The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

14 Oct, 2021 940 History of Europe

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the republic that emerged from the union of the Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 14th Century. At first this was a personal union, similar to that of James I and VI in Britain, but this was formalised in 1569 into a vast republic, stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Kings and princes from across Europe would compete for parliament to elect them King and Grand Duke, and the greatest power lay with the parliaments. When the system worked well, the Commonwealth was a powerhouse, and it was their leader Jan Sobieski who relieved the siege of Vienna in 1683, defeating the Ottomans. Its neighbours exploited its parliament’s need for unanimity, though, and this contributed to its downfall. Austria, Russia and Prussia divided its territory between them from 1772, before the new, smaller states only emerged in the 20th Century.

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  • Robert Frost No other episodes
    The Burnett Fletcher Chair of History at the University of Aberdeen
  • Katarzyna Kosior No other episodes
    Lecturer in Early Modern History at Northumbria University
  • Norman Davies 3 episodes
    Professor Emeritus in History and Honorary Fellow of St Antony's College, University of Oxford

Reading list

  • The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth: Light and Flame
    Richard Butterwick (Yale University Press, 2020)
  • Poland: The First Thousand Years
    Patrice Dabrowski (Cornell University Press, 2014) Google Books →
  • God's Playground: A History of Poland
    Norman Davies (Oxford University Press, 1981) Google Books →
  • Heart of Europe: The Past in Poland's Present
    Norman Davies (Oxford University Press, 1984) Google Books →
  • Europe: A History
    Norman Davies (Oxford University Press, 1996) Google Books →
  • The Other Prussia: Royal Prussia, Poland and Liberty, 1569 -1772
    Karin Friedrich (Cambridge University Press, 2008) Google Books →
  • The Oxford History of Poland-Lithuania: Volume 1, The Making of the Polish-Lithuanian Union, 1385-1569
    Robert Frost (Oxford University Press, 2015) Google Books →
  • Becoming a Queen in Early Modern Europe: East and West
    Katarzyna Kosior (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019) Google Books →
  • Liberty's Folly: The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the Eighteenth Century
    Jerzy Lukowski (Routledge, 2014) Google Books →
  • Remembering the Jagiellonians
    Natalia Nowakowska (ed.) (Routledge, 2018) Google Books →
  • The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus, 1569-1999
    Timothy Snyder (Yale University Press, 2004)
  • The Last King of Poland
    Adam Zamoyski (W&N, 2020) Google Books →
  • Poland: A History
    Adam Zamoyski (William Collins, 2015) Google Books →

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Programme ID: m0010f8z

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Auto-category: 943.8 (Poland and Lithuania)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. In the 16th and 17th centuries, much of Europe was struggling under religious wars and civil wars, but not the largest state in Europe.