in our time s24 05 the polish lithuanian commonwealth oct 14 2021

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 1576 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.

the image above is jan iii sobieski (1629-1696), king of poland and grand duke of lithuania, at the battle of vienna 1683, by marcello bacciarelli (1731-1818)

with robert frost, the burnett fletcher chair of history at the university of aberdeen

katarzyna kosior, lecturer in early modern history at northumbria university

norman davies, professor emeritus in history and honorary fellow of st antony’s college, university of oxford

producer: simon tillotson.

reading list

richard butterwick, the polish-lithuanian commonwealth: light and flame (yale university press, 2020)

patrice dabrowski, poland: the first thousand years (cornell university press, 2014)

norman davies, god's playground: a history of poland (oxford university press, 1981)

norman davies, heart of europe: the past in poland's present (oxford university press, 1984)

norman davies, europe: a history (oxford university press, 1996)

karin friedrich, the other prussia: royal prussia, poland and liberty, 1569 –1772 (cambridge university press, 2008)

robert frost, the oxford history of poland-lithuania: volume 1, the making of the polish-lithuanian union, 1385–1569 (oxford university press, 2015)

katarzyna kosior, becoming a queen in early modern europe: east and west (palgrave macmillan, 2019)

jerzy lukowski, liberty’s folly: the polish-lithuanian commonwealth in the eighteenth century (first published 1991; routledge, 2014)

natalia nowakowska (ed.), remembering the jagiellonians (routledge, 2018)

timothy snyder, the reconstruction of nations: poland, lithuania, ukraine, belarus, 1569–1999 (yale university press, 2004)

adam zamoyski, the last king of poland (w&n, 2020)

adam zamoyski, poland: a history (william collins, 2015)

related links

museum of king jan iii’s palace at wilanów (available in english)

polish-lithuanian commonwealth - wikipedia

in our time s24 05 the polish lithuanian commonwealth oct 14 2021