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On the extinction of the Premyslid dynasty in 1306, the restoration of the Polish monarchy by a Piast prince became at last practicable. Vladyslav the Short had been a claimant to the throne of Cracow ever since the death of his elder brother Leszek the Black in 1288. The elder or Silesian branch of the Piast dynasty was divided into numerous princely families, which presented the objection from the Polish point of view of being both partially Germanised and politically without strength or prestige. The second and third branches, which had ruled in Greater and lesser Poland, had become extinct; so that the Kujawian branch, to which Vladyslav belonged, had an hereditary claim to the throne which had won for him the support of Pope Boniface VIII. Vladyslav was hereditary Prince of Brest Kujawski; he had inherited his brother’s principalities of Sieradz and Lenczyca; and during the reign of Wenceslas II he had obtained by conquest a considerable part of Lesser Poland. In 1306 he was recognised as Grand Prince by the magnates of Lesser Poland, Kujawia, and Polish Pomerania. The Princes of Silesia and Mazo via, however, continued to be hostile, while Greater Poland remained faithful to his old rival Henry, Prince of Glogow, until his death in 1307. The most obstinate resistance was offered by the German elements in the country and by the pro-German princes of Silesia, who realised that the advent of so strong a ruler as Vladyslav involved a Polish patriotic revival against the powerful German communities which had established themselves in the towns and countryside. The crisis became acute in the year 1310 when a rising of the German citizens of Poznan (Posen) in favour of the Silesian princes was followed in the next year by a still more formidable rebellion of the Germans of Lesser Poland headed by the Wojt and the Bishop of Cracow. Both movements were crushed by the energy of the new Grand Prince, and the leaders were severely punished. Far more serious for Poland was the new attitude of the Teutonic Order. Securely established in Prussia, the Order did not confine its activities to the continuance of its crusade against the pagan Lithuanians, but began to extend its territory at the expense of its neighbour and former ally—Poland. It had acquired the district of Michalow from an impecunious Kujawian prince; but a greater opportunity for aggrandisement presented itself when Vladyslav requested the Order to assist him to recover the province of Pomerania from the Margrave of Brandenburg who had seized it in 1307. The Knights, who had long coveted the region of the Lower Vistula, responded to the prince’s summons with alacrity, seized Danzig, where they massacred the Polish garrison, overran the whole province, and settled down in permanent occupation of this important Polish territory. In the same year, 1309, the Grand Master, who had hitherto directed the affairs of the Order from Venice, transferred his residence to Maricnburg in Prussia, and took over the direct control of the formidable organisation which had established itself on the Baltic seaboard. Vladyslav, indignant at this unexpected act of aggression and treachery, appealed to the Pope in the first instance, but soon began to realise that an armed struggle with this dangerous neighbour would inevitably be forced on Poland. In the meantime he attempted to strengthen the position of Poland externally by a series of alliances. It was natural that he should first invoke the aid of the Holy See, to which both Poland and the Teutonic Order owed allegiance; and the friendship for Vladyslav so strongly shewn by Boniface VIII in the past was now maintained in the firm support given to Polish claims by his successors, whose assistance was unfortunately moral rather than material owing to the weakness of their position at the time. The new rulers of Bohemia of the house of Luxemburg began to claim the Polish throne as successors of the Premyslids. Against this new foe Vladyslav sought the help of Charles Robert of Hungary, in whom he gained both a son-in-law and an ally, and through whom he attracted to Poland that cultural influence by which the Angevin dynasty was beginning to restore Hungary from the disorder into which she had been plunged since the Tartar invasion. Against another enemy, Brandenburg, he made an alliance with the Scandinavian kings in 1315; and finally, by a brilliant stroke of political originality and foresight, he suggested an alliance with the Lithuanians who were, like the Poles, the victims of Teutonic aggression. The able ruler of Lithuania, Gedymin, welcomed his overtures and scaled the alliance by the marriage of his daughter Aldona to Vladyslav, only son, Casimir. Having in this way established his power at home and abroad, the Grand Prince, with the consent of the Papacy and in spite of the angry protest of John of Bohemia, had himself crowned as king at Cracow in 1320 under the name of Vladyslav I.

Meanwhile the appeal of Vladyslav I against the Order had been heard by a papal commission, which in 1321 made an award in favour of Poland. The Order, however, refused to abide by the decision and remained in Pomerania, so the Polish king decided to resort to arms. The first war between Poland and the Teutonic Knights was a severe ordeal for the weak divided State, in which Polish sentiment had only just begun to assert itself against the German element. Apart from the military prestige and the religious character of the Order, which brought it recruits from among the best elements in Western Europe, the support of Brandenburg and of Bohemia made it almost invincible, the more so as John of Bohemia was himself a claimant to the Polish throne and could count on the assistance of Vladyslav’s enemies in Silesia and Mazo via. Against such formidable allies the assistance given to Poland by Hungary and the Lithuanians was scarcely adequate. King John won over most of the Silesian princes and the Prince of Plock in Mazovia, and, though his activities were partly checked by the Polish and Hungarian armies, and though Vladyslav won a great victory over the Order at Plowce in 1331, the terrible invasions of the Knights devastated not only the frontier province of Kujawia but even Greater Poland, where many ancient cities such as Gniezno (Gnesen), Lenczyca, and Sieradz were reduced to ashes and never recovered their former significance; and the end of the war found the Order in possession not only of the district of Dobrzyn, but of all Kujawia. But before this Vladyslav had died at the ago of seventy-three, urging his son with his last breath to prosecute the struggle against the Order and to recover Pomerania. Vladyslav, reared in the petty provincialism of the thirteenth century and forced to struggle against insuperable obstacles, had displayed a tenacity of purpose and a patriotic idealism that was unusual in his age, and by the singleness of his aims and his indomitable courage he had successfully revived the Polish State and the Piast monarchy. He proved himself a great king not only in actual achievement, but in laying so firm a foundation on which others might build.

Casimir III, subsequently called “the Great” (1333-70), succeeded his father without opposition, and was crowned king in Cracow in 1333. Growing up with the self-assurance of a prince born in the purple, he had not to experience the uncertainties and bitterness of exile like his father. His political education was guided rather by the spacious ideas and enlightened ideal of kingship of the Angevin court of Hungary than by the petty quarrels and provincialism of the Kujawian house from which he had sprung. A statesman by disposition, he had very different views from those of his father, and was prepared to sacrifice ideals to expediency. He determined to abandon his father’s warlike policy, to husband the resources of the State, and by graceful concessions in matters of less importance, to attempt to secure what he considered to be the essential needs of his country. He realised that in any case Poland had neither the means nor the organisation to wage a successful war against the Teutonic Order or to dispute the ascendancy of the house of Luxemburg. The root of the problem was the necessity of a closer union of the Polish provinces to avoid such disasters as the defection of Silesia and Mazovia. Apart from the pressing need for other domestic reforms, it was essential to weld the remaining provinces into an organic whole. In pursuance of this aim, Casimir, by the mediation of the King of Hungary, opened negotiations for peace with the King of Bohemia, and agreed to the Treaty of Vysehrad by which John renounced his claim to the Polish throne, while Casimir paid him an indemnity and recognised his suzerainty over the princes of Silesia and the Prince of Plock, hoping by these wide concessions—which were, in any case, inevitable—to gain the support of Bohemia against the Teutonic Knights. The attempt to settle the questions at issue between Poland and the Order was unsuccessful, and the case was again submitted to the Holy See; but the negotiations with Hungary and Bohemia continued, and at the second Treaty of VySehrad in 1339 the question of the succession to the Polish throne was settled. Casimir had no sons, and he wished to secure the succession for the Angevin house of Hungary with which he was so intimately associated. It was agreed that on Casimir’s death he should be succeeded by the son of his sister and of Charles Robert, Lewis. This agreement, which was confirmed in 1355 by the Treaty of Buda, imposed certain conditions on the future king, namely (1) that he should attempt to regain the lost Polish provinces, particularly Pomerania; (2) that he should confer offices exclusively on Polish magnates; (3) that he should respect all previous charters and impose no new taxes. Meanwhile, the dispute with the Order dragged on interminably. Pope Benedict XII refused to accept the decisions of the negotiators at Vysehrad, and set up a special commission in Warsaw, which again pronounced in favour of Poland. The Order once more protested against this verdict, and soon Casimir himself, desiring to turn to the new problem of Russia, found it advisable to terminate the protracted negotiations, and consented by the Treaty of Kalisz in 1343 to abandon in favour of the Order the Polish claim to Pomerania, Chelmno (Kulm), and the district of Michaldw, receiving in return Kujawia and the district of Dobrzyn. As compensation for these serious losses to Poland in the west, Casimir had for some years been seeking fresh acquisitions in the cast—a policy which had brought him into competition with the powerful ruler of Lithuania, and drawn Poland into close relations with the Lithuanian and Russian principalities which became of primary importance to her political position.

