On 28 May 2019, in the Great Hall of the Institute of European Culture (IKE) in Gniezno, Norman Davies presented a lecture entitled "European History and the Polish Millennium." Starting with the pre-historic legend of "Lech, Czech and Rus", the three Slavic brothers, who were searching for a land to live in, he galloped through the events of a thousand years and more, which separate Poland's legendary origins from today. In less than an hour, he summarised the extraordinary fortunes of a country, which once formed the largest state in Europe, and which in modern times has broken free from repeated attempts to suppress and dominate a proud member of Europe's community of nations. Gniezno, the site of a thousand-year old cathedral and the seat of Poland's Roman Catholic Primate, was chosen as the venue because of its historical connections. And the point of the lecture was to persuade an international audience that Polish History is a not a subject of interest for Poles alone but for all who wish to view the panorama of Europe's past in a holistic way.
The Gniezno Lecture was filmed and can be viewed on this website. It was designed as a pilot event to introduce a much wider scheme, in which a series of distinguished lecturers will explore the place of Polish affairs in a broad spectrum of disciplines, including:
Politics Economics Sociology Literature International Relations Philology Philosophy Geography Business Anthropology Religious Studies Science & Technology European Studies Women's Studies Ethnology German Studies Russian Studies Jewish Studies
The inspiration for this series of lectures, and for the Digital Lecture Bank which will make them readily accessible, lies in the belief that the Polish dimension can enrich numerous areas of academic research and teaching. We also need to understand that one of the many factors, that holds back the development of Polish Studies, is the lack of awareness among academics in general that Poland could be a worthy subject for their attention. European History, as demonstrated in the Gniezno Lecture, is but one example among many. Almost every university in the world has a History Department, and most of those departments will employ a specialist in French, German, Russian or Jewish History. But almost none of them thinks of appointing a historian of Poland. As a result, numerous histories of Europe are written in which Poland finds no mention at all, and most of the world's History students follow courses, from which Poland is strangely absent. Similar things could be said about all the other academic disciplines, which make up the Humanities and Social Sciences; they function quite happily without Polish matters ever being seen as a necessary element in the mix of topics, which make up their canonical knowledge and curriculum.
28 May 2019 Norman Davies European History and Polish Millennium