IV. The Early Modern Period, 1500–1800 > B. Early Modern Europe, 1479–1815 > 5. National Patterns, 1648–1815 > i. Poland
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 1627)
i. Poland
Monarchs: John Casimir (1648–68), Michael Wisnowiecki (1669–73), John Sobieski (1674–96), Augustus II (1696–1704), Stanislas Leszchzynski (1704–9), Augustus II (1709–33), Augustus III (1734–1763), Stanislas Poniatowski (1764–1795).  1
The Legacy of the Thirty Years' War: Poland had not suffered as greatly from the war as other central European powers. It remained neutral after the Treaty of Stummdorf (1635). Poland still had a weak government, owing to a lack of bureaucracy and a relatively weak army without a stable financial base. It also had few merchants, traders, or other members of a middle class.  2
ECONOMY AND SOCIETY: The Polish economy underwent steady decline between 1648 and 1795. The Vistula grain trade collapsed as a result of warfare. The Polish economy rested on this trade, exporting more than it imported. It had few large cities and these remained organized by burghers and guilds. Some of these cities made limited progress in the 18th century. However, the wars that ravaged Poland took a heavy toll on its cities, which were frequently captured or sieged. The nobility dominated Polish society but, unlike the nobility of many Western countries, did not necessarily secure economic wealth. Nobles with little or no land retained their position long into the 18th century because nobility rested largely on political and social obligations. Each noble held an absolute veto over any actions in the Sejm (parliament) and a vote in electing the monarch. Nobility also continued the tradition of dividing their land among all their children, male and female, which split many larger estates into increasingly smaller pieces. Peasants constituted the largest part of the population, especially if the many “peasants” with the rights of burghers are taken into account. Polish society was divided by nationality; Ukrainians initiated an uprising in 1647 and 1648. It was also divided by religion—Catholics, Orthodox, and Lutherans as well as Jews and Muslims.  3
Bogdan Khmelnitsky launched his Cossack uprising against Poland. Initially he sought only to address his grievances to the king in person. John Casimir's ascension changed the situation, as did the killings of rebelling Ukrainian peasants by government officials.  4
1651, June 28–30
Khmelnitsky defeated by King John at Berestczko.  5
The Liberum Veto (absolute veto of any member of the Polish Sejm) used by Jan Sicínski in a motion to prolong the Sejm. This use stopped the proceedings and paralyzed the Sejm.  6
The Treaty of Peryslavl with Russia. Khmelnitsky swore an oath of allegiance to the tsar in exchange for assurances that the Ukraine would receive a large amount of autonomy, a promise the tsar ignored. The Ukrainian situation thus became incorporated into wider struggles for Polish territory.  7
War between Sweden and Poland (See 1655–60). Invasion of the Swedes. Poland lost its remaining Baltic territories (Treaty of Oliva, May 3, 1660).  8
Swedes took Warsaw. They then demanded Kraków surrender. The king fled to the Silesian borders; the Polish paid homage to Charles Gustavus.  9
Dec. 26
Siege lifted at monastery of Czestochowa, where the prior had organized a small force of soldiers to protect the Black Madonna. King John swore that the Virgin would be venerated (the Cult of Our Lady) and that he would free the serfs following restoration of Poland.  10
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.