TESTAMENTS AS A HISTORICAL SOURCE (Testamenty jako zródlo historyczne)
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While testaments constitute a very interesting source, their usefulness in historical research seems to be underestimated. Due to a large-scale character of their occurrence, these documents - with the testator's individual input and an encroachment into his intimate sphere of life - create a collective portrait of the Old Polish society. Their content may be used for wide research. They report on human behavior in face of such ultimate things as death, redemption or a threat of eternal condemnation. They also constitute one of he elements of the art of amiable dying, i.e.: 'ars morendi'. In some of these documents one may find various forms of inventories. An exact description and division of the estate reveal not only property circumstances and affluence of the Polish gentry, but also the scale of priorities in the society. Due to the intimacy of the testator, these sources familiarize us with everyday life of those times, describe problems pertaining to marriages, bringing up children and even to the extramarital love (the so called affect). They reveal the occurrence and functioning of a wide scope of social ties among the persons mentioned in the testament, as the testator is shown against the background of his extended family, neighbours and friends. Together with other sources, testaments are an excellent means of reestablishing the look of and Old Polish family. They do not describe extreme events, focusing rather on average, common and even monotonous matters. Despite its fixed pattern and the repetition of certain elements, a testament is much more than filling in of a certain form. The abundance of life situations and the individuality of testators themselves contribute to the variety of compositions.
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