The early rise of the Lithuanian people to political importance under Mindovg had been checked by the dissolution of their State through lack of internal cohesion. But towards the end of the thirteenth century, the pressure of the two German Orders on the north and west had forced the princes of Lithuania to unite under a new dynasty. The new Lithuanian State was the more formidable in that it not only comprised Lithuania, Samogitia, and Black Russia, but was rapidly overrunning the extensive principalities of Western Russia, which preferred Lithuanian rule as the only alternative to the Tartar yoke. Moreover Gedymin (1315-41), the real founder of Lithuanian greatness, had at his disposal the remnants of the fierce Jadzwing tribe and the fugitives from Prussia, most of whom he settled in Black Russia. He built a new centre for his principality at Troki in Lithuania, but later he transferred his capital to the new city of Vilna. It is not difficult to account for the amazing extension of Lithuanian power. A long tradition of military activity, from local raids in search of plunder to great aggressive campaigns of the whole people, had created a warlike spirit and a rude discipline to which must be added the despair and thirst for vengeance of the Prussian emigrants and the patriotic fervour of a people menaced with the destruction of their liberty and beliefs by the hated German invader. With the exception of the Order, all their neighbours were weak. Poland, in her days of weakness, offered the chief field for plunder in men and material, and since her recovery had been an ally. The Russian principalities had come to look upon Lithuania as their saviour from Tartar rule, since the Lithuanian princes, behind their impenetrable barrier of marsh and forest, could defy the Khan of the Golden Horde with impunity. Thus Polotsk, long under Lithuanian influence, became subject to Lithuania in 1307; Vitebsk soon followed. Podlasia with Brest1 was seized by Gedymin in 1315; Minsk was occupied soon after. By his victory on the Irpen in 1320 Gedymin conquered the princes of the Kiev region, though Kiev itself, since the departure of the Metropolitan to Vladimir in 1300, had lost the last shred of its political and commercial predominance, its place having been taken partly by Lemberg (Lvov, Lwow) and partly by Gedymin’s new city of Vilna. Gedymin had thus brought under his rule all White Russia and a large part of Little Russia, and had established a loose union of Russian principalities not unlike the Kievan union of an earlier age. The main thread of Russian history runs in North-Eastern Russia, where Moscow was rising to importance under Gedymin’s contemporary Ivan Kalita. But the real successor of Kievan Russia, as historians have now realised, was not Moscow, alien partly in race and wholly in political ideas to Kiev, but the new Russo-Lithuanian State. To complete the union of Western Russia, it remained only to occupy Red Russia (Ruthenia), as the principalities of Volhynia and Galicia may most conveniently be called. The question of the succession to this important State came up in 1324 when the princes of the house of Roman, Andrew and Leo, perished in battle with the Tartars. There were several claimants to their heritage. The Khan of the Tartars, the powerful Uzbeg of the Golden Horde, claimed the land as suzerain lord of all Russia. The Kings of Hungary had since the beginning of the thirteenth century called themselves rulers of Galicia and Lodomeria (i.e. Galich and Vladimir, the ancient capital of Volhynia). Gedymin’s son Lubart was married to a daughter of the late prince. The boyars, however, called in the nephew of the late princes, Boleslav of Mazo via; but his tyranny and support of Catholic propaganda resulted in his assassination in 1340, whereupon Lubart proceeded to occupy Volhynia, while Casimir III, as a relative of the last prince, claimed Galicia. He invaded the principality with a large army, and after some resistance the boyars were won over to recognise Casimir as king, while the son of the King of Hungary, being the heir to Casimir’s kingdom, was persuaded to postpone the assertion of his claims. But with Lithuania a war broke out which lasted with intervals for twenty-six years. Gedymin died in 1341, and was succeeded after a period of civil war by his son Olgierd (1345-77). After a long struggle, Lithuania successfully held Volhynia, while Poland retained Galicia. Peace was made in 1352, whereupon both rivals united to extend their power over the southern steppe which the decline of Tartar power after the death of Uzbeg threw open to foreign conquest. Casimir’s expedition to the new Roumanian principalities, which he claimed as a former dependency of Galicia, resulted in failure. But Olgierd overthrew the Tartar Khans of Podolia at Sine Vody, annexed Podolia and the Ukraine, drove the Tartars into the Crimea, and extended Lithuanian rule to the Black Sea. The sons of his brother Koryat governed in Podolia, which began to recover from Tartar devastation and to prosper through Polish co-operation. One of the same family even became ruler of Moldavia. Despite a renewal of the struggle with Lithuania, Casimir remained in possession of Galicia till his death, and Polish influence remained strong in the neighbouring province of Podolia.

The results of Casimir’s diplomacy were of the highest significance for the future of Poland. Without offering serious resistance, he had given up Silesia, the most wealthy and advanced province of Poland, which, despite the pro-German policy of its princes and the preponderance of the German element in its towns, still contained in the main a Polish agrarian population. He had surrendered Pomerania to the Teutonic Order and with it the sole link between Poland and the sea. Under the rule of the Order and the influence of the Hansa League, Danzig lost its Slav character and became a German town, subject to none of the influences which made the Germans of Cracow or Poznafi good subjects of Poland; and, together with Thorn, it secured a monopoly of the foreign trade of Poland with the Baltic area. In exchange for the loss of these Polish lands, Casimir had gained in Galicia a country that was rich and extensive and offered a field for Polish expansion, but which contained a foreign population, politically backward and professing a different form of religion. The occupation of this province entailed new responsibilities and direct contact with the Tartar world. The general result was that the Polish population, pressed back from the Oder and Lower Vistula regions and already spreading in dense masses over the plateau of Lublin, Eastern Mazovia, and the Carpathian uplands, began to pour over the Vistula and the San into the Russian provinces, and together with the Russians to colonise Podolia and the deserted lands of the Ukraine. It may be pleaded in defence of Casimir’s actions that he could not have done otherwise than surrender Silesia and Pomerania. His real intentions and those of the Polish magnates are clear from the continual appearance in the treaties with the Angevin kings of the clause concerning the recovery of the lost provinces, especially Pomerania. Casimir himself made persistent efforts to carry out this policy. It was obvious that the recovery of these lands was not abandoned, but postponed. In the war with Bohemia in 1343 he reconquered two border districts of Silesia. In 1351 he re-asserted Polish suzerainty over the princes of Mazovia, who became formally vassals of the Polish Crown. The princes of Kujawia, too, bequeathed their small provinces to Casimir, who found himself by 1364 in possession of the whole of that province. Moreover, the decline of Brandenburg after the extinction of the Ascanian dynasty enabled Poland to recover part of the frontier district at the confluence of the Notec and Warta. Yet Casimir’s foreign policy, while securing the position of Poland among its neighbours, was forced to recognise a definite advance of the Empire and the Teutonic Order at the expense of Poland. His reign marks a permanent withdrawal of the Polish ethnographical frontier in favour of the Germans, and the undertaking of new and onerous tasks by the annexation of a Russian province which brought Poland into Eastern politics, into contact with the Tartars, the Roumanians, the Lithuanians, and ultimately the Muscovites.

While Casimir was forced by the difficulties of his position to postpone rather than to solve the greatest problems of foreign policy, he was able to grapple effectively with the important domestic questions which confronted the restored monarchy—problems of equal difficulty, on the solution of which his title to greatness would depend. Chief of these problems was the local independence of the different provinces of Poland. The early Slavs, with their strong tribal separatism, had adhered tenaciously to the idea of a tribal prince. The early monarchy, which with its crust of Western ideas and institutions had been superimposed on the tribal system, had only temporarily succeeded in checking this idea, which reappeared in 1138 and gained strength during the Partitional period. Even apart from the retention of separate princes by Silesia and Mazovia, Casimir was by no means ruler of a united Polish State. He was simply Prince of Greater Poland, Prince of Lesser Poland, and suzerain Prince of Mazovia, and with each of these provinces he dealt quite independently of the others. Each former principality preserved the shadow of an independent ruler in the person of its Wojmoda or Palatine with his hierarchy of officials. Vladyslav I and his son began their task of centralisation by restoring and developing the institution of the Starostaship originally introduced by Wenceslas. Thus over each of the provinces of Greater Poland—Lenczyca, Sieradz, Inowroclaw and Brest Kujawski (the two parts of Kujawia)—a Marotta was appointed, with an additional Starotta for Galich after its annexation. Since the Marotta was regarded as the king’s deputy, no such office was created in Lesser Poland till later times. There, as the duties of the ruler grew in volume, special officials were entrusted with the functions of the post. The Starosta, like the bailli in France, was the king’s deputy and chief administrative officer in the provinces; he was also given control of military and judicial matters. The office gained in power at the expense of the older offices of Wojewoda and Kasztelan which came more and more to be held by local magnates as representatives of the province rather than of the royal power. From the Wojewoda the Starosta took over the duties of royal deputy and judge, while from the Kasztelan he took the management of the castles and military affairs in general, together with the administration of the royal domain, leaving to the Kasztelan in each case sufficient land to support the dignity of his office. The increase of royal power in the provinces was thus accompanied by a material accession of wealth to the royal revenue, owing to the resumption of the royal lands by the Crown and their more efficient exploitation by the Starostas. Together with this development of the king’s power over the country went a gradual expansion of the central administration, by which the greater officials of the province of Cracow were transformed into king’s ministers, whose sphere of operations covered all the Woje-wodztwa1 of the kingdom. The Chancellor, the Deputy Chancellor, and the Treasurer of Lesser Poland became important royal officials, while similar posts in other provinces became merely titular. The king was still the real link between the greater provinces. By the new central institutions his officials were able to bring a certain systematisation of local government and a greater concentration of important common affairs in the hands of the new officials. In the provinces the royal prestige had grown through the permanent subdivision of the great tribal units owing to the need in the previous century of finding thrones for the junior princes. Thus the king had not always to deal with a large tribal unit like Greater Poland, but with the two princedoms of Poznafi and Kalisz, each with its Wojewoda and lower officials. Lesser Poland was divided into the provinces of Cracow and Sandomierz. Kujawia, in particular, had lost its unity and consisted of the two Wojewodztwa of Inowroclaw and Brest and the district of Dobrzyn. But with the union of many provinces under one ruler, direct contact of the ruler and the ruled had been lost. The king found it more and more convenient to summon the officials and magnates of a province to discuss the affairs of that province on some important question of State. At such a Wiec or assembly, whether convoked by the king or his local official the Starosta, the Wojewoda appeared as head of the territorial officials and the magnates of the province. Thus, with the new importance of the local Wiec the territorial officials gained a new dignity in compensation for the administrative and judicial power which they had lost.

