kamler analyses the attitude of the Jagiellonian dynasty in the 1500s towards books and education; and D. Jarosz traces the changing approach of the communists towards book production and the promotion of readership in their attempts to persuade Polish society to accept their ideology.
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The Book in the World of Politics: Early Literary Culture in Poland, 10th–12th Century


I. Latin literate culture and the book entered Poland during the tenth century, accompanying the introduction of Christianity as the official religion of the state. Until that time, pre-Polish society lived in the world of oral culture, transmission of ideas by word of mouth, and collective memory, amassing tradition and knowledge in this way only. On the other hand, Christianity was a “religion of the Book”. Its basic doctrinal, moral, and social principles were contained in sacred writings, which were the vehicles of divine revelation. The Scripture, or the Holy Bible, accompanied by a formidable number of explanatory texts, was indispensable to understanding sacred revelation, and for implementation of the requirements of the Christian religion in public and private life. Books were also necessary for the fulfilment of the divine service, praising God in appropriate words. In the case of the Western Christianity, the appropriate linguistic form was Latin.

Thus Christianity, which changed the Mediterranean world in late antiquity, brought Latin literary culture to the new societies, which comprised medieval Europe.1 ← 15 | 16 →

II. During the Middle Ages, Christianisation of a region in Europe was an act of politics. It depended on the decision of the ruler and the governing elite. This was the case with the Merovingian Franks in Gaul, where the decision was made by Clovis I, with various regions in Germany and Scandinavia, with the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of the British Isles, with the Central European states of Bohemia, Poland, and Hungary,...

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