The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, formally the Crown of the
Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, after 1791 the
Commonwealth of Poland, was a dualistic state, a bi-confederation of
Lithuania ruled by a common monarch, who was both the King
Poland and the Grand
Duke of Lithuania. It was one of the
largest and most populous countries of 16th- and 17th-century
Europe. At its peak in the early 17th century, the Commonwealth
spanned almost 400,000 square miles (1,000,000 km2) and
sustained a multi-ethnic population of 11 million.
The Commonwealth was established by the
Union of Lublin
Union of Lublin in July 1569,
but the Crown of the Kingdom of
Poland and the Grand Duchy of
Lithuania had been in a de facto personal union since 1386 with the
marriage of the Polish queen Hedwig and Lithuania's Grand Duke
Jogaila, who was crowned King jure uxoris
Władysław II Jagiełło
Władysław II Jagiełło of
Poland. The First Partition of
Poland in 1772 and the Second Partition
Poland in 1793 greatly reduced the nation's size and the
Commonwealth collapsed as an independent state following the Third
Poland in 1795.
The Union possessed many features unique among contemporary states.
Its political system was characterized by strict checks upon
monarchical power. These checks were enacted by a legislature (sejm)
controlled by the nobility (szlachta). This idiosyncratic system was a
precursor to modern concepts of democracy, constitutional
monarchy, and federation. Although the two component
states of the Commonwealth were formally equal,
Poland was the
dominant partner in the union.
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was marked by high levels of
ethnic diversity and by relative religious tolerance, guaranteed by
Confederation Act 1573; however, the degree of
religious freedom varied over time. The Constitution of 1791,
however, acknowledged Catholicism as the "dominant religion," unlike
Warsaw Confederation; although, freedom of religion was still
granted with it.
After several decades of prosperity, it entered a period
of protracted political, military and economic decline. Its
growing weakness led to its partitioning among its neighbors, Austria,
Prussia and the Russian Empire, during the late 18th century. Shortly
before its demise, the Commonwealth adopted a massive reform effort
and enacted the Constitution of May 3, 1791—the first codified
constitution in modern European history and the second in modern world
history (after the United States Constitution).
3 State organization and politics
3.1 Golden Liberty
3.3 Late reforms
6.1 Science and literature
6.2 Art and music
Szlachta and Sarmatism
6.4 Demographics and religion
Confederation and religious freedom
8 Administrative divisions
10 Image gallery
11 See also
15 External links
The official name of the state was The Kingdom of
Poland and the Grand
Lithuania (Polish: Królestwo Polskie i Wielkie Księstwo
Litewskie, Lithuanian: Lenkijos Karalystė ir Lietuvos Didžioji
Kunigaikštystė, Latin: Regnum Poloniae Magnusque Ducatus Lithuaniae)
Latin term was usually used in international treaties and
diplomacy. In the 17th century and later it was also known as the
Most Serene Commonwealth of
Poland (Polish: Najjaśniejsza
Rzeczpospolita Polska, Latin: Serenissima Res Publica Poloniae),
the Commonwealth of the Polish Kingdom, or the Commonwealth of
Poland. Its inhabitants referred to it in everyday speech as the
"Rzeczpospolita" (Ruthenian: Рѣч Посполита Rech Pospolita,
Lithuanian: Žečpospolita). Western Europeans often simply called it
Poland and in most past and modern sources it is referred to as the
Kingdom of Poland, or just Poland. The terms: the
Poland and the Commonwealth of Two Nations (Polish:
Rzeczpospolita Obojga Narodów, Latin: Res Publica Utriusque Nationis)
were used in the Reciprocal Guarantee of Two Nations. The English
term 'Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth' and German 'Polen-Litauen' are
seen as renderings of the Commonwealth of Two Nations variant.
Other names include the Republic of Nobles (Polish: Rzeczpospolita
szlachecka) and the First Commonwealth (Polish: I Rzeczpospolita), the
latter relatively common in Polish historiography.
Main articles: History of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
(1569–1648), (1648–1764), and (1764–1795)
Grand Standard Bearer of the Crown (Chorąży Wielki Koronny),
Sebastian Sobieski, at the wedding procession of King Sigismund III,
as painted anonymously on the Stockholm Roll (c. 1605).
Lithuania underwent an alternating series of wars and
alliances during the 14th century and early 15th century. Several
agreements between the two (the Union of
Kraków and Vilna, the Union
of Krewo, the Union of
Wilno and Radom, the Union of Grodno, and the
Union of Horodło) were struck before the permanent 1569 Union of
Lublin. This agreement was one of the signal achievements of Sigismund
II Augustus, last monarch of the Jagiellon dynasty. Sigismund believed
he could preserve his dynasty by adopting elective monarchy. His death
in 1572 was followed by a three-year interregnum during which
adjustments were made to the constitutional system; these adjustments
significantly increased the power of the Polish nobility and
established a truly elective monarchy.
The Commonwealth reached its Golden Age in the early 17th century. Its
powerful parliament was dominated by nobles (Pic. 2) who were
reluctant to get involved in the Thirty Years' War; this neutrality
spared the country from the ravages of a political-religious conflict
that devastated most of contemporary Europe. The Commonwealth was able
to hold its own against Sweden, the Tsardom of Russia, and vassals of
the Ottoman Empire, and even launched successful expansionist
offensives against its neighbors. In several invasions during the Time
of Troubles, Commonwealth troops entered
Russia and managed to take
Moscow and hold it from September 27, 1610 to November 4, 1612, when
they were driven out after a siege.
Commonwealth power began waning after a series of blows during the
following decades. A major rebellion of
Ukrainian Cossacks in the
southeastern portion of the Commonwealth (the
Khmelnytskyi Uprising in
modern-day Ukraine) began in 1648. It resulted in a Ukrainian request,
under the terms of the Treaty of Pereyaslav, for protection by the
Russian Tsar. Russian annexation of part of
supplanted Polish influence. The other blow to the Commonwealth was a
Swedish invasion in 1655, known as the Deluge, which was supported by
troops of Transylvanian
George II Rákóczi
George II Rákóczi and Frederick
William, Elector of Brandenburg.
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth at its maximum extent, after the
Truce of Deulino
Truce of Deulino in 1619, superimposed on a current political map.
In the late 17th century, the king of the weakened Commonwealth, John
III Sobieski, allied with Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I to deal
crushing defeats to the Ottoman Empire. In 1683, the Battle of Vienna
marked the final turning point in the 250-year struggle between the
forces of Christian
Europe and the Islamic Ottomans. For its
centuries-long opposition to Muslim advances, the Commonwealth would
gain the name of Antemurale Christianitatis (bulwark of
Christianity). During the next 16 years, the Great Turkish War
would drive the Turks permanently south of the Danube River, never
again to threaten central Europe.