One great defect, which had long been a source of confusion for the Polish community, was the chaotic condition of the laws. Each province had hitherto preserved its own customary laws, which differed widely from province to province. On this mass of custom there had been superimposed the decrees of the princes and of the two kings, a growing volume of legislation which was uncoordinated and contradictory. The king called together a Council of advisers, chief of whom were Skotnicki the Archbishop of Gniezno and John Strzelecki the Chancellor, to co-ordinate into  a common code the laws of Greater and Lesser Poland. For the systematisation of the laws advantage was taken of the existing statutes of the ecclesiastical synods, which offered a model for the legal phraseology, Latin style, and formal arrangement of the new code. The Statute of Wislica was issued in 1347 as a code for the whole of Poland. It was in reality, however, based on the laws of Lesser Poland, and the king published a separate statute for Greater Poland. The original and successful work of the codifiers was of permanent value in clearing away a mass of cumbrous material, in giving lawyers an authoritative legal handbook, and in bringing as far as possible into harmony the legal conceptions of the different parts of Poland. Constitutionally the reigns of Vladyslav and Casimir were a continuation of the preceding age and were also characterised by the practice of granting charters conferring privileges and immunities. But in the fourteenth century such charters tended to affect large groups rather than individuals, and the crystallisation of definite classes was completed in this period, culminating in the Charter of Koszyce in 1374. As the result of these privileges, in contrast to the difficulties and dangers threatening the State from outside, internally the reign of Casimir was a period of unprecedented prosperity for all classes of the community, and the great Casimir as “peasant's king," protector of the Jews, conqueror of Russia, with a court of brilliant, if licentious, splendour, has remained in popular tradition as a magnificent, legendary figure like Charlemagne, Barbarossa, or St Vladimir. The knights, though overshadowed by the small but powerful group of magnates, were emerging as a definite class basing its position on noble birth as symbolised by a coat of arms and on the possession of an hereditary estate. Whether magnate or humble squire, the gentleman “bene natus et possessionatus” was beginning to assert himself. This class had played a patriotic part in the revival of national sentiment and of the Piast monarchy. It was becoming more and more conscious of its rights under numerous charters and of its duties to the State as well as to one particular province. By the charter granted at Koszyce, the Szlachta (as it came to be called) received formal confirmation of its detailed liberties and of its existence as a class. For the peasantry, the liberties granted by “German law” in the last hundred years had been universally imitated and had profoundly modified the position of those who remained under Polish law. For the rural population the fourteenth century was an age of great prosperity. The villagers, whether managing their own affairs under their hereditary Soltys or dependent on some great landowner, had the right to migrate at will and the right of appeal to the royal courts. The new economic improvements introduced by the Germans and the colonising movement over all the country contributed to the progress and well-being of the agrarian class, which was now, under favourable conditions of unity and order, able to develop its land secure from interruption by external and internal foes; and the foreign colonists were gradually absorbed into the Polish peasantry. Even more than for the gentry or the peasants, the age of Casimir saw the rise of unusually favourable circumstances for the development of the towns. It has been seen that the influx into the towns of German immigrants had created a serious political problem. On the other hand, it had given them great industrial and commercial prosperity. Not only did the industrious German artisans and their Polish fellow-citizens produce important articles for home consumption and for export, but the Polish towns became centres of trade, ready to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the annexation of Galicia. Trade routes from Danzig through Plock and from Breslau and Poznan through Cracow converged on Lemberg, and there met the great trade route from the Genoese colonies on the Black Sea through which so much of the Eastern trade was carried. Russian towns like Lemberg received charters under Magdeburg law, and their population was swelled not only by Poles and Germans, but by Jews from the Crimea and from Western Europe and by Armenians. The burghers of the Polish cities became wealthy and prosperous, so much so that a rich Cracow merchant was able to entertain royalty with a magnificence impossible for a country gentleman. The development of the towns owed a great deal to the care and tact of Casimir, who was a zealous protector of then' autonomy and was careful to tolerate the creeds and customs of the non-Polish elements, while at the same time he put down with a firm hand any signs of the political separatism which had shown itself so dangerous to his father in 1310-11. To cut the links which bound the Germans to their native land, he established a supreme court of municipal law in Cracow and forbade all appeal to the courts of the German cities. As the result of his prudent policy, the growing Jewish and Armenian colonies settled down to live contentedly under Polish rule, while the German citizens became, if not Poles, at any rate good citizens of Poland. It was not till the sixteenth century that the German burghers became finally assimilated.

In dealing with Galicia or Red Russia, while the mixed population of the towns received the Magdeburg municipal organisation, Casimir prudently abstained from any attempt to impose Polish institutions too abruptly on the Russian population. The former principalities were in many cases retained by the Russian princes of the Rurik dynasty or were granted to those Lithuanian princes like Lubart or the sons of Koryat and Narymunt whom the Russian boyars had come to consider as natural rulers. The leading boyars were summoned to the royal council to debate matters concerning Russia. Moreover, Casimir was consistently tolerant towards the Orthodox Church to which the majority of his Russian subjects belonged. He retained the existing Orthodox bishoprics and supported the efforts of the Church to have the bishopric of Galich raised to the position of a metropolitan see, since the departure of the Metropolitan of Kiev to the North in 1300 had left Western Russia without a direct head. An Armenian bishopric was established at Lemberg (Lwow) in 1367. At the same time the king supported Catholic propaganda which had begun to penetrate Russia long before the annexation. Catholic bishoprics were established at Przemysl, Vladimir, Chelm, and Galich, while an archbishopric was subsequently established at Lemberg, Casimir’s favourite city. In the great expanses of Eastern Galicia and Podolia Polish colonisation was encouraged: in particular, the magnates of Lesser Poland began to form large estates in Red Russia. Throughout his reign Casimir bound the Russian province to Poland by this prudent policy of toleration and peaceful penetration. Besides his domestic reforms in Poland and Red Russia, Casimir did much to encourage education and the arts. He protected learned men like Janko of Czarnkow, who chronicled the events of his time and country and rose to be Deputy Chancellor. He founded the Academy of Cracow in 1364, which became a centre for the study of law and was modelled on Bologna. Henceforward Polish learning had a centre to rival the older Czech university at Prague. Above all, Casimir was a great builder, and the saying that he found Poland made of wood and left it a country of stone merely expresses the -truth. Beloved in Poland and respected abroad, Casimir died in 1370 at the age of sixty as the result of an accident in the hunting-field.

The compact and prosperous State which Casimir had so wisely and successfully ruled for thirty-seven years passed by his own wish not to a Piast but to Lewis of Hungary. By a deliberate desire to raise the throne above the petty rivalries of the native princes of Silesia and Mazovia, he gave Poland into the hands of the Angevin dynasty which had brought strong rule and enlightenment from Naples to Hungary. But, however statesmanlike this policy may have been, the king failed to foresee the great change it was destined to bring about. His plan failed, not only because Lewis had no male issue and was occupied with the affairs of Hungary and in his own dynastic ambitions rather than with the administration of Poland, but because it brought about a political revolution which gave the Polish magnates a predominant position in the State. Lewis, after being crowned at Cracow, returned to Hungary leaving Poland under the rule of his mother Elizabeth, who did not find favour with the Poles. He then proceeded to alienate the Poles still more by uniting Red Russia to Hungary, nominating as his viceroy there Vladyslav, Prince of Opole. His lack of male issue made the selection of husbands for his three daughters of paramount importance to him and the two kingdoms, while it also forced him to revise the terms of the treaties of Vysehrad and Buda. On the death of his eldest daughter, he arranged a marriage for her sister Mary with Sigismund, son of the Emperor Charles IV, thus planning that she would inherit Poland and Brandenburg. The youngest daughter, Jadviga (Hedwig), was to be betrothed to William of Austria and was to inherit Hungary and Red Russia together  with Austria. Lewis met the Polish magnates at two congresses in Hungary and concluded with them in 1374 the Pact of Koszyce, which not only determined the succession to the Polish throne, but conferred on the Szlachta the fundamental rights which thenceforward regulated its relations with the Crown. This epoch-making agreement comprised the following main clauses: (1) On the death of Lewis, one of his daughters, to be chosen by himself or his queen, should succeed to the Polish throne; (2) The king pledged himself not to diminish the territories of the Polish Crown, and to attempt to regain the lost provinces; (3) The king formally exempted the Szlachta from all taxes and dues with the exception of the payment of two groschen per hide annually which was obligatory for all; (4) Territorial offices should be held by the gentry of the province concerned and not by foreigners. The chief significance of the Pact of Koszyce was its recognition of the privileged position of the Szlachta. It was the first Charter granted to the whole of the Szlachta as a class. Secondly, it limited the resources of the monarch by compelling him to support himself from the royal domain and by depriving him of the right to tax the gentry. Lastly, by the very procedure of the congress, it constituted a precedent for the election of the king by the Szlachta, a custom which eventually became permanent.

