Captured in this study are the complexity and fascination of one hundred and fifty years of Polish political, cultural, and socioeconmic history. The author traces the course of peasant emancipation in Poland from its beginnings during the Enlightenment to its aftermath in the cultural awakening of the peasantry during the half century prior to World War I and shows how the peasant question played a vital role in the struggle for independence in partitioned Poland.
The book synthesizes, for the first time in any language, the work of leading Polish historians during the present century. It presents a clear analysis of the disintegration of the economic system based on serfdom and compulsory labor prevalent in feudal Poland and traces the emergence of modern capitalist conditions, including wage labor and independent property rights.
Also analyzed is the role of foreign goverments in the emacipation process. The freeing of the serfs took place during a period when all or most of the country was under the rule of Russia, Prussia, or Austria. Although emancipation was due primarily to economic forces withing Poland, it was hastened by peasant resistance and the national struggle for political independence led by Polish patriots who demanded far-reaching social reforms.
This comprehensive study provides valuable information not only to those with a particular interest in Poland but also to scholars concerned with the parallel problems in Russia andother Eastern Eurpean countries, to specialists in agrarian history, and to students of Eastern European history who lack adequate reading materials in English.