By Darius von Güttner Sporzyński
The Military Orders, Volume 4: On Land and by Sea, edited by Judi Upton-Ward (Ashgate, 2008)
Introduction: Writing in the 1880s, Stanisław Smolka observed that ‘the Poles were not too eager to venture on the crusades.’ Generations of historians since then have accepted this view, and over time a tendency has developed among Polish historians to marginalize the impact of the idea of crusade in Poland and to devalue the participation of Poles in the crusades as politically motivated episodes of early Polish imperialism. This situation has no doubt been exacerbated by the limited amount of primary material on the subject of the crusades – which allowed for wide interpretational differences – by the political climate after 1945 and by post-war anti-German sentiment, which influenced attitudes towards the Teutonic Order and its place in Polish history.
In this paper, I will present an overview of some recent issues to have emerged from the Polish historiography of the crusades. I will concentrate on the most prominent works which have dealt with the crusades, crusading and the military– religious orders. However, owing to the space limitations of this paper, I will not give a consideration of the historiography of the Teutonic Order, which, owing to its enormous size, deserves to be treated separately.