This project investigates the changing attitudes towards and images of the multi-national and republican Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Poland-Lithuania was not the only republican system in early modern Europe, but one of the longest lasting and largest. During the 16th century, Poland-Lithuania emerged as a republic based on the Aristotelian vision of the mixed form of government. The citizens of this republic, the nobility of Poland-Lithuania, gained the right to elect their monarch viritim in 1573. While the king remained an essential part of the political system, his authority was limited by the Henrician Articles, first sworn to in 1576, which required him to call a legislative assembly (the Sejm) every two years. This constitutional arrangement also contained a clause justifying the withdrawal of obedience should the monarch act in breach of the law.
Poland-Lithuania attracted migrants from all over Europe who sought the relative freedom of religious exercise and toleration, a strong civic culture, rights of self-government for their community, as well as economic exchange and military service. From the late Middle Ages, and due to -many urban foundations on Magdeburg Law, settlers came from the German lands to populate Polish towns and cities. Italians joined via trade routes, attracted by a shared Humanist culture. Jews founded communities in Poland-Lithuania after being expelled from elsewhere, receiving extensive privileges from the Polish crown and noble patrons for their legal and religious self-government. Scottish migrants in Poland-Lithuania served as mercenaries and traders but also joined urban communities in careers as mayors and administrators of magnate properties. Dutch Mennonites settled in the Prussian areas of Poland on the Baltic, and Czechs and Moravian Protestants found shelter.
While these multi-national communities in Poland-Lithuania have appeared in extensive studies, there has been little research into the influence of Polish-Lithuanian ideas on Scotland, England, Germany, the Netherlands or Italy. Allan Macinnes has argued that the Polish institution of confederation, which gave a legal basis to collective action by the citizen body, may have influenced the 1638 National Covenant in Scotland. Robert Frost has investigated the basis of Scottish knowledge of Poland-Lithuania; the Anglo-Scottish and the Polish-Lithuanian unions followed broadly similar paths, from a union of the crowns to a union of the parliaments. Historians of Germany and Prussia, including Karin Friedrich, have studied the image of Poles and Poland in the Holy Roman Empire and the Prussian lands. Italian studies have mainly focused on Italian influences on Poland, mainly through contacts between students and universities of both countries, or the presence of Italians at the Polish court.
Under expert supervision by leading scholars on the subject, the PhD candidate will have latitude to design their own case. The candidate will investigate cross-European influences and attitudes in a period when republican and mixed constitutional systems became increasingly exceptional in an early modern Europe of absolute monarchies. A particular focus will be encouraged on the crisis years of the mid-seventeenth century, when the Commonwealth as well as other European countries faced war, civil war, economic hardship and fundamental political upheaval.