Marek Cichocki
The Beginning of the End of History: Political Traditions in the Nineteenth Century

A voice in the discussion on the topic of the identity of the old continent

Since the current situation of Europe and the West can be described as the end of the end of history, and thus as the end of belief in an unshakeable continuity of the European, modern civilisation in its uniform, universal and dominant character, it is thus obviously not possible to avoid questions of what this actually means. It’s also not possible to avoid the lack of answers that we are faced with. But it just might be that the lack of answers is the essence of the current state of affairs, and although this most frequently fills us – people created by the civilisation of the end of history – with uncontrollable fear and a sense of helplessness, this juncture is actually the source of possible hope: the fact that we no longer know the future. For perhaps what disappears is the greatest cause of our soothing comfort and increasingly disturbing lack of spiritual curiosity. Certainly the end of the end of history signifies that the knowledge we asked about at the onset, that is of the political history of the nineteenth and twentieth century, is becoming or is already “closed” knowledge. This does not by any measure mean it is useless knowledge. Derived from reflection upon various phenomena of the entire, combined nineteenth and twentieth century processes, it still allows us to understand what contemporary Europe became and where the roots of its current weaknesses lie; nevertheless, and this we must accept, it tells us less and less or even nothing at all about what the future holds for Europe. For it is knowledge that functions in a particular model of Western modernity, which on account of various factors such as internal crises and global forces is approaching its end – as the end of “the end of history”: a certain history. I don’t want to assert that the status of this knowledge is now similar to the knowledge of the complexity of events in ancient Greece in the times when it stopped being taken into account, while Rome became identified with the reality of the globalised world of that day. It’s not yet antique knowledge or at best classical knowledge. It continues to hold practical and deeper applicability, and for this reason should not be discarded.

The lack of historical sensitivity that is typical for the contemporary European is a source of political weakness. Thanks to historical knowledge there is still much that we can understand in existing and continually influential political phenomena. Thus, the political history of the nineteenth century still explains the complicated psychological state of relations between the Germans and the French, which remain till this day, but have their real genesis in the events of 1807; it uncovers the causes of unclear German-Italian relations, that are closely related to the circumstances of the emergence of both modern European states; it shows the secret alliance between Hungarians and Germans, as well as the intimacy between Czechs and Russians. It will prevent us from fantasising about Central Europe as remaining significant politically after the collapse of the Habsburg monarchy; make us aware of the inability to overcome the incompatibility of the British to continental matters; the strategic connection between France and Russia; as well as the unclear and uncertain character of American Prometheism in relation to Europe, as well as many other matters. That is enough for now concerning the practical meaning of various political questions. There are nevertheless issues that are more profound, which on the other hand make it possible to understand the irresoluble nature of Europe’s spiritual crisis, that is the result of developing European modernity, the civilisation of the end of history. I mean here such issues as the connections between capitalism, democracy and individualism, or the opposition between the civilisation of culture and religion, created by liberalism by means of modern imperialism: through the evolution of nationalism or the endless faith in scientific progress, with an undercurrent of nihilism. All this leads to the development of such an image of humanity and the world, which becomes the source of a spiritual crisis, and attempts at overcoming this crisis that rest on the notion of the inescapable end of history.

Translated by Christopher Garbowski

Marek Cichocki
The Beginning of the End of History: Political Traditions in the Nineteenth Century

A voice in the discussion on the topic of the identity of the old continent

Publisher: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, Warszawa 2021
Translation rights: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy,
Foreign language translations: Germany (Północ i południe), the Czech Republic (a selection of essays)

Instructive and competent, and, what is more, a highly readable essayistic story by a historian of ideas about the nineteenth century: the genetic period for the ideological character of contemporary Europe. This is a voice in the discussion on the topic of the identity of the old continent, the crisis it is experiencing and the chances of overcoming it. The eponymous play on words – “the beginning of the end” – refers to the observation that before our very eyes we are witnessing the exhaustion of a manner of thinking and acting, embodying the conviction of the end of history, brought to the attention of a broader public three decades ago by Francis Fukuyama.

A good idea of the view of the century presented in the  book can be gained from the  metaphors Ian Bostridge coined of those times: “volcanic” (the  Napoleonic era) and “winter” (the  post-Napoleonic period). The “volcanic” period of the first half of the century consists in the revivalism and prometheanism transforming the conditions of life in the spirit of what was best in the heritage of the French Revolution propagated by Napoleon. The “winter”, a metaphor taken from Schubert’s Winter Journey, was the spread of nihilism, manifested in the loss of faith in the ideal of emancipation of the individual in the spirit of an individualistic understanding of freedom.

A parallel current of reflection within the book is the Polish phenomenon of a nation modernising itself despite having lost its statehood as a result of the so-called partitions of the state toward the end of the eighteenth century. Cichocki discusses the views of the greatest Polish thinkers as well as the efforts undertaken in the nineteenth century by Poles in the new political circumstances – efforts that prepared them for the rebirth of the Polish state in a new form. The difficult experiences during the times of the loss of statehood are portrayed as a resource of political culture: invaluable in the political changes that are currently taking place. This resource includes a wealth of models of a nation managing itself in troubled times.

