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Images of a Foreign Land. Scotland, Poland-Lithuania and the Problem of Cultural Transfer

Project Description

One of the most intriguing aspects of the relationship between Poland-Lithuania and Scotland in the early modern period is the way in which the substantial migration of Scots to Poland-Lithuania affected the image of Poland-Lithuania in Scotland, and the image of Scotland in Poland-Lithuania. In the sixteenth century, both countries were influenced by similar political and cultural-religious trends. In Poland-Lithuania, this led to the constitutional revolution of 1572–6, which created a Republic based on the Aristotelian vision of the mixed form of government as the basis of the ideal political system. The citizens of this republic, the nobility of Poland-Lithuania, gained the right to elect their monarch viritim in 1573, and 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 the Sejm every two years, and contained a clause justifying the withdrawal of obedience should the monarch act in breach of the law. In Scotland, the influence of Renaissance republicanism and Calvinist theories of resistance, were evident in the arguments advanced to justify the forced abdication of Mary Queen of Scots in 1567, and the theory developed by George Buchanan claiming that the Scottish monarchy was elective in nature. Despite the substantial presence of Scottish migrants in Poland-Lithuania, there has been little research into the influence of Polish-Lithuanian ideas on Scotland, although 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, while Robert Frost has investigated the basis of Scottish knowledge of the Polish-Lithuanian political system. Finally, the Anglo-Scottish union and the Polish-Lithuanian union followed broadly similar paths, from a union of the crowns to a union of the parliaments; the only such parliamentary unions formed in early modern Europe. Yet while there have been several studies of general British views of Poland-Lithuania, there has been no comprehensive study of Scottish attitudes to Poles and the Polish-Lithuanian political system, or Polish attitudes towards Scots and Scottish politics. This project will chart the changing attitudes on both sides as in political and religious terms the two systems diverged in the seventeenth century. It will examine in particular the crisis years of the mid-seventeenth century, when both systems faced civil war and fundamental political upheaval, and its aftermath. It will also look at discussions of the Polish-Lithuanian union during the debates surrounding the unions of 1603 and 1707.

Funding Notes

Some of the PhD opportunities in the School of Divinity, History and Philosophy have funding attached. Applications for study are welcome from suitably qualified candidates worldwide. Funding for this particular project will only be available on a competition basis to Overseas applicants and you should please consult our website ( for further details.

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