A Suburb of Europe

Nineteenth-Century Polish Approaches to Western Civilization
$85.00 / €75.00 / £67.00
$27.95 / €24.95 / £22.99 OUT OF PRINT
Winner of the Hungarian Award "Beautiful Book 1999"
Publication date: 
336 pages

In this lively and original book, the distinguished Polish historian Jerzy Jedlicki tells the story of a century-long Polish dispute over the merits and demerits of the Western model of liberal progress and industrial civilization. As in all peripheral countries of Europe, Polish intellectuals-conservatives, liberal, and (later) socialists-quarrelled about whether such a model would suit and benefit their nation, or whether it would spell the ruin of its distinctive cultural features.

This heated debate revolved around several pairs of opposing ideas: native cultures vs. cosmopolitan civilization; natural vs. artificial ways of economic development; Christian morals vs. capitalist laissez-faire; traditional customs vs. mobile society; romanticism vs. scientism, and so on. It is these various aspects of the main issue which the author analyzes and links together here. He shows how difficult and painful the process of modernization was in a nation deprived of its political independence and cultural autonomy.

The book has been abridged and fully revised for this English edition. Explanatory notes, a chronology, and maps have been added, together with a new Introduction highlighting the striking analogies with the present when, after a long period of isolation under communism, Poland is again assessing its place in the world.


Part 1: Images of the Future (from the 1780s to 1863)

Chapter 1: National identity and cosmopolitan civilization

Chapter 2: 'Natural' or 'artificial' development

Chapter 3: The gospel and economy

Part 2: Ambiguities of Progress (from 1864 through 1880s)

Chapter 4: Vicious circles

Chapter 5: Affirmation and negation

Chapter 6: Growth and distribution


"A Suburb of Europe is an excellent volume about philosophy, political economy, the creation of nationalism, and a host of other subjects. It is an enlightening and engrossing read. Anyone with an interest in Poland and East Central Europe will find this an invaluable and enjoyable book."
"This is a brilliant example of intellectual history., but it is one whose importance far transcends the period on which it focuses. In important ways, in the post-communist 'transition' of the 1990s, the issues of the 19th century are profoundly relevant to the beginnings of the 21st. Moreover, Jedlicki's book raises issues and examines positions that were and are not unique to Poland, but that every society faces as it confronts social change."
“Jerzy Jedlicki offers an important and profoundly insightful analysis of the intellectual debate about economic development in the partitioned lands of nineteenth-century Poland, as writers like Kamjeński came to the defense of industry, capitalism, economic progress, and something more vague that went by the name of “civilization”. Obviously, those forces would not have needed to be defended if they did not face intellectual criticism from a variety of perspectives—conservative, national, sentimental, messianic, socialist—which Jedlicki explores with great erudition.”