Tomasz Garbol

Translated by Christopher Garbowski

Selected samples

Julita Deluga
Wojtek Wawszczyk, Tomasz Leśniak
Anna Kańtoch
Andrzej Bobkowski
Wisława Szymborska
Zdzisław Kranodębski
Andrzej Nowak
Wiesław Myśliwski
Jarosław Jakubowski
Anna Piwkowska
Roman Honet
Miłosz Biedrzycki
Wojciech Chmielewski
Aleksandra Majdzińska
Tomasz Różycki
Maciej Hen
Jakub Nowak
Elżbieta Cherezińska
歐菈·沃丹斯卡-波欽斯卡(Ola Woldańska-Płocińska)
作者:沃伊切赫·維德瓦克(Wojciech Widłak), 插圖:亞歷珊德拉·克珊諾夫斯卡(Aleksandra Krzanowska)
文字:莫妮卡·烏特尼-斯特魯加瓦(Monika Utnik-Strugała), 概念和插圖:皮歐特·索哈(Piotr Socha)
作者:亞格涅絲卡·斯特爾馬什克(Agnieszka Stelmaszyk)
尤安娜·日斯卡(Joanna Rzyska)、阿嘉妲·杜德克(Agata Dudek)、瑪格熱妲·諾瓦克(Małgorzata Nowak) Druganoga出版社,華沙2021
艾麗莎·皮歐特夫斯卡(Eliza Piotrowska)
米科瓦伊·帕辛斯基(Mikołaj Pasiński)、瑪格熱妲·赫爾巴(Gosia Herba)
歐菈·沃丹斯卡-波欽斯卡(Ola Woldańska-Płocińska)
瑪麗安娜·奧克雷亞克(Marianna Oklejak)
拉法爾·科希克(Rafał Kosik)
亞歷珊德拉·沃丹斯卡-波欽斯卡(Aleksandra Woldańska-Płocińska)
巴托米耶·伊格納邱克(Bartłomiej Ignaciuk), 阿嘉塔·洛特-伊格納邱克(Agata Loth-Ignaciuk)
文字和插圖:皮歐特·卡爾斯基(Piotr Karski)
文字和插圖:皮歐特·卡爾斯基(Piotr Karski)
羅珊娜·延澤耶夫斯卡-弗魯貝爾 (Roksana Jędrzejewska-Wróbel)
作者:普舎米斯瓦夫·維赫特洛維奇(Przemysław Wechterowicz) 插圖:艾米莉·吉烏巴克(Emilia Dziubak)
尤斯提娜·貝納雷(Justyna Bednarek) 插圖:丹尼爾·德拉圖爾(Daniel De Latour)
尤安娜·巴托西克(Joanna Bartosik)
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Jan Kochanowski
Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz
Olga Tokarczuk
Władysław Stanisław Reymont
An Ancient Tale
Stanisław Rembek
Elżbieta Cherezińska
Henryk Sienkiewicz
Maria Dąbrowska
Stefan Żeromski
Bronisław Wildstein
Zbigniew Herbert / Wisława Szymborska
Karol Wojtyła
Wiesław Myśliwski
Czesław Miłosz
Anna Świrszczyńska / Melchior Wańkowicz
Tadeusz Borowski / Gustaw Herling-Grudziński
Wiesław Helak
Góra Tabor
Adriana Szymańska
Paweł Rzewuski
Mariusz Staniszewski
Radek Rak
Urszula Honek
Kazimierz Orłoś
Rafał Wojasiński
Antonina Grzegorzewska
Józef Mackiewicz
Tobiasz Piątkowski, Marek Oleksicki
Daniel Odija
Bronisław Wildstein
Józef Mackiewicz
Józef Mackiewicz
Witold Szabłowski
Andrzej Muszyński
Wiesław Helak
Bartosz Jastrzębski
Dariusz Sośnicki
Łukasz Orbitowski
Jakub Małecki
אנדז'יי ספקובסקי
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Wiesław Myśliwski
Jakub Małecki
Aleksandra Lipczak
Jacek Dukaj
Wit Szostak
Bartosz Biedrzycki
Zyta Rudzka
Maciej Płaza
Wojciech Chmielewski
Paweł Huelle
Przemysław "Trust" Truściński
Angelika Kuźniak
Wojciech Kudyba
Michał Protasiuk
Stanisław Rembek
Krzysztof Karasek
Elżbieta Isakiewicz
Artur Daniel Liskowacki
Jarosław Jakubowski
Zbigniew Stawrowski
Szczepan Twardoch
Wojciech Chmielarz
Robert Małecki
Zygmunt Miłoszewski
Anna Piwkowska
Dominika Słowik
Wojciech Chmielewski
Barbara Banaś
Rafał Mikołajczyk
Jerzy Szymik
Waldemar Bawołek
Julia Fiedorczuk
Jakub Szamałek
Witold Szabłowski
Jacek Dukaj
Grzegorz Górny, Janusz Rosikoń
Paweł Piechnik
Andrzej Strumiłło


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Piotr Mitzner
Paweł Sołtys
Wacław Holewiński
Anna Potyra
Wiesław Helak
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marek Stokowski
Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki
Jakub Małecki
Łukasz Orbitowski
Małgorzata Rejmer
Rafał Wojasiński
Wojciech Kudyba
Włodzimierz Bolecki
Jerzy Liebert
Wojciech Zembaty
Wojciech Chmielarz
Bogdan Musiał
Joanna Siedlecka
Krzysztof Tyszka-Drozdowski
Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz
Marek Bieńczyk
Leszek Elektorowicz
Adrian Sinkowski
Szymon Babuchowski
Lech Majewski
Weronika Murek
Agnieszka Świętek
Stanisław Szukalski
Barbara Klicka
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Szczepan Twardoch
Wiesław Helak
Maria Wilczek-Krupa
Anna Kańtoch
Rafał Kosik
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Dorota Masłowska
Wiesław Myśliwski
Martyna Bunda
Olga Tokarczuk
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Waldemar Bawołek
Marek Oleksicki, Tobiasz Piątkowski
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Urszula Zajączkowska
Marzanna Bogumiła Kielar
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Wojciech Orliński
Klementyna Suchanow
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Natalia Budzyńska
Marian Sworzeń
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