The Scots in Poland in Memory and History

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRobert Wojciech Portius de Lanxeth - krośnieński mieszczanin, kupiec i fundator
EditorsPiotr Łopatkiewicz
Place of PublicationKrosno
PublisherKrosno State College
Pages8-28
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)978-83-64457-47-0
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2019

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Abstract

This chapter considers academic writing and cultural memory in the case of a specific ethnic group. Its focus is one of the minorities in the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania (1569-1795), where some contemporaries and later commentators estimated there to have lived, at a high point, 30,000 or more people of Scottish background. Although this figure has been questioned by recent historians, the community of people of Scottish origins which could have been found there, most especially in the last years of the sixteenth- and beginning of the seventeenth-century, comprised a key numerical part of what can be considered the ‘first Scottish diaspora’. This was a dispersal largely to neighbouring North Sea and Baltic countries. However, ever since the partitioning of Poland-Lithuania, reference to this particular aspect of Scottish movement and settlement within Europe has been inconsistent, if we compare both ‘host’ with ‘sending’ society, and also historiography with cultural memory. In central Europe, scholarly arguments have focused around the multi-ethnic character of the former state and, through this, the part the Scots - their origins and social background assumed to have been largely ‘Lowland’ - played in that setting. Surviving evidence from place- and personal names, references to the mercantile and military presence in literature, film and other commemorations, has continued to collide, influence and overlap with this, as will be indicated. The chapter argues that, in order to understand the memory of the Scots in Poland, it is necessary to consider the presence of the Polish community in Scotland, and thereby employs the concept of ‘diasporic memory’. It considers the case of Robert Portius in this context, concluding that, albeit an extremely important individual to consider, Portius is, in many ways, atypical of the Scottish migrant in early-modern Poland-Lithuania, in his wealth, his Catholicism, and the imprint he has left on the town of Krosno. More generally, it is only with the growth of English as an academic lingua franca and with recent waves of migration from Poland and neighbouring countries to the British Isles, that Scotland, and the anglophone world more widely, has begun to contribute significantly towards highlighting the threads that have always linked historiography and memory in Poland and other successor states to the Commonwealth, with respect to this former ethnic group.

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