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2012 | 57 | 3-4 | 105-124

Article title

Contribution Of The Poles Into The Research On The History Of European Diplomacy (18th Century)

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The basis of these considerations are editions of sources of the international law as well as reviews of the history of European diplomacy in the 18th and the first half of the 19th century - particularly the work of the famous Martens family (especially Georg Friedrich von Martens), of Johann Ludwig Kluber, Dietrich Heinrich Ludwig von Ompted, Karl Albert von Kamptz etc. The evaluation of Polish achievements in the 18th century presented in these publications is very positive, although the compilation of main editions from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is far from complete. Editorial projects of Konarski, Dogiel, Skrzetuski, Obermajer, Jezierski or Siarczyński are a manifestation of a certain specific "documentary" tendency in the Polish literature of this period. In order to explain this certain characteristics of the 18th century culture, visible mostly during the reign of Augustus III and King Stanislaw Augustus, including the controversy surrounding the first partition (with a slight revival during the Great Sejm), one has to appeal to a variety of phenomena associated with the elite of the educated and active in public life personages, represented by a group of patrons, editorial and publishing groups or a list of subscribers of the greatest editorial projects of the period, with Volumina Legum at the forefront. First of all, one has to consider the political context of the phenomenon. Awareness of the crisis of the gentry state exhorted to seek solutions, primarily as part of the "eternal" order: to support institutions on proven and sustainable basis, to restore the good old customs, laws, virtues and long forgotten civic attitudes. There appeared a need for recapitulation - a need for a full, systematic and reliable description of the present, and especially of gathering and organizing the knowledge about the state of the country and of its institutions. A special assignment in systematization, rationalization and restoration of the reality was allocated to history and to the public law - in the Republic of Poland, as in the Reich having the character of "historical right", based on a continuous, uninterrupted tradition. No wonder that one of the basic features of historical and legal retrospection of the time of Augustus III is the timeliness of topics and the focus on their formal and legal sides, which further obliterated boundaries between history and politics. In the explanations for this "documentary" tendency, one must also take into account the intellectual climate of the period, and especially pay attention to the scholarly pattern of humanities with its main slogan "sources and facts should speak for themselves." The impact of the idea of "the republic of science" on the intellectual life of the elite of the Polish-Lithuanian state reached its apogee in the era of union with Saxony and during the reign of Stanislaw Leszczyński in Lorraine. In the world of scholars, editing sources constitute a specific form of historical writing, which in the Republic was also connected with some journalistic functions, as is exemplified by its surprising popularity in the mid-18th century Dzieje w Koronie Polskiej by Łukasz Górnicki, related to the timeliness of the Republic’s rights towards the Duchy of Livonia. Another, no less important than the current political issues, explanatory part, are the educational issues, especially the currently developing education form the elite, as is clearly evident in the curriculum in the standard facilities of the Piarist and Jesuit Orders. Moreover, international affairs increasingly occupied the public opinion stimulated by new means of social communication, especially by newspapers. In Europe of the 18th century, the subject of dispute at the highest levels of power, between main political camps, were usually different concepts of external actions, whereas in the Polish-Lithuanian state, after the foundation of great factions, each of which claimed to be entitled to pursue its own foreign policy. After the partition of the Republic, the journalistic and political contexts of Polish editing of historical sources did not disappeared entirely, as evidence in the form of publications by Leonard Chodźka shows. One may risk saying that this ever-present up to this day current in Polish political and historical thought referring in the international affairs primarily to legal and ethical arguments, has its beginnings in the literature of the 18th century.








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  • Instytut Historii Nauki im. L. I A. Birkenmajerów Warszawa, Polska


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Publication order reference


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