Recommended books on history and politics in Poland

Faith and Fatherland

Catholicism, Modernity, and Poland

Brian Porter-Szucs


Jesus instructed his followers to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28). Not only has this theme long been among the Church’s most oft-repeated messages, but in everything from sermons to articles in the Catholic press, it has been consistently emphasized that the commandment extends to all humanity. Yet, on numerous occasions in the twentieth century, Catholics have established alliances with nationalist groups promoting ethnic exclusivity, anti-Semitism, and the use of any means necessary in an imagined “struggle for survival.” While some might describe this as mere hypocrisy, Faith and Fatherland analyzes how Catholicism and nationalism have been blended together in Poland, from Nazi occupation and Communist rule to the election of Pope John Paul II and beyond. 

It is usually taken for granted that Poland is a Catholic nation, but in fact the country’s apparent homogeneity is a relatively recent development, supported as much by ideology as demography. To fully contextualize the fusion between faith and fatherland, Brian Porter-cs-concepts like sin, the Church, the nation, and the Virgin Mary-ultimately showing how these ideas were assembled to create a powerful but hotly contested form of religious nationalism. By no means was this outcome inevitable, and it certainly did not constitute the only way of being Catholic in modern Poland. Nonetheless, the Church’s ongoing struggle to find a place within an increasingly secular European modernity made this ideological formation possible and gave many Poles a vocabulary for social criticism that helped make sense of grievances and injustices.


  • Transcends familiar polemics about the relationship between Catholicism and the nationalist right.
  • No other book in either English or Polish offers a comparable overview of thought and rhetoric in the history of Catholicism in modern Poland.
  • Offers new perspective on Pope John Paul II’s Polish background and worldview.


Faith and Fatherland is recommended for both Poles and non-Poles who want a fresh perspective on the role of a church that has never been synonymous with the Polish state.” –Conscience

“This is an ambitious monograph in Catholic intellectual history. Its thoroughly researched chapters on central terms and concepts largely succeed at illuminating the evolution of the specific profile of and the diversity inherent to Polish Catholicism. Its findings can contribute to a better understanding of modern Polish history and deserve to be widely read, discussed and debated.” –Zeitschrift fur Ostmitteleuropa-Forschung

“Roman Catholicism has long been a central element of Polish national identity, so that in Polish Catholicism, national ideals have become intertwined with Christian values and national identity has often taken precedence over universal principles. This passionately written, fascinating, and well-researched book is an account of the way Catholicism has shaped the Polish identity over the past one hundred and fifty years. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of East-Central Europe and in the relationship of religion to politics in recent times.”-Antony Polonsky, Brandeis University

Faith and Fatherland is far and away the best recent study of modern Polish Catholicism in English. Covering two hundred years and drawing on a vast array of Polish sources, Brian Porter-Szucs traces the clergy’s ambivalent and varied relationships with the nationalist movement, with secular anti-Semitism, and with the communist regime-but he also offers subtle explications of theological and doctrinal developments. This book highlights the complexities of church-state relations in the modern era, and provides a much fuller understanding of relationships between modernizing processes and Europe’s religious life and thought in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”-Suzanne Marchand, Louisiana State University

“No other work probes so deeply the history of religion in East Central Europe- indeed, perhaps in all of Europe-in the modern period. Throughout Porter-Szucs makes complex theology not only accessible but vitally important for understanding larger historical processes. This is a history of Poland told through Catholicism that makes clear that neither can be understood independent of the other.”-John Connelly, University of California, Berkeley

“This is an ambitious monograph in Catholic intellectual history. Its thoroughly researched chapters on central terms and concepts largely succeed at illuminating the evolution of the specific profile of and the diversity inherent to Polish Catholicism. Its findings can contribute to a better understanding of modern Polish history and deserve to be widely read, discussed and debated.”– Ferenc Laczo, Zeitschrift fur Ostmitteleuropa-Forschung 

About the Author

Brian Porter-Szucs is Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He is the author of When Nationalism Began to Hate: Imagining Modern Politics in Nineteenth-Century Poland (OUP, 2000), which won the Oskar Halecki Award of the Polish Institute for Arts and Sciences in America and the Polish Studies Association Award, and co-editor of Christianity and Modernity in Eastern Europe.

