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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 Polish Sejm Debating over a Work of History: The Case of ‘De bello Moschovitico’ by Reinhold Heidenstein, in 1587


Political controversies caused by historiographical texts are not uncommon, today as well as in the past. However, in the Commonwealth of Both Nations such incidents were extremely rare.1 There were instances of royal mandates prohibiting the circulation of books whose contents put the king’s predecessors or members of other dynasties in a shameful light, but these rare cases caused only minor and limited protests. Similarly, resolutions of local diets demanding confiscations of printed works, which tarnished the good name of families distinguished in the state, resulted in no major upheavals. However, controversies tended to become heated if the matter pertained to the editing of statutes or constitutions of the Sejm, or if they touched upon religious issues. Then public debates would become inflamed.2

Hence, the controversy that rocked the Sejm during the interregnum after the death of King Stephen Báthory over the book by Reinhold Heidenstein, De bello Moschovitico commentariorum libri VI, should be considered extraordinary. Its exceptional character is attested by the importance of its political participants, and by the time it lasted. The whole controversy started during the Convocation Sejm.3 After the closing of the session, it raged on, engaging the temporary head of the state—the archbishop of Gniezno and primate of Poland, who in this function used the title of the “interrex”—and many of the senators, and in particular the ← 105 | 106 → Chancellor and Grand Hetman Jan Zamoyski. Finally, it was still being debated during the Election Sejm.4

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