Kulczycki Book Prize in Polish Studies

2014 Citation Recipient

David Frick

The Kulczycki Book Prize in Polish Studies (formerly the Orbis Book Prize), established in 1996 and sponsored by the Kulczycki family, former owners of the Orbis Books Ltd. of London, England, is awarded annually for the best book in any discipline, on any aspect of Polish affairs, published in the previous calendar year.

Winner: David Frick
Title: Kith, Kin, and Neighbors: Communities and Confessions in Seventeenth-Century Wilno (Cornell University Press)

In this imaginative and richly textured study, as multilingual as its subject, David Frick brings to vivid life an early modern European city, and explains the complex spatial and institutional arrangements of coexistence of its polyglot and multiconfessional populace, also divided among various estates.  In the 17th century, Wilno was both the “second capital” of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and home to a multitude of peoples and adherents of no fewer than five different variants of Christianity, as well as Jews (including Karaims) and Muslims.  Carefully piecing together evidence from a wealth of original and published sources, and employing a mastery of language and structure, Frick recreates the bygone city in his pages, practically house by house, and guides the reader through a colorful tour of its streets; along the way, he points out who lived where, and near to whom, and demonstrates the extensive and intimate intermingling of the Wilnians who spoke different languages, or similar ones written in differing scripts, and espoused different though kindred Abrahamic faiths: the “kith, kin, and neighbors” of his title.  The author goes on to describe, subtly and convincingly, the changing conventions and customs that regulated and sought to moderate conflicts among the various communities of the city, and more often than not enabled its residents to live together in reasonable harmony.  Brilliantly conceived, meticulously researched, and gracefully written, Kith, Kin, and Neighbors is scholarship at its finest, and takes its place as a tour de force of urban history.