Meanwhile matters were going very badly for the new king in Poland. Piast claimants for the throne appeared in Vladyslav, the last surviving prince of the Kujawian house, and Ziemovit of Mazovia; the Lithuanians invaded Red Russia, and the Magyar nobles made themselves so unpopular in Cracow that a massacre took place. After the death of Lewis in 1382, still greater confusion followed, and an Interregnum ensued which lasted for two years. Sigismund claimed the Polish throne for his wife Mary, but the magnates of Greater Poland, followed by the Lesser Polish leaders, insisted that no daughter of Lewis could reign in Poland who had not taken up her residence in the country. Parties were formed, one of which put forward Ziemovit of Mazo via as a candidate for the throne; but the power of nomination according to the Pact of Koszyce rested with Lewis’ widow. She designated Jadviga, but did not at first allow her to come to Poland. The claims of Ziemovit were resisted by Sigismund, who devastated Mazovia in terrible fashion. At last Jadviga appeared at Cracow where she was crowned as “King” in 1384. Soon after a suitor for the hand of the new ruler appeared in the person of the Grand Prince of Lithuania.

Since the death of Gedymin, his son Olgierdhad continued his conquests in the south and east. To his younger son Kiejstut (Keystut) fell the more difficult task of defending the north of Lithuania against the Teutonic Order. Under its greatest Grand Master Kniprode (1351-82) the Order was then at the height of its power. By the occupation of Esthonia in 1346, its possessions extended from the Narva nearly to the Oder. Its attacks on Lithuania had become so formidable that most of Samogitia had fallen to the knights, and Kiejstut had almost decided to leave his country in despair. Olgierd was succeeded in 1377 by his son Yagaylo, or (to use the common Polish form) Jagiello, who had for some time wished to adopt Christianity. This aim brought him into opposition to his uncle and civil war broke out which ended in the death of Kiejstut, whose son Vytautas (called Vitovt by the Russians, Vitold by the Poles) fled to the Teutonic Knights and with their help invaded his own country. The situation was favourable fora revival of the alliance made with Vladyslav the Short in 1325. Jagiello sought an ally who would help him to convert his people to Christianity and to fight the Order. Such an ally he could find in the Poles, who had been great apostles of the Christian religion and who were bound to resume their struggle against the Order. Now that the ruler of Poland was an unmarried princess he had the opportunity to seal such an alliance by a marriage which would unite both States. To Poland the proposal of Jagiello offered still greater advantages. Besides ending the incessant Lithuanian raids, it held out the prospect of union with a State of enormous resources in which the more advanced Poles would be the dominant element. They would be able to introduce civilisation and Christianity into a great pagan community. The Polish magnates gave their strong support to a project for which they were probably responsible. By a treaty at Krevo in 1385 the Grand Prince pledged himself to accept baptism, to convert his people, to unite Poland and Lithuania, and to recover the lost provinces. In return he was to be married to Jadviga and to become King of Poland. Jadviga, against the dictates of her heart, gave up the friend of her childhood, William of Austria, and sacrificed herself to the interests of her country in accepting the barbarian prince as husband. In 1386 Jagiello entered Cracow in state, was baptised as a Christian according to the rites of the Catholic Church, married Jadviga, and was crowned King of Poland under the name of Vladyslav II (1386-1434). His first act was to confirm and amplify the privileges conferred by the Charter of Koszyce. Thus by a brilliant stroke of diplomacy the Polish magnates achieved one of the greatest triumphs of the Middle Ages, by which they secured their own political predominance and brought about the union under one ruler of Poland, Lithuania, and a great part of Russia.

The dynastic union of Poland and Lithuania caused a complete change in the external relations of Poland. The last two Piast kings had based their foreign policy on the alliance with Hungary against the house of Luxemburg and the Teutonic Order. Now that a scion of the imperial house was on the Hungarian throne, the situation was quite different. Secure on her Lithuanian frontier, Poland was able not only to recover Red Russia, but to open relations with the Roumanian principalities which had just emancipated themselves from Magyar rule. In 1387 Jagiello found himself master of Galicia and received the homage of Peter of Moldavia, The rulers of Wallachia and Bessarabia followed suit and not only enhanced the prestige of Poland, but gave fresh commercial advantages to Lemberg. The first act of Jagiello in Lithuania was to convert his pagan people to Catholicism and to create an ecclesiastical hierarchy under a bishopric in Vilna. The fierce Samogitians still remained pagan, while the large Russian population adhered to the Orthodox faith. But internal difficulties soon disturbed the Grand Principality, and were intensified by the intrigues of Sigismund and the Teutonic Order. The king had set up his brother Skirgiello as viceroy of Lithuania, thereby exciting the jealousy of Vitold, the ablest of the descendants of Gedymin. A brilliant soldier and an able diplomat, Vitold possessed in a high degree the martial character of his dynasty, which gave him better qualifications for the esteem of his countrymen than the Polish innovations of Jagiello. To his natural talents he added an overwhelming ambition which aimed at the creation of a great Eastern Empire in which not the Poles but the Lithuanians should dominate the Tartars, West Russians, and Muscovites. He set himself at the head of the Lithuanian national party, connived at rebellions in Polotsk and Smolensk, and lent an ear to the intrigues of Sigismund and the Teutonic Knights. With the help of the latter he overthrew the incompetent viceroy and forced Jagiello to give him the office for himself, whereupon he soon crushed the rebellion and drove out the troops of the Order. He felt himself strong enough to be proclaimed as Grand Prince, placated the Order by the cession of Samogitia, and set out to realise his Eastern scheme. Lithuania already ruled the whole of the Dnieper basin and only needed to annex Moscow and Novgorod to restore Russian unity. The great Northern republic was not unwilling to intrigue against Moscow, but Moscow was a serious rival for the leadership of the Russians, especially after the victory of the Don over the Tartars in 1380, which had brought her great prestige. Further, the Tartar overlord of Moscow had first to be reckoned with. The Tartar world, like Russia, was at this time in a fluid condition. The leadership of the Golden Horde had been seized by Tuqtamish, ruler of the White Horde, who had reasserted Tartar rule over Moscow in 1382. He had rebelled against his overlord, the mighty Timur, and had been expelled from his dominions. He now appealed for aid to Vitold, who seized the opportunity for attacking the Golden Horde and assembled at Kiev a great army of Lithuanians, Russians, Poles, and even Western crusaders which was joined by the Tartars of Tuqtamish. Unfortunately, Vitold permitted the new Khan of the Golden Horde to effect a junction with Timur’s general, Edigey; and in 1399 on the banks of the Vorskla he suffered a terrible defeat in which many Lithuanian and Russian princes together with eminent Poles like Spytek of Melsztyn were slain. Vitold’s great scheme was frustrated, and though he annexed Smolensk and made the Ugra his frontier with Moscow, it was obvious that Lithuanian expansion had reached its limit. Realising his failure and fully aware that his own capital was perpetually menaced by the Germans, Vitold decided to seek a better understanding with his cousin. At the congress of Vilna in 1401, with the consent of Jagiello, Vitold was proclaimed Grand Prince, on condition that at his death Lithuania should return to Jagiello or his successor, and that Lithuania should remain a vassal of the Polish Crown. The Poles pledged themselves for their part not to elect a successor to Jagiello without consulting the Lithuanians.

This agreement, the first of many acts leading to the union of the Grand Principality with the kingdom, made possible the co-operation of the two States in the matter of the long-deferred settlement with the Teutonic Knights. The Order was now a powerful State which regarded the tradition binding it to the Empire and the Papacy as an advantage to be manipulated to its own profit rather than as a tie of allegiance. It ruled a large and wealthy country, well able to maintain the most redoubtable military force in Europe, while its prestige as a crusading institution attracted the most enterprising knights of Europe, including such celebrities as John of Bohemia and Henry of Lancaster. The dismay of the Knights may be pictured when the news reached them that Poland had accomplished by peaceful means what they had failed to do by force— the conversion of the pagans whom they regarded as their natural prey and whose paganism was the sole reason for the continued existence of the Order. The absence of a religious stimulus was bound to affect the flow of recruits. Moreover, the recovery of Samogitia by Vitold in 1404 cut off the eastern from the western portion of its territories. To Lithuania, revenge on the Order was almost a sacred duty, and for the Lithuanians, still pagan at heart, the Order had none of the majesty which filled the true Catholics with awe. The antagonism of the Poles to the knights was based partly on political history, partly on national sentiment. The Order had seized and kept the Pomeranian seaboard. It formed an outpost of Germanism which had been untouched by the Polish revival of the last century. National sentiment in Central Europe, where the acceptance of medieval institutions and ideas generally entailed submission to Germany, was a far stronger force than in the West. Though German feudalism had triumphed in Pomerania and to a great extent in Bohemia, and though Silesia while retaining a Polish population had accepted German institutions and Czech suzerainty, Germany found herself confronted in the fifteenth century by a strong Slavonic reaction which found expression in the war between Poland and the Order and in the Hussite movement. Jagiello, like his predecessor Lewis, had sworn to recover the lost provinces of Poland, and he found it politic to ingratiate himself with his new subjects by a struggle against the Order. The peace party in Poland lost its influence after the death of the saintly Jadviga in 1398. The peaceful policy of the Grand Master Conrad von Jungingen was reversed after his death by his brother who succeeded him in 1407. The immediate cause of war was a frontier dispute. The Order had purchased the Neumark from Brandenburg and had seized the border town of Drezdenko which was claimed by the Poles. The impetuous Grand Master wished to regain Dobrzyn and Samogitia, and was spurred on by the support of Wenceslas of Bohemia and Sigismund of Hungary who were jealous of the growing power of Jagiello. The year 1409 saw the outbreak of a series of wars which only terminated with the fall of the Order in 1466.

