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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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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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