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Jewish Autonomy in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from the 16th to the 18th Century. Volume 1

The book constitutes a new and original approach to the history of Jews living in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Its most important value lies in presenting the Jewish life in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the wider context of the vicissitudes of both European and Polish history... Its main premise is that the Commonwealth chapter in Jewish history cannot be fully comprehended without the understanding of political and constitutional peculiarity of its religious toleration, its multiethnic and multidenominational character and its unprecedented practical tolerance stemming from a system of power of dispersed sovereignty – a striking anomaly in the age of the rise of absolutist monarchy in Europe... The unique, quasi-estate position of Jews within such a system was inextricably connected with the important role they played in the country’s economy which, despite its neo-feudal character gave the Jews a chance to develop a strikingly rich and unprecedented Yiddish civilization with great spiritual achievements...

The author draws a very interesting picture of different aspects of Jewish life through the centuries of the Commonwealth’s fascinating and unique existence, and finally shows the dramatic challenges of modernization in the 18th century facing all social groups of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth eventually destroyed by the absolutist powers of Russia, Prussia and Austria...


Professor Stanisław Grodziski

Department of Polish Constitutional History,

Faculty of Law Jagiellonian University

Editor-in-chief of Volumina Legum


Andrzej Bryk is professor of constitutional history at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, and the Program Director of the Jewish Experience in Poland program at the Łazarski University in Warsaw.

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