Kulczycki Book Prize in Polish Studies

2010 Citation Recipient

Neal Pease

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.

Co-Winner: Neal Pease
Title: Rome’s Most Faithful Daughter: The Catholic Church and Independent Poland, 1914-1939 (Ohio University Press & Swallow Press)

Neal Pease has written one of the best works on interwar Poland in several decades, in any language, as well as the most serious and thorough work on the Catholic Church in modern Poland. Rome’s Most Faithful Daughter tackles one of the most vexing questions of modern Polish history, the relationship between Catholicism and Polish politics. Pease places the triangular relationships among the Church hierarchy in Poland, the government of the fledgling Polish state and the Vatican within an international context and against the background of European politics in the 1920s and 1930s. The presentation of the interwar Church caught between traditional Catholicism and its traditional role as the guardian of Polish national identity on the one hand, and the modern secular culture on the other hand, is illuminating as well as subtle and nuanced. Avoiding sweeping generalizations about Polish Catholicism and Polish politics, Pease succeeds in maintaining a balance along some of the most treacherous canyons of Polish studies. When discussing the anti-Semitism of the Catholic Church in Poland, for example, Pease exposes the frequent duplicity of the Polish episcopate, and also places it in a broad European context, especially in comparison with Nazi racist attitudes in neighboring Germany. He is thus able to indicate how the Church’s uneasy relationship with Poland’s sizeable Jewish community would lay the groundwork for Poles’ destructive ambivalence during the Holocaust and afterward. Rome’s Most Faithful Daughteris written with verve and wit, and is based upon thorough archival research. Pease displays a gift for succinct presentation of an era, an event, or a personage, capturing salient characteristics without ignoring its complexities. He captures the Polish sense of mission; the needs and desires of those difficult decades; and most importantly, a sense of what all this has to do with Poland’s (and Polish citizens’) terrible fate after 1939. It will become essential reading for historians of Poland and of the Church in interwar Europe.

Co-Winner: Clare Cavanagh