A Periphery at The Centre of Attention

Economic history in Poland

Authored by: Jacek Kochanowicz

Routledge Handbook of Global Economic History

Print publication date:  December  2015
Online publication date:  December  2015

Print ISBN: 9781138838031
eBook ISBN: 9781315734736
Adobe ISBN:


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Poland’s history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is marked by discontinuities – partitions, wars, rule of foreign powers, shifting borders, mass migrations, and far-reaching changes of economic regimes. Polish economic historians throughout the twentieth century not only had to solve the problem of what constituted the subject matter of their studies, but also had to react and accommodate to the challenges and pressures of the social and political environment in which they had to work. The beginnings of economic history as a discipline are traceable to the last quarter of the nineteenth century, its institutionalization to the interwar period, and its flourishing to the 1950s to 1970s – each of these periods radically different from the preceding one. As with other fields of historical studies, economic history has been closely related to nation-building, a complex process in the Polish case because of the nineteenth-century partitions, the troubled years of the interwar independence, the Second World War, the over forty years of a limited sovereignty under state socialism, and the changes after 1989. Despite the provincial location and the overall pressure to develop historical studies conforming to the nation-centred model, there were economic historians able to go beyond the local preoccupations, and – even if focusing on economic history of Poland – to put it into a broad, European and global framework, thus making it relevant for understanding geographically much wider processes of change. The following, while broadly sketching the development of the discipline over a century, focuses on personalities and works that made their mark due to their originality and broader significance.

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