THE PERIPHERY CHANCE FOR MODERNISATION. ITALIANS IN POLAND IN THE 17th-17th CENTURIES
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The article is not so much a review as a dispute with the main assumption of Wojciech Tygielski, who maintains that by their work in Poland in the 16th and 17th centuries the Italian immigrants deprived the country of a chance for modernization and that the Italians' predominance in many professions was, in a way, conducive to the backwardness of the nobility in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, for its inhabitants were not forced to develop, and be active in, some branches of trade, handicrafts and the building industry.There is not a shadow of a doubt that the book 'The Italians in Poland in the 16th-17th Centuries' will for many years be a basic source of scholarly information for all persons interested in early modern times and Italian-Polish relations during that period. The author's conclusion seems however unconvincing. This is due, partly, to the author's excessive confidence in the evaluations contained in works on bilateral Polish-Italian relations, which, as regards the presentation of similar phenomena in France, Russia and England, are backed by literature dealing almost exclusively with the bilateral character of these relations. What is clearly missing in this book is a reference to the role of Italian civilisation in the development of the whole of Christian Europe, for the Polish, French and English elements are but its components. As far as Poland is concerned, the question concerns a much deeper dilemma inherent not so much in the questions asked by historians as in the nation's consciousness which, to simplify matters, can be called the provincialism complex. This is not a reproach addressed to the author but rather an objection to the long-lived conviction that the nations from the countries which, to use Immanuel Wallerstein's words, are on the periphery, or on the outside boundary of the European core, must interpret their past in the categories of perpetual set-backs. Irrespective of the American historian's schematic vision, without rejecting the provincialism complex or the complex of being worse, the historiographies - and not they alone - of the countries which do not belong to the cultural core of modern Europe cannot free themselves of regarding their past as an unfortunate web of lost chances for modernisation. And yet, even though the development of European civilisation can hardly be imagined without medieval and early modern Italy, it is worth pointing out that in the centuries that followed, its inhabitants frequently regarded their country as a province.
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