Overshadowed though it was by the Hussite wars, the great Northern War was important no less for the enormous forces that were brought into the field than for its political results. The first year saw merely frontier raids. Both sides were organising their forces for the decisive encounter. The Knights had the support of the Kings of Hungary and Bohemia; of the princes of Western Pomerania who sent a large force under Prince Casimir; while they drew great numbers of crusaders and mercenary soldiers from all parts of the Empire. Jagiello and Vitold were dependent mainly on their own resources and were only able to obtain an inconsiderable force of mercenaries from Bohemia and Silesia, among whom was John Zizka, the future leader of the Hussites. The plan of campaign appears to have been settled by Jagiello and his Deputy-Chancellor Tromba with Vitold at Brest in December 1409. Mazovia had been chosen as the base of operations on account of its convenient situation between Poland and Lithuania and on the route to Marienburg, the goal of the invaders. The food supply for the armies was prepared by great hunting expeditions in the forests of Belovezh and Kozienice. The meat w<is salted, packed, and sent down the Narev and Vistula to Plock. The Siarorta of Radom had a pontoon bridge constructed and floated down the river to Czerwinsk, where an island made a more suitable point for crossing the Vistula than Plock. Vitold, by one of the rapid mobilisations for which the Gedymin princes were famous, assembled his army at Vilna. Besides Lithuanians, Russians and Tartars flocked to his standard. He marched to the Narev to join Jagiello on the Vistula. The mobilisation in Poland was more complicated. The general levy had not been summoned for fifty years, and many nobles preferred to fight in their clan groups. However, at the call to arms the levy of each province assembled under its Vojewoda and Kasztelans and, together with various clans, met the Czech and Silesian mercenaries at Wolborz (near Piotrkow). The united army marched north, took three days to cross the bridge at Czerwinsk, and joined the Lithuanian army under Vitold and the Mazovian force under its princes Janusz and Zicmovit. The complete army was of imposing size and unusual diversity. Alongside the Polish knights and the clan groups, each with its common arms and slogan, rode thousands of Tartars under Soldan, soon to be Khan of the Golden Horde. Martial Lithuanians marched side by side with sturdy Czech mercenaries who were destined to astonish the world. The model of Polish chivalry, Zawisza the Black, was in striking contrast to the turbulent Russian boyars or the rude skin-clad Samogitians. A division of Poles had been left in the south against Sigismund, while a large force had been detached to guard the long Kujawian frontier. The latter first came into contact with the enemy, and impressed the Grand Master with the idea of a Polish invasion of the coveted province of Pomerania. Sending Henry von Plauen with 3000 men to protect that province, the commander himself with his main army remained near the Vistula to await news of the enemy. It was only when the Poles had crossed the Wkra and the Tartars began to plunder the countryside that he realised from which direction the attack would come. He hastened to oppose the Poles at the crossing on the Drwenca. The Poles withdrew, whereupon he crossed the river himself, and the two great armies met on 15 July in the great battle which is called Grunwald by the Poles, Tannenberg by the Germans, from the names of the two nearest villages. The numbers on both sides were enormous, but were exaggerated by the credulity of contemporary Europe. Yet even a moderate estimate gives about 83,000 troops for the Order and nearly 100,000 for the Polish-Lithuanian army apart from the Tartars. The army of the Knights was led by the Grand Master in person, Ulrich von Jungingen. On the other side, though Jagiello was in supreme command, Zyndram of Maszkowic commanded the Poles and mercenaries in the centre and on the left, while Vitold who led the Lithuanians and Russians on the right wing seems to have played a great part in the direction of the whole army. The Polish army sang the ancient hymn of St Adalbert, after which the battle began by a cavalry engagement, at first with lance, then with sword and axe. The first part of the battle ended favourably for the Teutonic Knights, who routed the Lithuanians and Czechs. The battle was equalised, however, as fresh Polish troops entered the fray, and the threatened right wing was gallantly held by three Russian detachments from Smolensk. Meanwhile the Deputy Chancellor, Tromba, rallied the Czechs, and the battle became fierce and prolonged. At length the Grand Master decided to advance with his sixteen banners of reserves, but the Polish army swung round and withstood the attack, while the Tartars rode round his flanks. The Grand Master, whose sacred person was held in awe by the Poles, was killed in the dense mob of Lithuanians and Tartars, and the remnant of the Knights fled, leaving over 18,000 dead on the field, and 14,000 prisoners and all their fifty-one standards in the hands of the victors.

The victory of Grunwald was the chief triumph of the Slav reaction against the Germans, and was as important as the later Hussite successes. All praise is due to the Poles whose patriotic spirit and military prowess was largely responsible for the victory, while due respect must be given to the wisdom of Jagiello and the valour of Vitold, undoubtedly the greatest figure in the battle. No people but the Lithuanians could have mobilised and equipped such vast forces as were necessary to defeat the mighty Teutonic Order. Their primitive qualities and simplicity of organisation made them expert in handling large masses of men such as feudal Europe could hardly equip, move, or maintain. Nor, on the other hand, could the Lithuanian army have ventured to invade Prussia without the military knowledge and discipline and the intelligent organisation of the Poles. But these qualities, while enabling the two peoples to win victory in the field, did not help them to exploit their victory. They marched through Prussia and commenced the siege of the capital. But von Plauen threw himself into Marienburg and defended it heroically, while fresh troops came to his aid from Livonia and from Germany. The great army began to disperse. Vitold returned to Lithuania and the Mazovian princes withdrew their troops, while Sigismund invaded Poland in the south. The Order was saved, and Jagiello reluctantly made peace in 1411 on condition that he received Samogitia and an indemnity. In the next year, by the Peace of Buda, Sigismund surrendered his claim to Red Russia and Moldavia in favour of Jagiello. As a pledge for his debt to Poland, he leased to Jagiello thirteen towns in the Spiz district of Hungary, which remained Polish till 1769. In domestic affairs the war had two important results, the conversion of the Samogitians to Catholicism under the new bishopric of Miedniki, and the Union of Horodlo between Poland and Lithuania in 1413. This agreement confirmed the previous treaties of 1387 andl401 by which the Poles and Lithuanians gave mutual guarantees as to the election of rulers after the death of Jagiello and Vitold. The right to bear Polish coats of arms was extended by the Polish Szlachta to the Catholic boyars, who were granted privileges similar to those of the Polish nobility. Lithuania was divided into Wojewodztwa, and an official hierarchy was established on the Polish model. Common Councils were to be held at Lublin or Parczow. The Union of Horodlo was an important step towards the closer association of the two States, but it failed to conciliate the non-Catholic element in Lithuania. It encouraged the Poles to resume the war with the Order. The Knights, however, had learned the dangers of a pitched battle, and the Second War (1414-22) was a campaign of starvation and devastation which was interrupted by the important developments in Bohemia. By the Treaty of Melno in 1422 the Order renounced all claims to Samogitia and coded Nieszawa and other frontier towns.