By the 18th century, destabilization of its political system brought
Poland to the brink of civil war. The Commonwealth was facing many
internal problems and was vulnerable to foreign influences. An
outright war between the King and the nobility broke out in 1715, and
Tsar Peter the Great's mediation put him in a position to further
weaken the state. The Russian army was present at the Silent Sejm
of 1717, which limited the size of the armed forces to 24,000 and
specified its funding, reaffirmed the destabilizing practice of
liberum veto, and banished the king's Saxon army; the Tsar was to
serve as guarantor of the agreement. Western Europe's increasing
exploitation of resources in the Americas rendered the Commonwealth's
supplies less crucial.
In 1768, the
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth became a protectorate of
the Russian Empire. Control of
Poland was central to Catherine
the Great's diplomatic and military strategies. Attempts at
reform, such as the Four-Year Sejm's May Constitution, came too late.
The country was partitioned in three stages by the neighboring Russian
Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Habsburg Monarchy. By 1795,
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth had been completely erased from
the map of Europe.
Lithuania were not re-established as
independent countries until 1918.
State organization and politics
See also: Offices in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
Main article: Golden Liberty
Union of Lublin
Union of Lublin of 1569 by Jan Matejko.
The political doctrine of the Commonwealth was: our state is a
republic under the presidency of the King. Chancellor Jan Zamoyski
summed up this doctrine when he said that Rex regnat et non-gubernat
("The King reigns but [lit. 'and'] does not govern"). The
Commonwealth had a parliament, the Sejm, as well as a Senat and an
elected king (Pic. 1). The king was obliged to respect citizens'
rights specified in
King Henry's Articles as well as in Pacta
conventa, negotiated at the time of his election.
The monarch's power was limited, in favor of a sizable noble class.
Each new king had to pledge to uphold the Henrician Articles, which
were the basis of Poland's political system (and included
near-unprecedented guarantees of religious tolerance). Over time, the
Henrician Articles were merged with the Pacta Conventa, specific
pledges agreed to by the king-elect. From that point onwards, the king
was effectively a partner with the noble class and was constantly
supervised by a group of senators. The
Sejm could veto the king on
important matters, including legislation (the adoption of new laws),
foreign affairs, declaration of war, and taxation (changes of existing
taxes or the levying of new ones).
The foundation of the Commonwealth's political system, the "Golden
Liberty" (Polish: Złota Wolność, a term used from 1573 on),
election of the king by all nobles wishing to participate, known as
wolna elekcja (free election);
Sejm, the Commonwealth parliament which the king was required to hold
every two years;
Pacta conventa (Latin), "agreed-to agreements" negotiated with the
king-elect, including a bill of rights, binding on the king, derived
from the earlier Henrician Articles.
religious freedom guaranteed by
Confederation Act 1573,
rokosz (insurrection), the right of szlachta to form a legal rebellion
against a king who violated their guaranteed freedoms;
liberum veto (Latin), the right of an individual
Sejm deputy to oppose
a decision by the majority in a
Sejm session; the voicing of such a
"free veto" nullified all the legislation that had been passed at that
session; during the crisis of the second half of the 17th century,
Polish nobles could also use the liberum veto in provincial sejmiks;
konfederacja (from the
Latin confederatio), the right to form an
organization to force through a common political aim.
The Republic at the Zenith of Its Power. Golden Liberty. The Royal
Election of 1573.
The three regions (see below) of the Commonwealth enjoyed a degree of
autonomy. Each voivodship had its own parliament (sejmik), which
exercised serious political power, including choice of poseł (deputy)
to the national
Sejm and charging of the deputy with specific voting
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Grand Duchy of Lithuania had its own separate army,
treasury and most other official institutions.
Golden Liberty created a state that was unusual for its time, although
somewhat similar political systems existed in the contemporary
city-states like the Republic of Venice. Both states were styled
"Serenissima Respublica" or the "Most Serene Republic". At a time
when most European countries were headed toward centralization,
absolute monarchy and religious and dynastic warfare, the Commonwealth
experimented with decentralization, confederation and federation,
democracy and religious tolerance.
This political system unusual for its time stemmed from the ascendance
of the szlachta noble class over other social classes and over the
political system of monarchy. In time, the szlachta accumulated enough
privileges (such as those established by the
Nihil novi Act of 1505)
that no monarch could hope to break the szlachta's grip on power. The
Commonwealth's political system is difficult to fit into a simple
category, but it can be tentatively described as a mixture of:
confederation and federation, with regard to the broad autonomy of its
regions. It is, however, difficult to decisively call the Commonwealth
either confederation or federation, as it had some qualities of both;
oligarchy, as only the szlachta—around 15% of the
population—had political rights;
democracy, since all the szlachta were equal in rights and privileges,
Sejm could veto the king on important matters, including
legislation (the adoption of new laws), foreign affairs, declaration
of war, and taxation (changes of existing taxes or the levying of new
ones). Also, the 15% of Commonwealth population who enjoyed those
political rights (the szlachta) was a substantially larger
percentage than in majority European countries even in the nineteenth
century; note that in 1820 in
France only about 1.5% of the male
adult population had the right to vote, and in 1840 in Belgium, only
elective monarchy, since the monarch, elected by the szlachta, was
Head of State;
constitutional monarchy, since the monarch was bound by pacta conventa
and other laws, and the szlachta could disobey any king's decrees they
The Troelfth Cake, an allegory of the First Partition of Poland.
Contemporary drawing by Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune.
The end of the
Jagiellon dynasty in 1572—after nearly two
centuries—disrupted the fragile equilibrium of the Commonwealth's
government. Power increasingly slipped away from the central
government to the nobility.
When presented with periodic opportunities to fill the throne, the
szlachta exhibited a preference for foreign candidates who would not
found another strong dynasty. This policy often produced monarchs who
were either totally ineffective or in constant debilitating conflict
with the nobility. Furthermore, aside from notable exceptions such as
the able Transylvanian
Stefan Batory (1576–86), the kings of foreign
origin were inclined to subordinate the interests of the Commonwealth
to those of their own country and ruling house. This was especially
visible in the policies and actions of the first two elected kings
from the Swedish House of Vasa, whose politics brought the
Commonwealth into conflict with Sweden, culminating in the war known
as The Deluge (1655), one of the events that mark the end of the
Commonwealth's Golden Age and the beginning of the Commonwealth's
Zebrzydowski Rebellion (1606–07) marked a substantial increase in
the power of the Polish magnates, and the transformation of szlachta
democracy into magnate oligarchy. The Commonwealth's political system
was vulnerable to outside interference, as
bribed by foreign powers might use their liberum veto to block
attempted reforms. This sapped the Commonwealth and plunged it into
political paralysis and anarchy for over a century, from the mid-17th
century to the end of the 18th, while its neighbors stabilized their
internal affairs and increased their military might.
