Studies in the Relations between Politics and Culture in Polish History
Edited By Jacek Soszyński and Agnieszka Chamera-Nowak
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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