-The students need to get to know the basic facts pertaining to the Polish-Lithuanian Common-wealth, formally known as the Kingdom of Poland and the Great Duchy of Lithuania. The follow-ing information may serve as an introduction:
In 1569 a new state was established in the Lublin Sejm (Parliament). The Crown of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania merged to form the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (Rzeczpo-spolita Obojga Narodów in Polish).
The previous personal union (since 1386) between the countries transformed into a real union. From that moment on, both states shared the same monarch, Sejm and foreign policy. The central and land offices, the treasury, the army and the judiciary were to be separate. Lithuanian and Ruthenian nobles got Polonized over time. In practice, however, the separateness of the Crown and Lithuania had never been blurred and all the ethnic, religious and cultural differences and traditions were mutually respected.
The Commonwealth (especially its eastern part) was inhabited by representatives of different na-tionalities, speaking different languages and being representatives of different religions and be-liefs. They included Poles, Lithuanians, Russians, Germans, Jews, Armenians, Tartars, Wallachians and others.
A wide religious tolerance prevailed in Poland of these times. Loyalty to the Commonwealth was the thing that mattered most. Hence, apart from Roman Catholics many noblemen were Calvinists (mainly in Prussia and Livonia), Orthodox (descendants of Ruthenian boyars) or even Muslim (Ta-tars).
The Commonwealth was one of the largest and most populous countries of 16th- to 17th-century Europe. At its largest territorial extent, in the early 17th century, it covered almost 1,000,000 km2 and as of 1618 sustained a multi-ethnic population of almost 12 million.
The Commonwealth had many features unique among contemporary states. Its political system was characterized by strict control of the monarchs and their power (they were elected and had to confirm the previous laws and guarantees of privileges and freedoms of the ruling class – Commonwealth nobility or gentry. The Parliament (Sejm) represented about 10% of the total population, which was an absolute record of the times. This system of government was a precur-sor to modern concepts of democracy, constitutional monarchy and federation.
After many decades of prosperity, the Commonwealth entered a period of political, military, and economic decline. Its growing weakness (especially the inability and unwillingness to adapt to changing times in Europe) led to its partitioning by Austria, Prussia, and Russia during the late 18th century. Shortly before its fall, the Commonwealth carried out a massive reform effort and en-acted the 3 May Constitution (1791), which was the first codified constitution in modern European history and the second in modern world history after the United States Constitution. Unfortu-nately, it was too late and the Commonwealth was finally destroyed by its three aggressive super-power neighbours.
The teacher should rather simplify the scientific terms and/or avoid overburdening the students with too much of historical data, depending on their age, general knowledge and cognitive skills.
The above introduction may also be include a few more components such as:
-The coat of arms representing the Commonwealth and the Royal Banner
-The map of the Commonwealth in the past
-The territories of the Commonwealth in comparison to modern map of Central and Eastern Eu-rope
Activities and their web resources : (to be transferred to and/or modified into Canva History templates in the development process)
Intro: Presentation of another video discussing the topic of “Commonwealth of Diverse Cultures: Poland’s Heritage”. A British historian, professor Norman Davies [who literally fell in love and is fascinated with Polish History writing very popular history books] is going to present his ideas about Polish historical heritage to the world with a special view to the Polish traditions of com-monwealth and democracy and in the context of modern Europe. The students are given again a similar task [as with the first video] to focus on the main points/arguments/special features per-taining to the Commonwealth. the students should be also encouraged to make notes [if possible] while watching the video. The link to the video is provided below.