The Commonwealth did eventually make a serious effort to reform its
political system, adopting in 1791 the Constitution of May 3, 1791,
Norman Davies calls the first of its kind in
Europe. The revolutionary Constitution recast the erstwhile
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth as a Polish–Lithuanian federal
state with a hereditary monarchy and abolished many of the deleterious
features of the old system.
Adoption of the
Constitution of May 3, 1791
Constitution of May 3, 1791 by the Four-Year
The new constitution:
abolished the liberum veto and banned the szlachta's confederations;
provided for a separation of powers among legislative, executive and
judicial branches of government;
established "popular sovereignty" and extended political rights to
include not only the nobility but the bourgeoisie;
increased the rights of the peasantry;
preserved religious tolerance (but with a condemnation of apostasy
from the Catholic faith).
These reforms came too late, however, as the Commonwealth was
immediately invaded from all sides by its neighbors, which had been
content to leave the Commonwealth alone as a weak buffer state, but
reacted strongly to attempts by king
Stanisław August Poniatowski
Stanisław August Poniatowski and
other reformers to strengthen the country.
Russia feared the
revolutionary implications of the May 3rd Constitution's political
reforms and the prospect of the Commonwealth regaining its position as
a European power.
Catherine the Great
Catherine the Great regarded the May constitution as
fatal to her influence and declared the Polish constitution
Grigori Aleksandrovich Potemkin
Grigori Aleksandrovich Potemkin drafted the act for
the Targowica Confederation, referring to the constitution as the
"contagion of democratic ideas". Meanwhile,
Prussia and Austria
used it as a pretext for further territorial expansion. Prussian
Ewald Friedrich von Hertzberg
Ewald Friedrich von Hertzberg called the constitution "a blow
Prussian monarchy", fearing that a strengthened Poland
would once again dominate Prussia. In the end, the May 3
Constitution was never fully implemented, and the Commonwealth
entirely ceased to exist only four years after the its adoption.
Main article: Old-Polish Industrial Region
...and "Grain doesn't pay". The two pictures illustrate that
agriculture, once extremely profitable to the nobility (szlachta) in
the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, became much less so beginning in
the second half of the 17th century.
Cereals export through
The economy of the Commonwealth was dominated by feudal agriculture
based on the plantation system (serfs).
Slavery was forbidden in
Poland in the 15th century, and formally abolished in
1588, replaced by the second enserfment. Typically a nobleman's
landholding comprised a folwark, a large farm worked by serfs to
produce surpluses for internal and external trade. This economic
arrangement worked well for the ruling classes in the early era of the
Commonwealth, which was one of the most prosperous eras of the grain
trade. The economic strength of Commonwealth grain trade waned
from the late 17th century on. Trade relationships were disrupted by
the wars, and the Commonwealth proved unable to improve its transport
infrastructure or its agricultural practices. Serfs in the region
were increasingly tempted to flee. The Commonwealth's major
attempts at countering this problem and improving productivity
consisted of increasing serfs' workload and further restricting their
freedoms in a process known as export-led serfdom.
Urban population of the Commonwealth was low compared to Western
Europe. Exact numbers depend on calculation methods. According to one
source, the urban population of the Commonwealth was about 20% of the
total in the 17th century, compared to approximately 50% in the
Netherlands and Italy (Pic. 7). Another source suggests much lower
figures: 4–8% urban population in Poland, 34–39% in the
Netherlands and 22–23% in Italy. The Commonwealth's
preoccupation with agriculture, coupled with the szlachta's privileged
position when compared to the bourgeoisie, resulted in a fairly slow
process of urbanization and thus a rather slow development of
While similar conflicts among social classes may be found all over
Europe, nowhere were the nobility as dominant at the time as in the
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. There is, however, much debate among
historians as to which processes most affected those developments,
since until the wars and crises of the mid-17th century the cities of
the Commonwealth had not markedly lagged in size and wealth behind
their western counterparts. The Commonwealth did have numerous towns
and cities, commonly founded on Magdeburg rights. Some of the largest
trade fairs in the Commonwealth were held at Lublin. See the geography
section, below, for a list of major cities in the Commonwealth
(commonly capitals of voivodships).
Lithuania played a significant role in the supply of 16th
Europe by the export of three sorts of goods, notably
grain (rye), cattle (oxen) and fur. These three articles amounted
to nearly 90% of the country's exports to western markets by overland-
and maritime trade.
Coat of arms of
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth on 15 ducats of
Sigismund III from 1617.
Although the Commonwealth was Europe's largest grain producer, the
bulk of her grain was consumed domestically. Estimated grain
consumption in the Polish Crown (
Poland proper) and
1560–70 was some 113,000 tons of wheat (or 226,000 łaszt – a
łaszt, or "last", being a large bulk measure; in the case of grain,
about half a ton). Average yearly production of grain in the
Commonwealth in the 16th Century was 120,000 tons, 6% of which was
exported, while cities consumed some 19% and the remainder was
consumed by the villages. Commonwealth grain achieved far more
importance in poor crop years, as in the early 1590s and the 1620s,
when governments throughout southern
Europe arranged for large grain
imports to cover shortfalls in their jurisdictions.
Still, grain was by far the largest export commodity of the
Commonwealth. The owner of a folwark usually signed a contract with
merchants of Gdańsk, who controlled 80% of this inland trade, to ship
the grain north to that seaport on the Baltic Sea. Many rivers in
the Commonwealth were used for shipping purposes: the Vistula, Pilica,
Bug, San, Nida, Wieprz, Neman. The rivers had relatively developed
infrastructure, with river ports and granaries. Most of the river
shipping moved north, southward transport being less profitable, and
barges and rafts were often sold off in
Gdańsk for lumber. Hrodna
become an important site after formation of a customs post at
Augustów in 1569, which became a checkpoint for merchants travelling
to the Crown lands from the Grand Duchy.
Portrait of the Italian merchant and banker Guglielmo Orsetti. His
wealth enabled him to make large loans to the Commonwealth.
Portrait of the Greek merchant Constantine Corniaktos, who dealt with
international trade, especially from the Ottoman Empire.
From Gdańsk, ships, mostly from the
Netherlands and Flanders, carried
the grain to ports such as
Antwerp and Amsterdam. Besides
grain, other seaborne exports included carminic acid from Polish
cochineal, lumber and wood-related products such as ash, and tar.
The land routes, mostly to the German lands of the Holy Roman Empire
such as the cities of
Leipzig and Nuremberg, were used for export of
live cattle (herds of around 50,000 head) hides, furs, salt, tobacco,
hemp, cotton (mostly from Greater Poland) and linen.
