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The Northern War and the crisis of government in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1655-1660)

Frost, Robert Ian; (1990) The Northern War and the crisis of government in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1655-1660). Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines the crisis of government experienced by the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania in the aftermath of the Cossack Revolt, which began in 1648, and the invasions of Muscovy [1654] and Sweden [1655]. The Commonwealth's collapse in the face of these invasions demonstrated serious weaknesses in its decentralised political system. The essential concern of this thesis is to explain why all attempts to introduce political reform should have failed after 1655, despite a widespread conviction that reform was necessary. The thesis concentrates on royal policy under John Casimir [1648-1668]. The decision of the royal Court to pursue the election of a successor to John Casimir vivente rege has frequently been blamed for the failure of reform, since concentration on the election, it is argued, meant that the Court missed a good opportunity to reform the Polish Diet by introducing majority voting and abolishing the principle of the liberum veto, by which the vote of one deputy was sufficient to break the proceedings of the Diet. In the 1660's, royal efforts to secure the election convinced many that the veto was a necessary barrier to royal absolutism. This thesis examines the reasons for the adoption of the election campaign, and challenges the view that this decision was taken primarily for private or dynastic reasons. It concentrates on the period 1655-1660, and examines the decision to pursue the election against the background of the conduct of foreign policy during the war. In this context, the decision was sensible and seemed to have a good chance of success. Support for the election remained strong on the Senate Council until at least 1661, while both the King and leading politicians began to have serious doubts about the wisdom of introducing majority rule.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The Northern War and the crisis of government in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1655-1660)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Social sciences; Cossack Revolt
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10110205
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