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Poland in the Modern World: Beyond Martyrdom

ISBN: 978-1-4443-3219-3
390 pages
March 2014, Wiley-Blackwell
Poland in the Modern World: Beyond Martyrdom (1444332198) cover image


Poland in the Modern World presents a history of the country from the late nineteenth century to the present, incorporating new perspectives from social and cultural history and positioning it in a broad global context

  • Challenges traditional accounts Poland that tend to focus on national, political history, emphasizing the country's 'exceptionalism'.
  • Presents a lively, multi-dimensional story, balancing coverage of high politics with discussion of social, cultural and economic changes, and their effects on individuals’ daily lives.
  • Explores both the regional diversity within Poland and the country’s place within Europe and the wider world.
  • Provides a new interpretive framework for understanding key historical events in Poland’s modern history, including the experiences of World War II and the postwar communist era.
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Table of Contents

List of Figures vi

Acknowledgments ix

Pronunciation Guide x

Introduction 1

1 Poles without Poland, 1795–1918 6

2 The Political Landscape at the Start of the 20th Century 43

3 Nation and/or Revolution, 1914–22 65

4 The Ambivalence of Democracy and Authority, 1922–39 90

5 Hyperinflation and Depression: The Interwar Period 105

6 Jews, Ukrainians, and Other Poles in the Interwar Period 126

7 World War II, 1939–45 144

8 Conquest or Revolution? 1945–56 186

9 The Year 1956 and the Rise of National Communism 231

10 Communism and Consumerism 258

11 The End of the PRL, 1976–89 285

12 Shock Therapy 328

13 Politics in the Third Republic 348

Index 367

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Author Information

Brian Porter-Szücs is Professor of History at the University of Michigan, where he has taught since 1994. He is the author of Faith and Fatherland: Catholicism, Modernity, and Poland (2011) and When Nationalism Began to Hate: Imagining Modern Politics in Nineteenth-Century Poland (2000). He is also the co-editor, with Bruce Berglund, of Christianity and Modernity in Eastern Europe (2010).
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“While the authors largely agree that the main motif of Polish history is the way in which leaders and communities pursued modernization and nationalization in the modern era, each writes about these topics in unique and fascinating ways.”  (Pol-int.org, 1 October 2015)

“Brian Porter-Szucs’s new book Poland in the Modern World: Beyond Martyrdomis like a breath of fresh air . . . In sum, this is a splendid book and an optimistic one. Porter-Szucs tries to find some good in everyone (well, maybe not in Stalin), for which he is to be commended.  This reviewer believes that his book will become the standard general work on recent Polish history.”  (The Polish Review, 1 October 2014)

"Moving in a new direction, Porter-Szûcs’ work adds an important and distinct voice to the fray. It is a genuine attempt to look at Poland’s history through that new prism of a transnational spirit. It forces us to look at history in different ways—from the outside in, from the bottom up—and to rethink it in significant ways. Ultimately, at times, it challenges us to reconsider the existing master narrative."  (Cosmopolitan Review, 1 October 2015)

“Poland in the Modern World is a valuable contribution to central and eastern European historiography and the study of Communist and post-Communist societies. In presenting sophisticated insights from a variety of disciplines and from a comparative perspective, the author characterizes Poland's history of the last two centuries as a history of neither winners nor losers. In doing so, he gets beyond stereotypes and clichés about the country, particularly the "national martyrology" that informs much of Polish historiography.”  (H-SAE, February 2015)

“Well researched, engagingly written, and full of striking anecdotes, Brian Porter-Szûcs’s Poland in the Modern World deserves a wide readership.”  (Slavic Review, 1 October 2014)


A remarkable achievement, Poland in the Modern World offers the stuff of real history. Instead of heroes and villains so often featured in national narratives, Porter-Szücs emphasizes the everyday lives of ordinary people in a global context, bringing the history of modern Poland down to earth in an easily accessible yet highly informative text.
Robert Blobaum, West Virginia University

By virtue of its avoidance of patriotic clichés, its comparative approach and the sophistication of its discussion of politics and economics, this comprehensive and well-written overview will be the first destination for all of us teaching the history of Poland in the modern era.
Antony Polonsky, Brandeis University

There's nothing remotely like this work out there. The approach is authoritative and enlightening yet in an interesting way "democratic". Poland in the Modern World reads very well and will serve as an excellent basis for classroom discussion.
John Connelly, University of California at Berkeley

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