The Commonwealth imported wine, fruit, spices, luxury goods (e.g.
tapestries, Pic. 5), clothing, fish, beer and industrial products like
steel and tools. A few riverboats carried south imports from Gdańsk
like wine, fruit, spices and herring. Somewhere between the 16th and
17th centuries, the Commonwealth's trade balance shifted from positive
With the advent of the Age of Discovery, many old trading routes such
Amber Road (Pic. 4) lost importance as new ones were created.
Poland's importance as a caravan route between Asia and Europe
diminished, while new local trading routes were created between the
Commonwealth and Russia. Many goods and cultural artifacts continued
to pass from one region to another via the Commonwealth. For example,
Isfahan rugs imported from
Persia to the Commonwealth were actually
known in the West as "Polish rugs" (French: Polonaise).
Commonwealth currency included the złoty and the grosz. The City of
Gdańsk had the privilege of minting its own coinage.
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth army
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth army and Royal Guards
Winged Hussars, one of the main types of the cavalry in the Crown of
the Kingdom of
Poland between the 16th and 18th centuries.
The military of the
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth evolved from the
merger of the armies of the Kingdom of
Poland and the Grand Duchy of
Lithuania. The army was commanded by the Hetman. The most unusual
formation of the army was the heavy cavalry in the form of the Polish
winged hussars. The
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth Navy
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth Navy never played
a major role in the military structure, and ceased to exist in the
Commonwealth forces were engaged in numerous conflicts in the south
(against the Ottoman Empire), the east (against the Tsardom of
Muscovy, later known as the Russian Empire) and the north (the Kingdom
of Sweden); as well as internal conflicts (most notably, numerous
Cossack uprisings). For the first century or so, the Commonwealth
military was usually successful, but became less so from around the
mid-17th century. Plagued by insufficient funds, it found itself
increasingly hard-pressed to defend the country, and inferior in
numbers to the growing armies of the Commonwealth's neighbors.
Polish military men, 1697–1795, drawing by Jan Matejko
The Commonwealth was formed at the
Union of Lublin
Union of Lublin of 1569 from the
Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The armies of
those states differed from the organization common in the west of
Europe, as according to Bardach, the mercenary formations (Polish:
wojsko najemne), common there, never gained popularity in Poland.
Brzezinski, however, notes that foreign mercenaries did form a
significant portion of the more elite infantry units, at least till
the early 17th century. In the 15th century Poland, several other
formations formed the core of the military. There was a small
standing army, obrona potoczna ("continuous defense") about
1,500–3,000 strong, paid for by the king, and primarily stationed at
the troubled south and eastern borders. It was supplemented by
two formations mobilized in case of war: the pospolite ruszenie
(Polish levée en masse – feudal levy of mostly noble
knights-landholders), and the wojsko zaciężne, recruited by the
Polish commanders for the conflict (it differed from Western mercenary
formations in that it was commanded by Polish officers, and dissolved
after the conflict has ended).
Several years before the Union of Lublin, the Polish obrona potoczna
was reformed, as the
Sejm (national parliament of Poland) legislated
in 1562–1563 the creation of wojsko kwarciane (named after kwarta
tax levied on the royal lands for the purpose of maintaining this
formation). This formation was also paid for by the king, and in
the peace time, numbered about 3,500–4,000 men according to
Bardach; Brzezinski gives the range of 3,000–5,000. It was
composed mostly of the light cavalry units manned by nobility
(szlachta) and commanded by hetmans. Often, in wartime, the
Sejm would legislate a temporary increase in the size of the wojsko
Following the end of the Commonwealth, Polish military tradition would
be continued by the Napoleonic Polish Legions and the Army of the
Duchy of Warsaw.
Renaissance in Poland,
Baroque in Poland,
Poland and Ukrainian Baroque
Science and literature
Multi-stage rocket, from Kazimierz Siemienowicz's Artis Magnæ
Artilleriæ pars prima
The Commonwealth was an important European center for the development
of modern social and political ideas. It was famous for its rare
quasi-democratic political system, praised by philosophers, and during
Counter-Reformation was known for near-unparalleled religious
tolerance, with peacefully coexisting Roman Catholic, Jewish, Orthodox
Protestant and Muslim (Sufi) communities. In the 18th
century, the French Catholic Rulhiere wrote of 16th century Poland:
"This country, which in our day we have seen divided on the pretext of
religion, is the first state in
Europe that exemplified tolerance. In
this state, mosques arose between churches and synagogues.” The
Commonwealth gave rise to the famous Christian sect of the Polish
Brethren, antecedents of British and American Unitarianism.
With its political system, the Commonwealth gave birth to political
philosophers such as
Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski
Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski (1503–1572) (Pic. 9),
Wawrzyniec Grzymała Goślicki
Wawrzyniec Grzymała Goślicki (1530–1607) and Piotr Skarga
(1536–1612). Later, works by
Stanisław Staszic (1755–1826) and
Hugo Kołłątaj (1750–1812) helped pave the way for the
Constitution of May 3, 1791, which
Norman Davies calls the first of
its kind in Europe.
Commonwealth referred to as 'Polonian Empyre' in the title page of
Goślicki's The Counsellor published in England in 1598.
Jagiellonian University is one of the oldest universities in
the world (established in 1364), together with the Jesuit Academy
Wilno (established in 1579) they were the major scholarly and
scientific centers in the Commonwealth. The Komisja Edukacji
Narodowej, Polish for Commission for National Education, formed in
1773, was the world's first national Ministry of Education.
Commonwealth scientists included:
Martin Kromer (1512–1589),
historian and cartographer;
Michał Sędziwój (1566–1636),
alchemist and chemist;
Jan Brożek (Ioannes Broscius in Latin)
(1585–1652), polymath: a mathematician, physician and astronomer;
Krzysztof Arciszewski (Crestofle d'Artischau Arciszewski in
Portuguese) (1592–1656), engineer, ethnographer, general and admiral
Dutch West Indies Company
Dutch West Indies Company army in the war with the Spanish
Empire for control of Brazil; Kazimierz Siemienowicz
(1600–1651), military engineer, artillery specialist and a founder
Johannes Hevelius (1611–1687), astronomer, founder of
Michał Boym (1612–1659), orientalist,
cartographer, naturalist and diplomat in Ming Dynasty's service (Pic.
Adam Adamandy Kochański
Adam Adamandy Kochański (1631–1700), mathematician and
Baal Shem Tov
Baal Shem Tov (הבעל שם טוב in Hebrew)
(1698–1760), considered to be the founder of Hasidic Judaism; Marcin
Odlanicki Poczobutt (1728–1810), astronomer and mathematician (Pic.
