Between 1994 and 2002 I held a series of monographic lectures titled Barbarian Europe – From Tribes to States and Nations at the Institute of History at Warsaw University. This book is not a transcript of those lectures. I never wrote down what I would talk about to my students, relying instead, on the spontaneity of our face-to-face interactions. I encouraged the students to interrupt me with any questions they had without waiting for the end of the lecture. Those questions, numerous and often startling, became for me a source of intellectual satisfaction and inspiration; the students helped me discern problems which had escaped detection in the academic routine. This provided a considerable stimulus for me. Without the questions my students posed, this book would not have been written. My thanks go, above all, to my students from whom I have learnt so much.
I belong to that generation of historians for whom professional contact and the exchange of ideas with scholars from abroad were often hindered. For political reasons to which I myself contributed, these obstacles accumulated. As long as I did research on Poland under the Piast dynasty, I could deceive myself that the Iron Curtain would not interfere with my work. Yet now that I have attempted to transcend the barriers that had for generations separated research on the early history of the Germanic and Slavic barbarians, the long-standing dearth of foreign contacts and texts have placed a heavy burden on my work. I...
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