Historian Adam Kożuchowski has once again demonstrated his mastery of the ‘decline and fall’ historiography of defunct Central and East-Central European states. This learned yet elegantly written comparison of the doubts, dreams, and designs of nineteenth-century German and Polish historians smarting after the demise of their respective polities—the Holy Roman Empire and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth—is doubly enlightening.
Unintended Affinities examines the ways in which German and Polish historians of the nineteenth-century regarded the Holy Roman Empire and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The book parallels how historians approached the old Reich and the Commonwealth within the framework of their national history. Kożuchowski analyzes how German and Polish nationalistic historians, who played central roles in propagandizing a glorious past that justified a centralized modern state, struggled with how to portray the very decentralized and multi-ethnic empires that preceded their time.
This excellent book combines in-depth textual analysis with innovative contextualization and conceptualization. By making subtle and often counter-intuitive observations the author complicates and significantly advances our knowledge of nineteenth-century history-writing. It will be of relevance to a wide range of audiences, including those interested in Polish, German and European history, historiography and nineteenth-century studies.
Adam Kożuchowski has written a valuable comparative history of how the German and Polish national narratives in the nineteenth century were constructed on the ruins of two unique political communities that were erased from the map of Europe: the Holy Roman Empire and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. He compellingly illuminates an era’s ‘faith in the power of history’ to summon strength out of weakness.