Jan Krzysztof Kluk
Jan Krzysztof Kluk (1739–1796), naturalist, agronomist and
John Jonston (1603–1675) scholar and physician,
descended from Scottish nobility. In 1628 the Czech teacher,
scientist, educator, and writer
John Amos Comenius
John Amos Comenius took refuge in the
Commonwealth, when the
Protestants were persecuted under the Counter
The works of many Commonwealth authors are considered classics,
including those of
Jan Kochanowski (Pic. 10), Wacław Potocki, Ignacy
Krasicki, and Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz. Many szlachta members wrote
memoirs and diaries. Perhaps the most famous are the Memoirs of Polish
Albrycht Stanisław Radziwiłł
Albrycht Stanisław Radziwiłł (1595–1656) and the
Jan Chryzostom Pasek
Jan Chryzostom Pasek (ca. 1636–ca. 1701). Jakub Sobieski
(1590–1646) (father of John III Sobieski) wrote notable diaries.
During the Khotyn expedition in 1621 he wrote a diary called
Commentariorum chotinensis belli libri tres (
Diary of the Chocim War),
which was published in 1646 in Gdańsk. It was used by Wacław Potocki
as a basis for his epic poem, Transakcja wojny chocimskiej (The
Progress of the War of Chocim). He also authored instructions for the
journey of his sons to
Kraków (1640) and
France (1645), a good
example of liberal education of the era.
Art and music
Coffin portrait of Barbara Domicela Lubomirska née Szczawińska,
The two great religious cultures of the Commonwealth,
Eastern Orthodox, coexisted and penetrated each other, which is
reflected in the great popularity of icons (Pic. 13) and the icons
resembling effigies of Mary, as well as the metal dresses typical of
the Orthodox Church in the predominantly
Latin territories of today's
Poland (Black Madonna) and
Lithuania (Our Lady of the Gate of
Dawn). The implementation of post-
Renaissance naturalism and the
sentimentality of the Polish baroque in Orthodox painting as well as
the creation of the
Baroque style in architecture, also
inspired by Polish patterns, were the major factors of Latin
Eastern Orthodox art (Pic. 3).
A common art form of the Sarmatian period were coffin portraits,
particular to the culture of the Commonwealth, used in funerals and
other important ceremonies. As a rule, such portraits were nailed
to sheet metal, six – or eight – sided in shape, fixed to the
front of a coffin placed on a high, ornate catafalque.
Karol Stanisław Radziwiłł, the richest noble of his time and a
representative of Sarmatism.
Another characteristic is common usage of black marble. Altars, fonts,
portals, balustrades, columns, monuments, tombstones, headstones and
whole rooms (e.g. Marble Room at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, St.
Casimir Chapel of the
Wilno Cathedral and Vasa Chapel of the Wawel
Cathedral) were decorated with black marble.
Music was a common feature of religious and secular events. To that
end many noblemen founded church and school choirs, and employed their
own ensembles of musicians. Some, like Stanisław Lubomirski built
their own opera houses (in Nowy Wiśnicz). Yet others, like Janusz
Skumin Tyszkiewicz and
Krzysztof Radziwiłł were known for their
sponsorship of arts which manifested itself in their permanently
retained orchestras, at their courts in Wilno. Musical life
further flourished during the reign of the Vasas. Both foreign and
domestic composers were active in the Commonwealth. King Sigismund III
brought in Italian composers and conductors, such as Luca Marenzio,
Annibale Stabile, Asprilio Pacelli,
Marco Scacchi and Diomedes Cato
for the royal orchestra. Notable home grown musicians, who also
composed and played for the King's court, included Bartłomiej
Pękiel, Jacek Różycki, Adam Jarzębski, Marcin Mielczewski,
Stanisław Sylwester Szarzyński, Damian Stachowicz, Mikołaj
Zieleński and Grzegorz Gorczycki.
Leżajsk organ by Stanisław Studziński and Jan Głowiński
were accomplished in 1693.
Magnates often undertook construction projects as monuments to
themselves: churches, cathedrals, monasteries (Pic. 14), and palaces
like the present-day Presidential
Warsaw and Pidhirtsi
Castle built by Grand
Stanisław Koniecpolski herbu Pobóg. The
largest projects involved entire towns, although in time many of them
would lapse into obscurity or be totally abandoned. Usually they were
named after the sponsoring magnate. Among the most famous is the town
of Zamość, founded by
Jan Zamoyski and designed by the Italian
architect Bernardo Morando. The magnates throughout
with the kings. The monumental castle Krzyżtopór, built in the style
palazzo in fortezza between 1627 and 1644, had several courtyards
surrounded by fortifications. Due to efforts of powerful Radziwiłł
family, the town of
Nesvizh in today's
Belarus came to exercise
significant influence in many domains – the
Nesvizh manufactures of
firearm, carpets, kontusz sashes and tapestries as well as school of
painting produced renowned and luxury items. Late baroque
fascination with the culture and art of the "central nation" is
reflected in Queen Marie's Chinese
Palace in Zolochiv. 18th
century magnate palaces represents the characteristic type of baroque
suburban residence built entre cour et jardin (between the entrance
court and the garden). Its architecture – a merger of European art
with old Commonwealth building traditions are visible in Wilanów
Warsaw (Pic. 15), Branicki
Białystok and in
Radzyń Podlaski and in Krystynopol,
Rogalin and Sapieha
Palace in Ruzhany.
Szlachta and Sarmatism
The First Lady of the Republic, Elżbieta Sieniawska, portrayed in
Sarmata pose and in male coat delia.
Szlachta and Sarmatism
The prevalent ideology of the szlachta became "Sarmatism", named after
the Sarmatians, alleged ancestors of the Poles. This belief system
was an important part of the szlachta's culture, penetrating all
aspects of its life.
Sarmatism enshrined equality among szlachta,
horseback riding, tradition, provincial rural life, peace and
pacifism; championed oriental-inspired attire (żupan, kontusz,
sukmana, pas kontuszowy, delia, szabla); and served to integrate the
multi-ethnic nobility by creating an almost nationalistic sense of
unity and of pride in the szlachta's Golden Freedoms.
In its early, idealistic form,
Sarmatism represented a positive
cultural movement: it supported religious belief, honesty, national
pride, courage, equality and freedom. In time, however, it became
distorted. Late extreme
Sarmatism turned belief into bigotry, honesty
into political naïveté, pride into arrogance, courage into
stubbornness and freedom into anarchy. The faults of Sarmatism
were blamed for the demise of the country from the late 18th century
onwards. Criticism, often one-sided and exaggerated, was used by the
Polish reformists to push for radical changes. This self-deprecation
was accompanied by works of Prussian, Russian and Austrian historians,
who tried to prove that it was
Poland itself that was to blame for its
Demographics and religion
Further information: Historical demographics of Poland.
Population density per voivodeships in the Polish–Lithuanian
Commonwealth in 1650.