Table of Contents

Ch. 1 The Church
Ch. 2: Sin 
Ch. 3: Modernity 
Ch. 4: The Person and Society
Ch. 5: Politics
Ch. 6: The Nation Penitent 
Ch. 7: Ecclesia Militans
Ch. 8: The Jew
Ch. 9: Polak-Katolik
Ch. 10: Mary, Militant and Maternal

When Nationalism Began to Hate

Imagining Modern Politics in Nineteenth-Century Poland

Brian Porter


In When Nationalism Began to Hate, Brian Porter offers a challenging new explanation for the emergence of xenophobic, authoritarian nationalism in Europe. He begins by examining the common assumption that nationalist movements by nature draw lines of inclusion and exclusion around social groups, establishing authority and hierarchy among “one’s own” and antagonism towards “others.” Porter argues instead that the penetration of communal hatred and social discipline into the rhetoric of nationalism must be explained, not merely assumed. 

Porter focuses on nineteenth-century Poland, tracing the transformation of revolutionary patriotism into a violent anti-Semitic ideology. Instead of deterministically attributing this change to the “forces of modernization,” Porter demonstrates that the language of hatred and discipline was central to the way “modernity” itself was perceived by fin-de-siecle intellectuals. 

The book is based on a wide variety of sources, including political speeches and posters, newspaper articles and editorials, underground brochures, published and unpublished memoirs, personal letters, and nineteenth-century books on history, sociology, and politics. It embeds nationalism within a much broader framework, showing how the concept of “the nation” played a role in liberal, conservative, socialist, and populist thought. 

When Nationalism Began to Hate is not only a detailed history of Polish nationalism but also an ambitious study of how the term “nation” functioned within the political imagination of “modernity.” It will prove an important text for a wide range of students and researchers of European history and politics.


“Brian Porter is an eminent specialist in the history of Polish national consciousness. He has managed to objectively describe the complex genesis and the historical context of Polish nationalism. This work offers a new way of looking at the fundamental problem for all of Central and Eastern Europe.” –Adam Michnik, Editor-in-Chief,Gazeta Wyborcza, Warsaw

“Brian Porter takes a fresh look at the complex relationship between modernity and nationalism. He convincingly questions the common view of a link between democracy and modernity, and, instead, demonstrates that authority is an aspect rather than a negation of popular politics. He also adds to the ongoing reassessment of the categories ‘left’ and ‘right’ by probing into the concrete historical roots of the Polish right of the turn of the century. An important contribution to the body of works on nationalism in general.” –Maria Todorova, University of Florida

“Brian Porter has written an insightful and provocative account of the evolution of Polish nationalism in the nineteenth century. His impressive erudition and subtle perspective make this a compelling work of intellectual history, which will be of great interest to all scholars concerned with issues of national identity in modern Europe.” –Larry Wolff, Boston College

“Brian Porter’s highly innovative study sets new standards of excellence for the study of modern Polish nationalism. It elucidates the evolution of Polish thought from the era of Mickiewicz to the consolidation of the national democratic camp in the 1890s, and sheds light on the vexed and vital issue of relations between the Polish majority and various minority groups, among them Polish Jewry. This book will be required reading for students of Polish history in particular and nineteenth-century East European nationalism in general.” –Ezra Mendelsohn, The Hebrew University

“Brian Porter’s book is a first-class study of the idea of nation in the ideologies of the Polish intelligentsia from the Romantic Epoch to the emergence of integral nationalism. It shows the relevance of its subject for our understandings of some general problems of nationalism, identity formation, and modernity. Hence, it should attract the attention of a wide spectrum of scholars.” –Andrzej Walicki, University of Notre Dame

Table of Contents


1. The Nation as Action

2. The Social Nation

3. The Struggle for Survival

4. The Return to Action

5. The Lud, the Narod, and Historical Time

6. Organization

7. The National Struggle

8. National Egoism



Selected Bibliography


Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2000




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