The great religious and social upheaval in Bohemia had drawn Poland into the vortex of European politics. John Hus had corresponded with Jagiello, and Jerome had preached in Cracow. The similarity of the Polish and Czech languages made the Hussite doctrines accessible to the Poles, while the anti-German element in the Czech revolution evoked a sympathetic response from the victors of Grunwald. The Polish ecclesiastical leaders were naturally opposed to the new doctrines, and they took an important part in the Council of Constance under Nicholas Tromba, who was now Archbishop of Gniezno. After participating in the general questions discussed by the Council, particularly the Hussite question, in which the secular members of the Polish delegation supported the Hussites, the Poles were most interested in two other matters. They made a formal protest against the activities of the Teutonic Order. Paul, the Rector of Cracow Academy, wrote a treatise on the one side, while the pamphlet of Falkenberg expressed the views of the Order. But a still more important problem raised by the Poles concerned an older group of dissenters, the Orthodox subjects of Lithuania. For over a century the decline of Greek power and the remoteness of Russia after the Tartar invasion had lessened the importance of the Eastern Church for the Western world. But the incursions of the Ottoman Turks into the Balkans and Hungary, the occupation of Red Russia by Poland, and the entrance of Lithuania into the European system, had not only awakened the Catholic Church to the problem of its relations with the Eastern Church, but had given it an unusually favourable opportunity for effecting a union on its own terms1. While the Orthodox prelates of Greece and the Balkans were ready to make wide concessions to gain assistance against the infidel, Jagiello and the Polish clergy were burning to bring the Russian schismatics within the fold of the Church—an achievement which would facilitate the political as well as the religious settlement of Lithuania. A deputation of Russian bishops under the Metropolitan, Gregory Tsamblak, was sent to support the petition for a union with the Catholic Church. For the moment, however, no union was achieved, as the Hussite problems excluded all others. Stimulated by the Polish support of their doctrines, the moderate Hussite leaders, desiring a Slav union, offered the Czech throne to Jagiello, and on his refusal in 1420 to Vitold. But the Polish ecclesiastics under Zbigniev Olesnicki had resolved to oppose the Hussite doctrines in any form. The new leader of the Polish oligarchy owed his rise to his rescue of the king from danger at the battle of Grunwald. His position was at first difficult, because he had not only to face the opposition of many secular magnates and a majority among the lesser Szlachta who were in revolt against the ecclesiastical hierarchy, but he had to dissuade Jagiello and Vitold from the favour which they shewed to the new doctrines. But when Sigismund, fearing a Polish-Czech alliance, began to hold out hopes of the restitution of Silesia to Poland, the clerical party were able to dissuade the magnates from their inclination to join the Czechs, and the Statute of Tromba in 1420 restored Church discipline and enacted severe penalties against heresy. Vitold, however, still anxious to mediate between the Church and the Hussites, accepted the Bohemian crown; and in 1422, Jagiello’s nephew, Zygmunt Korybut, with 5000 men was sent to assist the Czechs. This policy of irresolution soon proved futile. Not only did Korybut prove a poor soldier and diplomat, but the expedition aroused the wrath of the Papacy as well as the Empire. If the Poles could ignore the threat of their old enemy Sigismund to incite the neighbouring States to a partition of Poland, they could not afford to alienate the Papacy and European opinion in general in their dispute with the Teutonic Order, nor could they relinquish an opportunity of regaining Silesia by negotiation. In fact their national interests drew the Poles away from the Hussite cause. The Czechs were their ancient enemies and had weakened the Slav cause by a compromise with the Germans, becoming members of the Empire and adopting German institutions far more readily than the Poles, whose interests were more bound up with those of Hungary, which, like Poland, had preserved its independence, its national institutions and customs. Moreover, Bohemia was in possession of a Polish province, Silesia, which every Polish king was pledged to recover. The Polish lesser gentry and clergy had grievances against the ecclesiastical oligarchy, but these churchmen were Poles like themselves. The Czechs were in rebellion against their overlord, the Emperor, who had no status in Poland. The Poles felt that they had struggled for Slav liberties at a time when the Czechs had not only compromised with Germany, but taken advantage of their stronger position to deprive Poland of its wealthiest province. The religious and social struggle was not acute in Poland, and it was a prudent policy to sacrifice the vague ideal of a struggle on behalf of Slavdom for the support of the Papacy and Emperor in the national struggle against the Order and the chance to regain Silesia by negotiation. So Jagiello made peace with the Emperor in 1423, and by the Edict of Wiehni in 1424 imposed severe penalties on the Polish Hussites.

Olesnicki, having successfully checkmated the efforts of Vitold to support Hussitism, had next to oppose his threats to the Polish union with Lithuania. Frustrated in his attempt to effect a religious union in the Grand Principality, Vitold devoted his energies to the task of making himself King of Lithuania. A zealous advocate of Catholicism and Western civilisation, at the same time he wished that Lithuania rather than Poland should be the leading State in Central Europe, and his ambitions were secretly encouraged by Sigismund and the Order. At the famous Congress of Lutsk in 1429 Vitold entertained a brilliant gathering of princes, ostensibly to discuss the question of defence against the Turks. Besides his son-in-law, the Grand Prince of Moscow, the chief guests were the Emperor Sigismund, Jagiello, the King of Denmark, the Grand Masters of both Orders, the papal legate, the ambassador of the Byzantine Emperor, the Khans of the Volga and Crimean Tartars, the Hospodar of Wallachia, Princes of Silesia, Pomerania, and Mazovia together with all the nobility of the province of Volhynia. At this picturesque assembly, where the guests and their retinues, according to the chronicler, consumed daily 700 oxen, 1400 sheep, and 100 bisons and boars, and drank 700 barrels of mead besides wine and beer, the Turkish question was used as a pretext to cover the attempt of the Emperor to persuade Jagiello to consent to the coronation of Vitold. This intrigue was frustrated by the determined opposition of the Polish magnates under Olesnicki, and the proposal was dropped on the death of Vitold in 1430. The tortuous diplomacy in which his position involved him, his failure against the Tartars, and his soaring ambition cannot obscure his greatness as a man. He was the last brilliant soldier' of the house of Gedymin, an able diplomatist, and a great influence for progress in a backward area of Europe. He ruled his vast principality with ideals that could never merit the approbation of Polish or Russian patriots, and while enhancing the prestige of Poland, his main work was devoted to his own principality and entitles him to be considered as one of the great men of his age.

Vitold’s greatness was revealed by the ferment into which the country was plunged by his death. His project of a religious union with the Orthodox Church had been intended to entail an equalisation in status of the Russians with the Catholic Poles and Lithuanians. Its failure left a cause for discontent among the Russian boyars. The Lithuanians, desirous of reasserting their independence, joined the malcontents, who found a leader in the king’s brother Swidrygiello, already notorious as a rebel against Vitold. The king was forced to consent to his election as Grand Prince. But his ambition was not satisfied and was fostered by the Emperor, the Grand Master, and Alexander of Moldavia. The action of Sigismund was particularly treacherous in that Polish troops were helping him in his Turkish campaigns, in one of which the model of Polish chivalry, Zawisza, had perished. The Teutonic Knights invaded Poland and began the third period of the Northern War (1431-35). Jagiello acted promptly, deposed his brother, with whom the Lithuanian boyars were soon disillusioned, and in 1432 raised Zygmunt, Vitold’s brother, to the position of Grand Prince. By the Act of Grodno he conferred on the Orthodox Russian boyars all the rights and liberties possessed by the Catholics. At the same time Red Russia received an organisation similar to that of Poland, and Russian magnates there were invited to sit in the royal council. The attacks of the Teutonic Knights were met by the employment of Hussite troops. At the same time as the Hussite mercenaries plundered Pomerania, Zygmunt defeated Swidrygiello at Oszmiana, while the Poles routed his supporters in Podolia. The war was ended in 1435 by a decisive victory over the combined forces of the rebels and the Livonian Knights at Wilkomierz. The Grand Master made peace in the same year.

Meanwhile Jagiello had died in 1434 at the age of eighty-six, as the result of a chill caught while listening to the nightingale in the woods at night, as was his custom. He left two sons by his fourth wife. The eldest son, aged ten, was elected king as Vladyslav III (1434-44), under a regency consisting of the great magnates of Lesser Poland, the Tenczynski and Olesnicki families, with Zbigniev, now Bishop of Cracow, at their head. The Jagiello dynasty had now reached the height of its power. The religious zeal of Jagiello had won new regions for Catholicism, and he had proved, under the guidance of Olesnicki, a staunch supporter of the Church, while at the same time he had won the respect of Hussite heretics and Orthodox dissidents alike for his moderation.

With the death of Sigismund in 1437, the great Luxemburg dynasty came to an end, leaving vacant the thrones of Bohemia and Hungary. It was a testimony to the moderation of the Jagiellos when the Czech throne was offered to the young Casimir, as it was to their military prestige when the Hungarian throne was offered to Vladyslav. The Polish oligarchy refused the former offer and continued to persecute the Polish Hussites—a policy which involved them in a struggle with the opposition under Spytek of Melsztyn in 1439. The Hungarian offer was accepted, and Vladyslav III became, like his predecessor Lewis, ruler of both kingdoms. Casimir was made Grand Prince of Lithuania on the death of Zygmunt. On his departure to his principality and in the absence of the king in Hungary, Poland was left in the hands of the regents. Their interest was now concentrated on the Council of Basle, which ended the Hussite schism in Poland in 1433, and before which they once more raised the question of the Orthodox Church in Lithuania. The Greek Church at this time was appealing for union with the Western Church and soliciting help against the Turks. The Metropolitan Isidore voiced the views of the Russians of Lithuania, and at the Council of Florence in 1439 a union of the two Churches was concluded which failed of its objects because of the subsequent fall of Constantinople, but which lasted longer among the Russians despite the opposition of Moscow. Olesnicki, who had by this time realised a great part of his political programme by the suppression of Hussitism in Poland, the Union of the Orthodox Church, and the maintenance of Polish control over Lithuania, now turned his attention to the crusade against the Turks and the recovery of Silesia. But the Turkish campaign ended in disaster, and in the defeat of the allies at Varna in 1444 the young King Vladyslav disappeared. The Poles were unwilling to credit the news of his death and an interregnum followed (1444-47), after which his younger brother was elected king.

The new king, Casimir IV, was the first Jagiello in Poland who needed no political tutor. His position in Lithuania was secure, and he shewed resentment and impatience at the influence of the ecclesiastical magnates in Poland. His long reign of forty-five years (1447-92) was marked by sweeping changes in the political and economic fabric of the Polish State. The policy of the great leader of the oligarchy had been based on the traditional Polish attitude of resistance to the Empire and zealous support of the Church, from which Poland drew its cultural ideas and through which it maintained ties with Western Europe. This policy had given the Polish clergy a leading position in the government, and had brought the Poles into prominence in Europe. It had won Poland for the Church in the Hussite struggle, in the union with the Eastern Church, and in the crusade against the Turks, but it had drawn Poland away from the Slav sympathies felt by the lesser Szlachta, and especially from the war against the Order, which to a man like OleSnicki was a religious rather than a German institution. The failure to regain Silesia and the calamity in the Balkans had weakened the power of the Bishop of Cracow. The new policy of the king was to overthrow the oligarchy by concessions to the lesser Szlachta, to abandon the Turkish war, and to resume the national war with the Order. Casimir resembled in his methods the European rulers who were evolving the cc New Monarchy7’ but he differed from them in seeking help from the gentry rather than from the middle class, which in Poland was relatively small and of foreign origin. He triumphed over the ecclesiastical party in the question of the nomination of bishops. To secure the support of the Szlachta for the forthcoming war, he consented to the Statutes of Nieszawa, by which he bound himself not to pass any new laws or to summon the armed levy without consulting the Szlachta through their Sejmiki or local assemblies. Casimir was able to recover by purchase the Silesian principality of Oswiencim in 1457 and the district of Rawa from Mazo via in 1462. To these were added the Mazovian principalities of Sochaczew and Plock and the Silesian principality of Zator in 1495. The rest of Mazovia did not return to Poland until 1529.