Some social strata in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth's society
– 1655. From left: Jew, Barber surgeon, Painter, Butcher, Musician,
Tailor, Barmaid, Pharmacist, Shoemaker, Goldsmith,
The Commonwealth comprised various identities: Poles, Lithuanians,
Czechs, Hungarians, Slovaks,
Belarusians and Ukrainians),
Vlachs (Romanians). Sometimes inhabitants of the Grand Duchy of
Lithuania were called Litvins, a Slavic term for people from
Lithuania, regardless their ethnicity (with the exception of Jews,
which were called Litvaks). Shortly after the
Union of Lublin
Union of Lublin (1569),
the Commonwealth population was around 7 million, with a rough
breakdown of 4.5 m Poles, 0.75 m Lithuanians, 0.7 m/10%
Jews and 2 m
Ruthenians. In 1618, after the Truce of Deulino, the Commonwealth
population increased together with its territory, reaching 12 million
people, which was composed roughly of 4.5 m Poles, 3.5 m Ukrainians,
1.5 m Belarusians, 0.75 m Lithuanians, 0.75 m Old Prussians, 0.5 m
Jews, and 0.5 m Livonians. At that time nobility was 10% of the
population, and burghers were 15%. The average population density
per square kilometer was: 24 in Mazovia, 23 in Lesser Poland, 19 in
Great Poland, 12 in
Lublin palatinate, 10 in the Lvov area, 7 in
Podolia and Volhynia, 3 in the Ukraine. There was a tendency for the
people from the more densely inhabited western territories to migrate
eastwards. In the period from 1648–57, populations losses are
estimated at 4 m. Coupled with further population and territorial
losses, in 1717 the Commonwealth population had fallen to 9 m, with
roughly 4.5 m/50% Poles, 1.5 m/17% Ukrainians, 1.2 m Belarusians, 0.8
m Lithuanians, 0.5 m Jews, and 0.5 m others. Just before the first
partition of Poland, the Commonwealth's population stood at some 14
million, including around 1 million nobles, 4,7 million Uniates
and 400,000 Orthodox Christians. In 1792, the population was
around 11 million and included 750,000 nobles.
Confederation and religious freedom
Norman Davies wrote: “Certainly, the wording and substance
of the declaration of the
Warsaw of 28 January 1573
were extraordinary with regards to prevailing conditions elsewhere in
Europe; and they governed the principles of religious life in the
Republic for over two hundred years."
Poland has a long tradition of religious freedom. The right to worship
freely was a basic right given to all inhabitants of the Commonwealth
throughout the 15th and early 16th century. Complete freedom of
religion was officially recognized in
Poland in 1573 during the Warsaw
Poland kept religious freedom laws during an era when
religious persecution was an everyday occurrence in the rest of
Europe. The Commonwealth was a place where the most radical
religious sects, trying to escape persecution in other countries of
the Christian world, sought refuge. In 1561 Bonifacio d’Oria, a
religious exile living in Poland, wrote of his adopted country's
virtues to a colleague back in Italy: “You could live here in
accordance with your ideas and preferences, in great, even the
greatest freedoms, including writing and publishing. No one is a
"This country became a place of shelter for heretics” – Cardinal
Hosius, papal legate to Poland.
250pOriginal act of the
Confederation 1573. First act of
religious freedom in Europe.
To be Polish, in remote and multi-ethnic parts of the Commonwealth,
was then much less an index of ethnicity than of religion and rank; it
was a designation largely reserved for the landed noble class
(szlachta), which included Poles, but also many members of non-Polish
origin who converted to Catholicism in increasing numbers with each
following generation. For the non-Polish noble such conversion meant a
final step of
Polonization that followed the adoption of the Polish
language and culture. Poland, as the culturally most advanced part
of the Commonwealth, with the royal court, the capital, the largest
cities, the second-oldest university in
Central Europe (after Prague),
and the more liberal and democratic social institutions had proven an
irresistible magnet for the non-Polish nobility in the
Commonwealth. Many referred to themselves as "gente Ruthenus,
natione Polonus" (Ruthenian by blood, Polish by nationality) since the
16th century onwards.
Greek-Catholic St. George's Cathedral in
Lwów was constructed between
1746–1762 following the Act of Unification of the
with the Holy See.
Kamieniec Podolski was converted into a mosque during the
Turkish occupation between 1672–1699, the 33m minaret was added at
As a result, in the eastern territories a Polish (or Polonized)
aristocracy dominated a peasantry whose great majority was neither
Polish nor Catholic. Moreover, the decades of peace brought huge
colonization efforts to nowadays Ukraine, heightening the tensions
among nobles, Jews, Cossacks (traditionally Orthodox), Polish and
Ruthenian peasants. The latter, deprived of their native protectors
among the Ruthenian nobility, turned for protection to cossacks that
facilitated violence that in the end broke the Commonwealth. The
tensions were aggravated by conflicts between
Eastern Orthodoxy and
Catholic Church following the Union of Brest, overall
discrimination of Orthodox religions by dominant Catholicism, and
Cossack uprisings. In the west and north, many cities had
sizable German minorities, often belonging to
Lutheran or Reformed
churches. The Commonwealth had also one of the largest Jewish
diasporas in the world – by the mid-16th century 80% of the world's
Jews lived in
Poland (Pic. 16).
Until the Reformation, the szlachta were mostly Catholic or Eastern
Orthodox (Pic. 3, 13). However, many families quickly adopted the
Reformed religion. After the Counter-Reformation, when the Catholic
Church regained power in Poland, the szlachta became almost
exclusively Catholic, despite the fact that Catholicism was not a
majority religion (the Catholic and Orthodox churches counted
approximately 40% of the population each, while the remaining 20% were
Jews and members of various
The Crown had about double the population of
Lithuania and five times
the income of the latter's treasury. As with other countries, the
borders, area and population of the Commonwealth varied over time.
Peace of Jam Zapolski
Peace of Jam Zapolski (1582), the Commonwealth had
approximately 815,000 km² area and a population of 7.5
million. After the
Truce of Deulino
Truce of Deulino (1618), the Commonwealth had
an area of some 990,000 km² and a population of 11–12 million
(including some 4 million
Poles and close to a million
First Anniversary anthem of the
Constitution of May 3, 1791
Constitution of May 3, 1791 (1792) in
Hebrew, Polish, German and French.
Polish – officially recognized; dominant language, used by most
of the Commonwealth's nobility and by the
peasantry in the Crown province; official language in the Crown
chancellery and since 1697 in the Grand Duchy chancellery.
Dominant language in the towns.
Latin – off. recog.; commonly used in foreign
relations and popular as a second language among some of the
French – not officially recognized; replaced
Latin at the royal
Warsaw in the beginning of the 18th century as a language
used in foreign relations and as genuine spoken language. It
was commonly used as a language of science and literature and as a
second language among some of the nobility.
