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Italians in Early Modern Poland

Translated by Katarzyna Popowicz


Wojciech Tygielski

The book provides a panorama of Italian migrants’ activities in Polish economy, political life and, above all, culture. The motivations of Italians who decided to travel to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and quite often settled there permanently, the reasons which made this migration possible and approved by the Polish and Lithuanian hosts are described in detail. Various categories of Italian migrants are considered as well as the potential and growing difficulties in their adaptation. These premises serve as proof of social and cultural distances between the Italians and the Poles and underline the tensions between the Italians’ cultural background and the one which they had to cope with. The hypothesis of the lost historical opportunity made possible by numerous arrivals of migrants from more culturally advanced areas is highlighted through the debate on the efficiency of Italian influences upon Polish-Lithuanian realities, and by the catalogue of the causes which effectively hindered Italian impulse for modernity.
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Civilisational Sphere



In Genoese Archivio di Stato, Jan Ptaśnik recorded a contact with Nicolò di Noali, who decided to stay four years in Poland to manage and modernise farming on the estate of the bishop of Poznań, Uriel by planting orchards and gardens (“piantarvi ← 368 | 369 → dei giardini e delle viti”).213 We cannot assess the effects of the work of di Noali, one of the first Italian specialists intentionally brought to Poland for their qualifications with the express aim of influencing Polish reality through modernization. Queen Bona was also a great lover of gardening; she set and cultivated gardens in all her residences (at Wawel in 1541, in a spot formerly occupied only by a small menagerie, a garden and aviary were founded). Awe-inspiring and eagerly copied Italian gardens were also planted in Łobzów and Ujazdów at the Queen’s behest.214 Bona and her entourage’s modernising influence seem undeniable but similar innovative ideas were to be presented by Italians staying in Poland in several more instances.

Prospero Provana, who was granted the three-year leasehold of Kraków salt mines under Báthory (with company effectiveness in mind) sought methods for improving salt extraction, and guaranteed a share in the profit to the inventor whose proposal was implemented. A certain Rocco Marconi—“inventor of an instrument for cheaper extraction of salt blocks [Lat. bankuses] from beneath”215—tended his proposal. His device was allegedly approved by the king himself, and though we do...

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