Studies in the Relations between Politics and Culture in Polish History
Politics, Power, and the Batignolles School Library
After the collapse of the November Uprising, about 5,500 political émigrés left the territories conquered by the Russians, and found themselves in France.1 The Polish national elite—politicians, intellectuals, military officers, etc.—forcibly removed from the country, chose Paris as the centre of their new life. And even if the activity of many Poles began in the temporary military quarters provided by the French government in Orleans, Avignon, Besançon, Bourges, or in civilian circumstances in Brussels, Vienna, or London, the key events, the most significant polemics, and the most important decisions all were taken and their consequences unfolded in Paris.
The political divide of the refugees into two major camps—the democrats, led by Joachim Lelewel, and the monarchists, presided over by Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski— permeated all émigré life, including the functioning of the most important educational and cultural institutions. Thus the subsequently established organisations and institutions were inspired by discrete political groupings, which in turn implied far-reaching political effects for Polish culture. Doubtless, this holds true for the history of the two most important émigré libraries: the Polish Library in Paris, instituted in 1838 and connected with the conservative Hôtel Lambert faction, and for the Batignolles Library, which represented the democratic and liberal circles.
The Batignolles Library—the main point of interest in this article—started as a modest book collection, belonging to an ethnic school, which was known to practically nobody. After a few years, during which...
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