Ruthenian – also known as Chancellery Slavonic; off.
recog.; official language in the Grand Duchy chancellery until
1697 (when replaced by Polish); used in some foreign
relations its dialects (modern Belarusian and
Ukrainian) were widely used in the Grand Duchy and eastern parts of
the Crown as spoken language.
Lithuanian – not officially recognised; but used in some
official documents in the Grand Duchy and, mostly, used
as a spoken language in the northwest part of the Grand Duchy (in
Lithuania Proper) and the northern part of Ducal
German – off. recog.; used in some foreign relations, in
Prussia and by minorities in the cities especially in the Royal
Hebrew – off. recog.; and
Aramaic used by
Jews for religious,
scholarly, and legal matters.
Yiddish – not officially recognized; used by
Jews in their
Italian – not officially recognised; used in some foreign relations
and by Italian minorities in cities.
Armenian – off. recog. used by the Armenian minority.
Arabic – not officially recognised; used in some foreign
relations and by
Tatars in their religious matters, they also
wrote Ruthenian in the Arabic script.
Main article: Międzymorze
The Duchy of Warsaw, established in 1807, traced its origins to the
Commonwealth. Other revival movements appeared during the November
Uprising (1830–31), the
January Uprising (1863–64) and in the
1920s, with Józef Piłsudski's failed attempt to create a Polish-led
Międzymorze ("Between-Seas") federation that would have included
Lithuania and Ukraine. Today's Republic of
Poland considers itself a
successor to the Commonwealth, whereas the Republic of Lithuania,
re-established at the end of World War I, saw the participation of the
Lithuanian state in the old
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth mostly in
a negative light at the early stages of regaining its
independence, although this attitude has been changing
Main article: Administrative division of the Polish–Lithuanian
See also: Offices in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
Outline of the
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth with its major
subdivisions after the 1618 Truce of Deulino, superimposed on
present-day national borders.
Crown of the Kingdom of Poland
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Duchy of Livonia
Duchy of Prussia, Polish fief
Duchy of Courland
Duchy of Courland and Semigallia, Commonwealth fief
While the term "Poland" was also commonly used to denote this whole
Poland was in fact only part of a greater whole—the
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, which comprised primarily two parts:
Crown of the Polish Kingdom
Crown of the Polish Kingdom (
Poland proper), colloquially "the
the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, colloquially "Lithuania"
The Commonwealth was further divided into smaller administrative units
known as voivodeships (województwa). Each voivodeship was governed by
Voivode (wojewoda, governor). Voivodeships were further divided into
starostwa, each starostwo being governed by a starosta. Cities were
governed by castellans. There were frequent exceptions to these rules,
often involving the ziemia subunit of administration.
The lands that once belonged to the Commonwealth are now largely
distributed among several Central and East European countries: Poland,
Moldova (Transnistria), Belarus, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia,
and Estonia. Also some small towns in Slovakia, then within
the Kingdom of Hungary, became a part of
Poland in the Treaty of
Other notable parts of the Commonwealth, without respect to region or
voivodship divisions, include:
Poland (Polish: Małopolska), southern Poland, with two largest
cities, its capital at
Kraków (Cracow) and
Lublin in the north-east;
Poland (Polish: Wielkopolska), west–central
Poznań and the
Warta River system;
Masovia (Polish: Mazowsze), central Poland, with its capital at
Lithuania Proper (Lithuanian: Lietuva siaurąją prasme, tikroji
Lietuva), the catholic, or, perhaps, in some cases ethnically
Lithuanian, part of Grand Duchy in the northwest of it;
Samogitia (Polish: Żmudź, Lithuanian: Žemaitija), an autonomous
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the westernmost part of it, the
western part of
Prussia (Polish: Prusy Królewskie), at the southern shore of
the Baltic Sea, was an autonomous area since the Second Peace of Thorn
(1466), incorporated into the Crown in 1569 with the Commonwealth's
Pomerelia (Polish: Pomorze Gdańskie),
Pomerania around Gdańsk
(Danzig), western part of Royal Prussia;
Ruthenia (Polish: Ruś), the eastern Commonwealth, adjoining Russia;
Duchy of Livonia
Duchy of Livonia (Inflanty), a joint domain of the Crown and the Grand
Duchy of Lithuania. Parts lost to Sweden in the 1620s and in 1660;
Duchy of Courland
Duchy of Courland (Polish: Kurlandia), a northern fief of the
Commonwealth. It established a colony in
Tobago in 1637 and on St.
Andrews Island at the
Gambia River in 1651 (see Couronian
Silesia (Polish: Śląsk) was not within the Commonwealth, but small
parts belonged to various Commonwealth kings; in particular, the Vasa
kings were dukes of
Opole (Oppeln) and
Racibórz (Ratibor) from 1645
Commonwealth borders shifted with wars and treaties, sometimes several
times in a decade, especially in the eastern and southern parts. After
Peace of Jam Zapolski
Peace of Jam Zapolski (1582), the Commonwealth had approximately
815,000 km² area and a population of 7.5 million. After the
Truce of Deulino
Truce of Deulino (1618), the Commonwealth had an area of some 1
million km² (990,000 km²) and a population of about 11
16th century map of
Europe by Gerardus Mercator.
Topographical map of the Commonwealth in 1764.
In the 16th century, the Polish bishop and cartographer Martin Kromer
Latin atlas, entitled Poland: about Its Location, People,
Culture, Offices and the Polish Commonwealth, which was regarded as
the most comprehensive guide to the country.
Kromer's works and other contemporary maps, such as those of Gerardus
Mercator, show the Commonwealth as mostly plains. The Commonwealth's
southeastern part, the Kresy, was famous for its steppes. The
Carpathian Mountains formed part of the southern border, with the
Tatra Mountain chain the highest, and the
Baltic Sea formed the
Commonwealth's northern border. As with most European countries at the
time, the Commonwealth had extensive forest cover, especially in the
east. Today, what remains of the
Białowieża Forest constitutes the
last largely intact primeval forest in Europe.
Politics and economy
Statuta Regni Poloniae in ordinem alphabeti digesta (Statutes of the
Polish Kingdom, Arranged in Alphabetical Order), 1563.
Grand Marshal of the Crown Łukasz Opaliński portraited with the
insignium of his power in the parliament - the Marshal's cane, 1640.
Rococo iconostasis in the Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit in
Vilnius, designed by Johann Christoph Glaubitz, 1753–1756.
18th century amber casket.
Gdańsk patronized by the Polish court
flourished as the center for amber working in the 17th century.
Stanisław Poniatowski, Commander of the Royal Guards and Grand
Treasurer. Painted by
Angelika Kauffmann in 1786.
Equestrian portrait of King
Sigismund III of Poland, by Peter Paul
Tapestry with the Arms of Michał Kazimierz Pac, Jan Leyniers,
Silver tankard by Józef Ceypler, Kraków, 1739–1745.
