Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas

Im Auftrag des Instituts für Ost- und Südosteuropaforschung Regensburg
herausgegeben von Martin Schulze Wessel und Dietmar Neutatz

Ausgabe: 63 (2015), 2, S. 297-299

Verfasst von: Juriy Zazuliak


Peter Paul Bajer: Scots in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, 16th – 18th Centuries. The Formation and Disappearance of an Ethic Group. Leiden, Boston, MA: Brill, 2012. XXVIII, 588 S., 24 Abb., 5 Ktn., 14 Tab. = The Northern World, 57. ISBN: 978-90-04-21247-3.

The book is a comprehensive study of the Scottish emigration to Poland-Lithuania during the 16th – 18th centuries. Peter Paul Bajer tends to analyze the life of Scottish migrants in Poland-Lithuania in the broader context of the large-scale settlement of Scots in the countries of Northern and Eastern Europe during the early modern period. He seeks to explain the emigration by looking at such circumstances in the inner social life of early modern Scotland as population surplus, low living standards, religious conflicts, shortage of free land, rigid legal regulation of inheritance, etc.

The author explores the multiple dimensions of the Scottish presence in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth during the early modern period. First, the author attempts to establish the scale of the migrations, provide a social profile of migrants, and trace their geographical origin. In his analysis he uses data collected specifically for this purpose, which contains biographical information about all known Scottish migrants and their descendants (approx. 5000 records). The study shows that at the height of the emigration in the 1610s – 1640s the number of Scots in Poland-Lithuania comprised approximately 5000–7000 individuals. By his analysis Bajer challenges the views previously held by historians and contemporaries who tended to overestimate the Scottish population in the Commonwealth as consisting of 30,000–40,000 individuals.

Bajer demonstrates that Scots concentrated mostly in the largest urban and commercial centers of the Commonwealth, like Gdańsk (Danzig), Elbląg (Elbing), Lublin, Cracow, and Kėdainiai (Kiejdany). With respect to the figures of Scottish migrants who obtained burger law in the cities of Northern and Eastern Europe, Gdańsk and Cracow were correspondingly at the second and third place, being outnumbered only by Bergen. In terms of geographical origin, most of the Scottish immigrants came from Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh.

The number of Scots coming to and living in Poland-Lithuania declined rapidly in the middle of 17th century, especially during the fifties and sixties, first of all due to the deep internal crisis and permanent wars the country witnessed in those decades. An important exception from this trend represented the town of Kėdainiai (Kiejdany), the most significant center of the Calvinism in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The town was owned by the Radziwills, one of the most powerful magnate families and the biggest protectors of the Protestants in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The author speaks of an evident expansion of Scottish presence there in the last three decades of the 17th century).

According to Bajer, the social composition of the migrants was diverse and varied by periods. Small peddlers and young apprentices prevailed in the early period of the emigration that is in the pre-1590 years. The author argues that an upward social mobility can be observed among migrants and their descendants during the first decades of the 17th century. In those times many Scots were able to develop their own business and turned into small merchants. This gradually brought about the establishment of a distinct Scottish merchant network in the Commonwealth based on the common ethnic origin and the shared Calvinist confession. The high mobility stands out as one of the most remarkable features of those Scottish merchants. This observation allows the author to question the earlier interpretations of Scottish life in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as a sort ofisolated colonies”.

Besides merchants, the author traces the itineraries and experiences of the members of other Scottish professional groups in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The author pays special attention, for example, to the Scottish mercenaries who were regularly recruited and highly valued as soldiers in the Polish-Lithuanian army. Though less numerous than merchants, some Scottish soldiers, scholars, clergymen and diplomats were nevertheless prominent in the life of their communities as well as in the public and political life of the Commonwealth.

In two separate chapters Bajer offers a detailed account of the structures and institutions through which Scottish identity was maintained and transmitted in the emigration. He focuses mainly on the role of ethnic brotherhoods and parishes in the Scottish life in Poland-Lithuania. The brotherhoods were established with the purpose of representing the Scottish communities in contacts with the official authorities of the Commonwealth. Besides, the brotherhoods were fundamental institutions of the communal and religious life of Scots abroad. They issued their own regulations and statutes, collected taxes, provided poor relief, and controlled behavior of their members. A leading role in ethnic guilds and brotherhoods was played by rich merchants who actually came to dominate the life of the Scottish immigrant communities. The author also makes interesting observations about the struggle for leadership in some of the brotherhoods. Such conflicts reveal the lines of divisions and exclusions within the Scottish communities abroad.

Relying on the survived parish records, the author proposes a detailed and painstaking reconstruction of the number and role of Scots in the parish life of the largest and most important Calvinist communities in Poland-Lithuania and Prussia such as Königsberg, Elbląg, Gdańsk, Poznań, Cracow, Lublin, Kėdainiai.

The analysis of those institutional forms of Scottish life leads the author to address the problem of the successes and limits of the integration of the Scottish migrants in the Polish-Lithuanian society. The overall conclusion Bajer reaches is that throughout the period of the 16th – 17th centuries Scots remained a closed community with quite clearly established ethnic boundaries, which separated them from the rest of Polish-Lithuanian society. The author convincingly proves this by analyzing the available lists of marriage partners and godparents of Scottish migrants preserved in the parish books. Another important and interesting observation Bajer makes in this regard concerns the frequent manifestations of hostility towards Scots from the side of the local communities and magistrates. The local merchants and craftsmen often considered the Scottish traveling merchants and peddlers as a threat to their economic interests and monopoly at the local markets. This situation brought about various legal provisions, issued by local authorities and the Polish Diet (sejm) aimed at limiting or even banning the activity of the Scottish merchants and peddlers. Also the Scottish ethic brotherhoods were sometimes seen with suspicion and hostility by local magistrates, which resulted in attempts to persecute and banish them as illegal organizations.

On the other hand, the author seeks to demonstrate that for some Scots there were always opportunities for a successful assimilation in the Polish-Lithuanian society. Bajer focuses in particular on the chances for Scots to enter the ranks of the nobility. More specifically he examines instruments through which Scottish migrants became members of the noble class such as ennoblement and naturalization. The author pays special attention to military service as an important pre-condition which facilitated to Scots the acquisition of the noble status.

To sum up the Bajers book is a very important historical study which makes a fundamental contribution to the history of emigration and migrantsexperience in early modern Eastern Europe.

Juriy Zazuliak, Lviv

Zitierweise: Juriy Zazuliak über: Peter Paul Bajer: Scots in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, 16th – 18th Centuries. The Formation and Disappearance of an Ethic Group. Leiden, Boston, MA: Brill, 2012. XXVIII, 588 S., 24 Abb., 5 Ktn., 14 Tab. = The Northern World, 57. ISBN: 978-90-04-21247-3, http://www.dokumente.ios-regensburg.de/JGO/Rez/Zazuliak_Bajer_Scots_in_the_Polish-Lithuanian_Commonwealth.html (Datum des Seitenbesuchs)

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