In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Poland

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Bibliographies
  • Journals
  • Regions
  • Methodological Approaches
  • Sources
  • Auxiliary Sciences
  • Western Slavs
  • Anjou Dynasty
  • Poland and Neighboring Countries

Medieval Studies Poland
Pawel Kras
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 December 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0059


Scholars usually date the medieval history of Poland as starting in the mid-10th century, when the first written information about the Piast state was recorded in written sources. However, the emergence of the Western Slavic state of Polanie can be safely dated to an earlier period, which is confirmed by archeological excavations in Greater Poland, at least to the end of the 9th century. Mieszko I (d. 992), duke of the Polanie state, is the first well-recorded historical monarch. His baptism in 966 marked a turning point in the early medieval history of the Polish state and became a symbol of Poland’s entrance into the recorded history of Europe. The end of the medieval period in the history of Poland is still under discussion. It is hard to point to a particular date or historical event that might symbolically mark the closing of the Polish Middle Ages. Nevertheless, such attempts have been made proposing various political, military, or cultural events as the final dates of a medieval Polish state—for example, the Thirteen Year War against the Teutonic Knights (1454–1466), which yielded Eastern Pomerania with Gdańsk back to Poland and made the Teutonic state in Prussia vassal to the Polish state; the first session of the Polish parliament, the Seym, in 1493; the unfortunate campaign in the Duchy of Moldavia in 1497; the death of King Jan Olbracht and coronation of his brother Alexander I in 1501; or the death of the latter and the 1506 coronation of Sigismund I, widely considered the first Renaissance monarch on the Polish throne.

General Overviews

There is not a single comprehensive textbook on the medieval history of Poland available in English; however, there are some in German. The best introduction to the medieval history of Poland in English is offered in The New Cambridge Medieval History (see Abulafia, et al. 1995–2005). Separate chapters address the major developments of the Polish state, society, and culture in the Middle Ages, starting with the emergence of the first political organizations of Western Slavs in the present-day territory of Poland to the formation of the Renaissance monarchy of the Jagiellons at the beginning of the 16th century. General textbooks of Polish history in English, German, or French include sections devoted to the medieval period. Some of them were written by Polish historians working in Poland (Gieysztor 1979) or abroad (Halecki 1992), whereas others were produced by international scholars (Davies 1982). There is a good selection of textbooks on medieval Polish history in Polish. Along with classic works that still have high scholarly value (Grodecki, et al. 1926), there are two volumes devoted to the medieval period of Poland that were published as part of the Great History of Poland series (Wyrozumski 1999 and Baczkowski 1999) as well as a new textbook of medieval Polish history for Polish students (Szczur 2002). In addition, monographs on Polish medieval monarchs are readily available.

  • Abulafia, David, et al., eds. The New Cambridge Medieval History. 7 vols. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995–2005.

    A recent comprehensive history of Europe from 500 to 1500 CE, written by a group of leading international scholars and incorporating the latest research. A history of medieval Poland is presented in separate chapters in Volumes 3–7.

  • Baczkowski, Krzysztof. Dzieje Polski późnośredniowiecznej (1370–1506). Wielka Historia Polski 3. Krakow: Fogra, 1999.

    Third volume of the recent History of Poland series, examining the rule of Anjou and Jagiellonian dynasty to 1506. A general compendium of the late medieval history of Poland, with numerous maps, tables, and illustrations supplied.

  • Davies, Norman. God’s Playground: A History of Poland. Vol. 1. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.

    Best known and highly popular textbook of Polish history in English; well written and offers a general picture of political, social, and cultural developments. Reprinted in 1983, 1984, 2002, and 2005.

  • Gieysztor, Aleksander, ed. History of Poland. Warsaw: PWN, 1979.

    Basic textbook of Polish history published by leading Polish historians for non-Polish readers. First chapters offer a general overview of medieval history. Unfortunately, no new edition is available as of 2010.

  • Grodecki, Roman, Stanisław Zachorowski, and Jan Dąbrowski. Dzieje Polski średniowiecznej. 2 vols. Krakow: Krakowska Spółka Wydawnicza, 1926.

    Classic textbook of medieval history of Poland written by leading Polish historians in 1920s, focusing mostly on political developments. Reprinted in 1995.

  • Halecki, Oskar. A History of Poland; with Additional Material by A. Polonsky. New York: Dorset, 1992.

    The great work of a Polish historian who emigrated to the United States after World War II. Offers a refreshing analysis of the main trends of Polish history.

  • Szczur, Stanisław. Historia Polski: Średniowiecze. Krakow: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2002.

    A basic textbook on Polish medieval history for students, well structured and concise. Offers updated information on the political, social, and religious developments in the medieval history of Poland.

  • Wyrozumski, Jerzy. Dzieje Polski Piastowskiej (VIII w.–1370). Wielka Historia Polski II. Krakow: Fogra, 1999.

    Second volume of the recent History of Poland series, covering the rise and growth of the Polish monarchy, from the emergence of the first tribal states on the present-day territory of Poland to the death of Kazimierz the Great, the last Piast king. A general compendium of the early medieval history of Poland, with numerous maps, tables, and illustrations supplied.

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