Example of the merchant architecture: Konopnica's tenement house in
Hussars' armours, first half of the 17th century.
Science, art and architecture
De republica emendanda (1554) by Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski, proposed a
deep programme of reforms of the state, society and church.
Merkuriusz Polski Ordynaryjny, the first Polish newspaper published on
the orders of Queen
Marie Louise Gonzaga
Marie Louise Gonzaga in 1661.
Title page of Treny (1580) by Jan Kochanowski, a series of elegies
upon the death of his beloved daughter, is an acknowledged
A plate from Michał Boym's
Flora Sinensis (1656), the first
description of an ecosystem of the Far East published in Europe.
Taurus Poniatovii, constellation originated by Marcin Poczobutt in
1777 to honor the king Stanisław II Augustus.
Palace in Białystok, designed by Tylman van Gameren, is
sometimes referred to as the "Polish Versailles."
Monastery in Kaunas, Pietro Puttini, built 1674–1712.
Zamość City Hall, designed by Bernardo Morando, is a unique example
Renaissance architecture in Europe, consistently built in
accordance with the Italian theories of an "ideal town."
Plafond Allegory of Spring, Jerzy Siemiginowski, 1680s, Wilanów
Łańcut Synagogue was established by Stanisław Lubomirski,
Part of a series on the
History of the
List of Polish Coats of Arms
List of szlachta
History of the Germans in Poland
History of the
Jews in Poland
History of Poland
History of Lithuania
Pro Fide, Lege et Rege
Pro Fide, Lege et Rege was the motto since the 18th century.
a. ^ Name in native and official languages:
Latin: Regnum Poloniae Magnusque Ducatus Lithuaniae / Serenissima Res
French: Royaume de Pologne et Grand-duché de Lituanie / Sérénissime
République de Pologne et Grand-duché de Lituanie
Polish: Królestwo Polskie i Wielkie Księstwo Litewskie
Lithuanian: Lenkijos Karalystė ir Lietuvos Didžioji Kunigaikštystė
Belarusian: Каралеўства Польскае і Вялікае
Княства Літоўскае (Karaleŭstva Polskaje і Vialikaje
Ukrainian: Королівство Польське і Велике
German: Königreich Polen und Großfürstentum Litauen
b. ^ Some historians date the change of the Polish capital from
Warsaw between 1595 and 1611, although
Warsaw was not
officially designated capital until 1793. The Commonwealth Sejm
began meeting in
Warsaw soon after the
Union of Lublin
Union of Lublin and its rulers
generally maintained their courts there, although coronations
continued to take place in Krakow. The modern concept of a single
capital city was to some extent inapplicable in the feudal and
Warsaw is described by some
historians as the capital of the entire Commonwealth. Wilno,
the capital of the Grand Duchy, is sometimes called the
second capital of the entity.
Jagiellonian University Centre for European studies, "A Very Short
History of Kraków", see: "1596 administrative capital, the tiny
village of Warsaw". Archived from the original on March 12, 2009.
Retrieved November 29, 2012.
^ Norman Davies, Europe: A History, Pimlico 1997, p. 554:
Lithuania was another country which experienced its 'Golden
Age' during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The realm
of the last Jagiellons was absolutely the largest state in Europe
^ Piotr Wandycz (2001). The price of freedom (p.66). p. 66.
ISBN 978-0-415-25491-5. Retrieved August 13, 2011.
^ Bertram Benedict (1919). A history of the great war. Bureau of
national literature, inc. p. 21. Retrieved August 13, 2011.
^ a b c d e Based on 1618 population map Archived February 17, 2013,
at the Wayback Machine. (p115), 1618 languages map (p119), 1657–67
losses map (p128) and 1717 map Archived February 17, 2013, at the
Wayback Machine. (p141) from Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski,
Historical Atlas, Hippocrene Books, 1987, ISBN 0-88029-394-2
^ Maciej Janowski, Polish Liberal Thought, Central European University
Press, 2001, ISBN 963-9241-18-0, Google Print: p3, p12
^ Paul W. Schroeder, The Transformation of European Politics
1763–1848, Oxford University Press, 1996, ISBN 0-19-820654-2,
Google print p84
^ Rett R. Ludwikowski, Constitution-Making in the Region of Former
Duke University Press, 1997,
ISBN 0-8223-1802-4, Google Print, p34
^ a b c George Sanford, Democratic Government in Poland:
Constitutional Politics Since 1989, Palgrave, 2002,
ISBN 0-333-77475-2, Google print p11—constitutional monarchy,
^ a b c d e Aleksander Gella, Development of Class Structure in
Poland and Her Southern Neighbors, SUNY Press, 1998,
ISBN 0-88706-833-2, Google Print, p13
Lithuania were to be distinct, equal
components of the federation… But Poland, which retained possession
of the Lithuanian lands it had seized, had greater representation in
the Diet and became the dominant partner.""Lublin, Union of".
Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006. 
^ a b # Norman Davies, God's Playground. A History of Poland, Vol. 1:
The Origins to 1795, Vol. 2: 1795 to the Present. Oxford: Oxford
University Press. ISBN 0-19-925339-0 / ISBN 0-19-925340-4
^ Halina Stephan, Living in Translation: Polish Writers in America,
Rodopi, 2003, ISBN 90-420-1016-9, Google Print p373. Quoting from
Sarmatian Review academic journal mission statement:
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was [...] characterized by religious
tolerance unusual in premodern Europe
^ This quality of the Commonwealth was recognized by its
contemporaries. Robert Burton, in his The Anatomy of Melancholy, first
published in 1621, writes of Poland: "
Poland is a receptacle of all
religions, where Samosetans, Socinians, Photinians [...], Arians,
Anabaptists are to be found"; "In Europe,
Amsterdam are the
common sanctuaries [for Jews]".
^ Feliks Gross, Citizenship and Ethnicity: The Growth and Development
of a Democratic Multiethnic Institution, Greenwood Press, 1999,
ISBN 0-313-30932-9, Google Print, p122 (notes)
^ "In the mid-1500s, united
Poland was the largest state in
perhaps the continent's most powerful nation politically and
militarily". "Poland". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia
Britannica Online. Retrieved June 26, 2009
Francis Dvornik (1992). The Slavs in European History and
Civilization. Rutgers University Press. p. 300.
^ Salo Wittmayer Baron (1976). A social and religious history of the
Jews. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-08853-1.
^ Martin Van Gelderen, Quentin Skinner, Republicanism: A Shared
European Heritage, Cambridge University Press, 2002,
ISBN 0-521-80756-5 Google Print: p54
^ a b "The Causes of
Slavery or Serfdom: A Hypothesis" (discussion and
full online text) of
Evsey Domar (1970).
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