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Book versus Power

Studies in the Relations between Politics and Culture in Polish History


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 10th 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 Concept “rex illiteratus quasi asinus coronatus” in Late Medieval Cracovian Writings


Towards the end of the eleventh century, in Western Europe there appeared the idea that a prince exercising political power should receive intellectual education too. The learned men who voiced the concept recalled the ancient advice of Plato, and repeated after him, that a ruler should be a philosopher and be equipped with knowledge and wisdom necessary for his tasks, or have at his disposition educated advisors (philosophers).1 The first to put this idea into writing was Hugh of Fleury (d. ca. 1120) in De regia potestate et sacerdotali dignitate, composed in 1102–1107.2 Sketching a moral portrait of a ruler, he emphasized that, apart from the four cardinal virtues, a monarch should be eruditus in litteris, i.e. be intellectually educated in order to be capable of daily reading of the Scriptures and other texts. Doubtless, Hugh had Latin and grammatical education in mind, which would enable reading not only the Bible, but antique and early medieval writers, as well as the Fathers.3 ← 73 | 74 → In these works the prince was to find examples of ancient and contemporary men, and of their deeds, so that he could follow them.

Two decades later, William of Malmesbury (ca. 1090–1143),4 in Book V of his major historiographical work, the Historia regum Anglorum, introducing the person of Henry I, son of William the Conqueror, noted that the prince received profound training in liberal arts and philosophy, which had a positive effect on his rule.5 In this context,...

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