But the great event of Casimir’s reign was the final settlement with the Teutonic Order. A new situation had arisen in the lands of the Order. The population, becoming disconten ted with such an anachronism as the ascendancy of a religious Order, began to look longingly towards the growing freedom of the neighbouring realm with its political prestige and commercial prosperity. A number of rebel groups were formed, of which the chief, the Prussian Union, in 1454 sent a petition to the Polish king for the incorporation of Prussia and Pomerania with Poland. The declaration of incorporation was opposed only by Olesnicki, now a cardinal, who felt the loss of his power acutely and died in the next year. The war lasted for thirteen years. It was impossible in a long war against fortresses to depend on the clumsy levy of the Szlachta, which had not the skill to combat the new type of soldiers that had been evolved by the Hussite wars. The campaign, therefore, was carried on by mercenary troops. The decisive battle of Puck was fought in 1462 and was followed by the capture of the chief fortresses of the knights. By the Peace of Thom in 1466 the Order surrendered to Poland Pomerania, the western part of Prussia with Marienburg, Warmia (Ermeland), Chehnno, and Michaldw. East Prussia was retained by the Grand Master with his capital at Konigsberg, as a vassal State of Poland. He pledged himself and his successors to recognise no suzerain but the Pope and the King of Poland, to contract no alliances and to wage no warn without the permission of the king. He was also given a seat in the Polish Senate. The annexed territories were organised as three Wojewodziwat Pomerania, Chelmno, and Marienburg. Poland thus recovered her lost province and acquired the lower Vistula with Thorn and Danzig, while East Prussia, which was secularised in 1526 under Albert of Hohenzollern, became an insignificant German vassal State. The Slav reaction in Central Europe had triumphed. Casimir refrained from interfering in Turkish affairs, but in 1475, by the occupation of Kilia and Akkerman, Lithuania was cut off from the Black Sea. The king concentrated his energies on the defence of his realm from the Tartars, who were wont to invade the Ukraine by the three Tartar routes or Shlakhi leading from Perekop to Red Russia. Abroad, Casimir extended the power of his dynasty and obtained for his eldest son Vladislav the crown of Bohemia in 1471 and of Hungary in 1490. His second son, John Albert (1492-1501), succeeded him as King of Poland, but the Lithuanians elected the third son, Alexander, as Grand Prince. Another son, Frederick, became a cardinal, while the youngest son, Zygmunt, was appointed by his brother to rule Silesia and Lausitz. Thus the end of the century saw the Jagiello dynasty attain a predominant position in Central Europe.

The great empire ruled over by the Jagiellos was not a unitary State. Their dynastic relations with Hungary and Bohemia led to no close association of those States with Poland. Their own possessions consisted of three groups: the kingdom of Poland, the Grand Principality of Lithuania, and the vassal States of Mazovia, Ducal Prussia, and Moldavia Poland comprised: (1) Greater Poland, which had come to include the Kujawian provinces as well as Sieradz and Lenczyca, (2) Lesser Poland, in which Lublin had been made into a province together with Cracow and Sandomierz, (3) Royal or Polish Prussia, i.a the provinces annexed by the Peace of Thorn, and (4) Red Russia. To these should be added Podolia, the subject of dispute with Lithuania, and the small parts of Silesia recovered from Bohemia Mazovia remained a vassal State till its incorporation into Poland in 1529. All these provinces were held together by a common monarch, common officials, and similar institutions, which sent representatives to a central assembly. Of the vassal States, Mazovia was soon to be incorporated, Moldavia to fall within the sphere of Turkey. Ducal Prussia remained a vassal State till the seventeenth century. The Grand Principality of Lithuania was ruled by a Grand Prince who was not necessarily King of Poland, but was usually under the supreme authority of the king. It contained (1) Lithuania, i.e. the provinces of Vilna, Troki, and Samogitia; (2) the Russian provinces in process of organisation on the Polish model, but retaining many small principalities under princes of the lines of Rurik and Gedymin. The Grand Prince was still an autocrat, but he took the advice of the Lithuanian magnates of the Gasztold, Holshanski, Radziwill, and other families, while the southern provinces were mainly in the power of the great magnates, of Russian or Lithuanian origin, of the families of Ostrogski, Czartoryski, Sanguszko, Sapieha, and others. It was not till 1569 that Lithuania was united to Poland by an organic union and fully adopted Polish institutions.

At the head of the Polish State stood the king. His power had undergone considerable modification on account of the change of dynasty. While the succession of Lewis and his male descendants (if he had any) was fixed by Casimir the Great, Lewis, in order to secure the succession for one of his daughters, was forced to grant the Charter of Koszyce. But this daughter, Jadviga, herself had no children, so that not only had Jagiello to earn and keep the favour of the Polish magnates during his own reign—he was no mere Prince Consort—but he had to grant concessions in 1425, 1430, and 1431 to secure the succession for his sons. Thus by pure chance—the accident that neither Casimir nor Lewis nor Jadviga had sons—the throne of Poland became elective. The fact that it was in practice hereditary for nearly two hundred years in the family of Jagiello was due to the importance of maintaining the union with Lithuania, where it was hereditary by custom. In theory the whole body of the Szlaclita elected the king. In practice he was chosen by the chief dignitaries of the realm. His election was followed by his coronation in Cracow by the Archbishop of Gniezno, after which he usually confirmed the rights and privileges granted by his predecessors. But although he was elected, the king was responsible to no one save in so far as he was bound to observe the terms of the charters. He was chief legislator. The Sejm was encroaching on his legislative powers, but did not seriously curtail them till the next century. The king was also chief judge, commander of the army, and supreme administrator. He governed the provinces through the Starostas, whose functions have been described. The central administration was carried on by ministers and officials whose numbers and importance were constantly growing: the Marshal who managed the Court, the Hetman who commanded the army in the field, the Treasurer, and—most important of all—the Chancellor and Deputy Chancellor who conducted all diplomatic correspondence, published all royal acts, received petitions, and spoke for the king in the parliament.

Alongside the administration, there grew up in the fifteenth century a parliamentary system, important not only as a system of representation, but as a close bond between the different provinces. The Polish Sejm or parliament in its final form consisted of a Senate and a House of Deputies. The origin of these two bodies was quite separate. In each Wojewodztwo there had been for some time a Wiec or council, composed in the main of the officials of the province. But as general matters began to interest all the provinces, it became the custom, after the death of Casimir III, for general councils to meet to discuss the question of privileges or the succession to the throne. Such general councils became more frequent in the fifteenth century. Such a general council was summoned by the king and consisted of the Bishops, Wojemdas, Kasztdans, and for a time members of the Szlachta. With them sat the king and his ministers, and the body thus constituted came to be called the Sejm. Quite different was the origin of the House of Deputies. The ordinary Szlachta began to take a lively interest in the great questions of the fifteenth century, particularly the struggle with the Church, the Hussite question, and the war with the Teutonic Order. At first they began to combine in “Confederations”, i.e. temporary unions for a specific purpose, sometimes in support of the Government, more usually in opposition to it. The towns had formed such a Confederation in 1310, and the Szlachta in 1352 had combined against the king. Though the rise of parliamentary institutions superseded the Confederation, it always remained as an extraordinary Polish institution. The Szlachta found a better medium for the expression of their views in the Council of Justice held in each province by the Starosta, Here, besides the transaction of legal business, it was customary for the gentry to meet and discuss local affairs. In the middle of the fifteenth century these councils split up into two parts, the Court of Justice and the Sejmik or Little Sejm, an assembly of all the Szlachta of the province under their Wojemda. The constitutional importance of the Sejmiki, which originated in Greater Poland, dates from the time when the king, who was pledged to impose no new taxation on the Szlachta without their consent, found it expedient to refer matters of this kind to these assemblies. The Polish parliament was at first composed of the original Sejm, which came to be called the Senate, and the whole body of Sejmiki in the provinces. It was soon found convenient for the Sejmiki to send their deputies to the Sejm, and thus the House of Deputies was formed. But the actual power of the Sejmiki remained unchanged. They continued to meet, to make their decisions, and the deputy sent to the central Sejm was merely a delegate bound by the mandate of his Sejmilc. As regards the clergy, the king dealt with questions of taxation at the synods, so that they were never represented in the Sejm. The towns were asked to send representatives, but though from time to time such delegates appeared, it was customary for Cracow only to send a deputy to the lower House. As the gentry had full representation in the House of Deputies, the Senate was limited to the Bishops, Wojewodas, Kasztelans, and the Ministers, numbering eighty-seven in all at the end of the century. Since there were no titles in Poland, save the honorary title of Prince given to descendants of Rurik and Gedymin, a seat in the Senate was esteemed a high honour and the offices of Wojewoda and Kasztelan were generally held by the great families in each province. The Sejm met in time of necessity at the summons of the king at no fixed place, but usually at Piotrkow. The procedure was for the Senate to assemble and greet the king. The House of Deputies met separately and elected its Marshal. The king, through the Chancellor, then addressed the united Houses and presented the business for discussion. Then followed the vote of the Senate, which in early days decided the matter. But as the influence of the Deputies grew, the lower House too deliberated apart and voted. The two Houses could combine for common discussion. In the House of Deputies unanimity must be secured to pass a measure, since each Deputy had a mandate from a Sejmik representing the Szlachta of a whole province, which had already decided on its policy. Further, in matters of taxation which rested on fundamental charters, only the whole Szlachta of a province could agree to a change of policy. The right of one Deputy to stop the business of the House by his veto was thus inherent in the parliamentary system, and resulted from the power of the Sejmiki over the Sejm. It was not its use but its abuse which became so disastrous in later times. To pass a bill, the consent of King, Senate, and House of Deputies was necessary. The Polish Sejm, which thus developed as a legislative and representative institution, represented chiefly the Szlachta and its legislative activities were confined to matters which interested them as a class.

