Sixty Years of Studying Poland – A conversation between Prof. Norman Davies and Prof. Robert Frost

September 23, 2021

This is the first episode in the "Studying Poland Today" webinar series presented jointly by the Kosciuszko Foundation and the Project on Poland Past and Present, the initiative started by Prof. Norman Davies. The goal of the series is to promote a broad vision of both Poland's heritage and the Polish Studies in English-speaking world.

Norman Davies became a historian of Poland by accident but has transformed the way that Polish history is written. An iconoclast by nature, he has challenged stereotypes and comfortable assumptions across six decades, insisting on viewing the past from unusual angles. His restless quest to understand and explain the past has led him to write on many aspects of history, but he has always returned to the history of Poland, its peoples, and their complex and ever-changing relations with the world. In this webinar, Robert Frost, who studied for his doctorate under Norman, explores with him his career as a historian, his inspirations, his enthusiasms, and his views on Poland and the writing of its history.

Norman Davies first visited Poland in March 1962, when he was still a student in his final year at Oxford. Fascinated by what he learned and by what the authorities did not want him to learn, he made the study of Polish history the starting point of his academic career. His early books – White Eagle, Red Star: the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-20, (1972), God's Playground: a history of Poland (1981), and Heart of Europe: the past in Poland's present (1984) – were banned by the censorship of the Soviet Block and long unavailable to Polish readers. As a successful historian writing in English, however, he rapidly gained a worldwide readership and devoted himself to informing the world about Poland. His books have been translated into over thirty languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Ukrainian, Spanish, German, Italian, and French. Over the years, Prof. Davies received many honors and distinctions. He was elected Fellow of the British Academy (1997) and was awarded the Order of the White Eagle, Poland's highest order. Professor Robert Frost holds the Burnett Fletcher Chair of History at the University of Aberdeen. He grew up in Edinburgh, and was educated at the University of St Andrews, the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, the University of London, where he wrote his Ph.D. under the supervision of Professor Norman Davies, and the Jagiellonian University, where he was awarded a diploma in Polish Language and Culture. After three years as a schoolteacher, he was Lecturer and then Reader in Early Modern History at King's College London, before moving to Aberdeen in 2004. He is currently Director of the Research Centre in Polish-Lithuanian Studies at the University of Aberdeen. His many publications on Polish-Lithuanian history include After the Deluge: Poland-Lithuania and the Second Northern War(Cambridge University Press, 1993); The Northern Wars: War, State and Society in Northeastern Europe, 1558–1721(Longmans, 2000), and The Oxford History of Poland-Lithuania, volume 1, The Making of the Polish-Lithuanian Union, 1385–1569, which was awarded the 2017 Pro Historia Polonorum prize for the best foreign-language book on Polish history published between 2012 and 2017; the 2017 Polish Foreign Ministry Prize for the best foreign-language book promoting Polish history, and the 2018 Polish Travellers Club prize. A Polish translation was published in 2019 by Rebis publishers. He is currently working on volume two of his history of the Polish-Lithuanian Union.

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