Besides the political predominance which the gentry were gaining by the parliamentary system, a great economic change began towards the end of the fifteenth century—a change which also contributed to overthrow the balance between the classes. The period of peasant prosperity reached its height in the reigns from Casimir III to the death of Jagiello. But in the middle of the century, for economic and other reasons, the gentry began to find rents derived from their peasants insufficient. The fall in the value of money, and the increased standard of living due to contact with the nobles of Western Europe, caused the land-owners to increase their rents. Further, the revolution in military tactics had displaced the levy of the Szlachta as a military force by professional mercenary soldiers. The knight found his vocation gone, and he settled down on the land as an agriculturalist. In order to find labour for the expansion of his small farm into a large estate that would pay, he began to demand more work from his dependants, and the small burden hitherto laid on the peasant began to grow into the formidable pansz-czyzna or forced labour which became the economic basis of the serfdom which grew up in the next century. The new intensive agriculture of the Szlachta found specially good fields in Red Russia and Podolia. Later on, the export of com through Danzig to Western Europe began, and gave the land-owners a market for their products. This economic change was followed by a tendency to limit the autonomy and civil rights of the peasant class. Their autonomy was brought to an end by the purchase of the office of Soltys or headman by the local squire, who took over with the office the rights attaching to it. Further, by legislation in 1493 and 1496 completed in the next century, the peasant was forbidden to leave his village unless he obtained the consent of the squire. The curtailment of the peasant’s right of appeal to the royal courts gradually brought him under the jurisdiction of his lord. Thus, though the peasant remained a landholder, his burdens were increased and his economic and political position considerably weakened.

The prosperity of the towns also received a severe blow. The German population after 1311 had ceased to present a political problem. Content to avail themselves of the advantages of the rising power of Poland and the autonomy based on past charters, they developed their wealth particularly by the Eastern transit trade. They occasionally sent deputies to the Sejm, but generally were not interested in national questions except in so far as they affected trade, when they found it simpler to deal directly with the ministers. But their prosperity suffered from the occupation of the Black Sea coast by the Turks, the rise of the Crimean Khanate, and the ruin of the Genoese colonies. At the same time the discovery of the sea-route to India altered the whole system of trade routes. The same causes which created the commercial prosperity of Spain, Portugal, Holland, and England, ruined the cities of Poland and Red Russia. Eastern products were imported by sea to Danzig. Further, the landowner began to envy the wealth of the burghers and to compete with them, and to deal directly with the merchants of Danzig through their own agents who were often Jews. Danzig, which benefited enormously by the fall of Novgorod, rose to great wealth and power at the expense of the other cities.

The Szlachta, on the other hand, steadily increased their political power during the fifteenth century. Their rights as a class were based on a series of concessions granted by the Jagiello kings, from the Charter of Czerwinsk in 1422 containing the important clause “Neminem captiva-bimus nisi iure vietum,” and the Statutes of Nieszawa in 1454 which raised the Sejmiki to constitutional importance, to the important “Nil Novi” Act of 1505 which legalised the position of the Sejm. These concessions gave the Szlachta a privileged position above other classes and at the same time gave it a dominant place in the government of the State. It must be remembered that the Polish Szlachta, often incorrectly described as an aristocracy, was a very large body which had been recruited freely from many sources, and contained, besides the element which was elsewhere called the nobility, elements which were known in other countries as knights, lesser gentry, or yeoman farmers. All these elements had been merged in the Szlachta, in which in legal theory strict equality existed. No distinction was made between magnate and small farmer, rich and poor, Pole, Lithuanian, Russian, and German. There was no peerage, and the highest dignities were in theory open to the humblest Szlachcic. Moreover, at the end of the century the Szlachta were placing their position on a firmer economic basis by settling down to farm their own estates. They also began to assume family names. An individual usually formed his family name by the addition of the suffix ski to the name of his estate. Having in every way established its position as a class, the Szlachta proceeded to close its ranks. Thenceforward admission to the class was strictly limited and was only possible in cases of adoption by the clan or the conferment of nobility by the king. As a result of this increase in the privileges of the Szlachta the balance of classes, which had been stable since 1374, began to be seriously disturbed, and by 1505 the Szlachta had risen to be the predominant body as against the peasants, burghers, the Church, and even the King. This phenomenon can only be explained by the weakness of the other classes. There was no class strong enough to be a counterbalance to the Szlachta. The peasantry were sinking into serfdom, the middle class was partly foreign and politically indifferent, while the gentry were patriotic, politically conscious, and rapidly absorbing from the humanism of the time the ideals of ancient Rome. The monarchy had no traditions of Roman law to support its dignity; there was no social or religious struggle of which a king might take advantage to strengthen his position; there was no national class except the gentry who by their power of election and of legislation in the Sejm could control the power of the monarch. Poland was about to enter an age, in which monarchy was to be almost universally supreme in Europe, under the rule of a democratic gentry and a representative parliament without parallel save in Hungary and England. The tolerance with which Poland had admitted great bodies of religious dissidents to her State, and extended a share in all her institutions to foreigners who were politically far behind the Poles, was destined to cause great danger in the future. But such danger was scarcely visible on the horizon in the fifteenth century, when the royal power was still considerable, and the prestige of Poland abroad was equalled by her vigorous political life at home. The fifteenth century was an age of astonishingly rapid developments in Poland, mid marked a great triumph for all the Northern Slavs. Though the Czechs, the Poles, and the Muscovites were acting quite independently—even with hostility to each other—each of these nations achieved success in its own way; and Slavdom, which in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries had been crushed between the Tartar hammer and the German anvil, rose not only to liberty, but to power, and was able to inflict severe blows on its former German and Tartar oppressors.

The political development of Poland was reflected in its intellectual advance. The Academy established in Cracow by Casimir the Great had not survived the troubled times of Lewis. By the zeal of Jagiello and Jadviga, the University of Cracow was founded again in 1400; and besides the study of law, the teaching of theology, mathematics, and astronomy was established. The university played its part both in the education of the Polish youth and in the theological controversies of the time. Among its professors was the astronomer, Wojciech of Brudzewo, one of whose pupils was the famous Nicholas Kopernik. The language of science and literature in Poland continued to be Latin. For many reasons—the difficulty of adapting the Latin alphabet to Polish phonology, the use of Latin by the Catholic Church and all the early educators of the Poles— the Polish language was not adopted as a literary medium, as Russian was in the Kievan period, until the Reformation. Some works in Polish have come down from earlier periods, but the annals, the lives of saints, and the chronicles are in Latin. A successor to Gallus and Kadlubek appeared in the chronicler, John of Czamkdw. In the fifteenth century appeared the great figure of John Dlugosz. Son of a knight who fought at Grunwald, Dlugosz became secretary to the great Cardinal Olesinicki, under whose patronage he maintained close touch with the high politics of his time. Casimir IV chose him to serve on various embassies and entrusted to him the education of his sons. Among his many important works, his title to fame rests on his History of Poland in twelve volumes, modelled on the style of Livy and combining a mastery of the Latin tongue and style with a great power of graphic narrative and a masterly handling of his subject. His book remained the standard history of Poland until the eighteenth century, and even to-day it is one of the leading authorities for the history of the fifteenth century. The chief intellectual movement of the time was due to the influence of the revival of humanistic studies in Italy. Many Poles were wont to visit Italy for their education and to bring back the new knowledge to Poland. This contact was made closer after the Council of Basle, and it found its chief exponent in Olesnicki, whose style and oratory excited the admiration of the papal court. Foreigners like Callimaco Buonaccorsi came to settle in Poland and influenced the natives. Callimaco himself wrote the life of one of the leading Polish humanists, Gregory of Sanok, Archbishop of Lemberg, who lectured on Virgil at Cracow. The movement brought the Poles into the intellectual stream of Europe, and it was not limited to mere subtleties of style or theological controversies. In John Ostrorog, Wojewoda of Poznan, appeared a really original thinker. He compared Home with Poland, supported the idea of the emancipation of the State from the Church, and offered quite modern views as to the organisation of the State. He displays a strong sense of nationality in his attitude towards the Germans. “Let everyone’’’, he writes, “who dwells in Poland learn the Polish language.” He represents both the nationalism of his country and the keen interest in political science which became so prominent a feature of Polish literature. The humanistic movement undoubtedly brought an interest in Roman history to the Szlachta, and contributed to that view of a patrician republicanism which was becoming the ideal of the Polish gentry.