Department of 20th Century History
The establishment of the Department of 20th Century History was the last link in a long chain of transformations in the organisational structure of the Institute of History. An ordinance of the Minister of Higher Education of 1969 replaced the existing units with seven departments, including the Department of Contemporary History of Poland and the World, and the Department of the History and Geography of the Contemporary World; an additional unit, Department of the History of People’s Republic of Poland, was established in 1974.
In 1990 historians studying the 20th century were brought together in the Department of Contemporary History, later renamed Department of 20th Century History. It has been headed by Marian Wojciechowski, Tomasz Wituch and, since 2003, Andrzej Chojnowski.
Research into the history of the 20th century developed slowly, for obvious reasons; in addition, at the beginning it was under very strong ideological pressure from the communist authorities. It was not until the 1960s that the first serious studies on the political life in Poland before and after 1918 began to be produced (Henryk Jabłoński’s seminar).
The 1970s and the 1980s brought an improvement in the quality of publications and there emerged several distinctive research specialities at the Institute. Scholars studying the political history of the Second Polish Republic included Andrzej Garlicki, Jerzy Holzer, Szymon Rudnicki, and then Andrzej Chojnowski and Tomasz Nałęcz; there also appeared first works devoted to the Second World War (Włodzimierz Borodziej). An active centre of studies into the history of people’s movement was associated with Józef Ryszard Szaflik’s seminar. History of Europe was investigated by scholars like Jerzy Holzer, Jerzy Borejsza and Tomasz Wituch, while that of other continents was researched by, among others, Andrzej Bartnicki. The Institute’s important calling card was research into the history of Russia and Slavdom conducted during Ludwik Bazylow’s seminar.
The breakthrough of 1989 opened up new prospects for the historiography of contemporary history. This made it possible to intensify research into the Second Polish Republic (Jerzy Kochanowski, Tomasz Nałęcz, Szymon Rudnicki), history of the people’s movement (Romuald Turkowski), history of European states (Andrzej Chojnowski, Jerzy Kochanowski, Piotr Majewski, Jerzy Tomaszewski, Tomasz Wituch), American affairs (Krzysztof Michałek), and to start research into Poland’s international situation after 1945 and the question of resettlement of the population in the Polish-German borderland (Włodzimierz Borodziej). The most important effect of the political transformation has been a historical analysis of the People’s Republic of Poland period – first through editions of sources (Andrzej Garlicki, Włodzimierz Borodziej, Jerzy Kochanowski), and then through monographs (Marcin Kula’s seminar).
Research carried out at the Department of 20th Century History varies in terms of both themes and chronology. The earliest period is explored by Dr Michał Leśniewski, who researches the history of the southern region of Africa and colonial conflicts at the turn of the 20th century.
The period between the two world wars continues to attract a lot of attention. European aspects of the period are within the sphere of interest of Prof. Jerzy Kochanowski (authoritarian systems), Dr Piotr Majewski (Czechoslovakia, Czech-German frontier), Dr Paweł Skibiński (Spain) and Prof. Romuald Turkowski (agrarianism). The history of the Second Polish Republic is analysed by Dr Marek Deszczyński (the economy and military matters), Prof. Tomasz Nałęcz (parliamentarism) and Prof. Szymon Rudnicki (the Jewish question).
The Department scholars devote a lot of time to the study of the People’s Republic of Poland. The period is analysed by Dr Błażej Brzostek, Prof. Jerzy Kochanowski and Dr Marcin Zaremba (social history), Dr Tadeusz Rutkowski (functioning of the academia) and Prof. Andrzej Chojnowski (culture). For Prof. Marcin Kula the times of the People’s Republic of Poland provide material for reflection on ways of studying history.
A project going beyond the framework of one historical period is carried out by Prof. Włodzimierz Borodziej, who is the initiator and editor of a multi-volume edition of sources dealing with the history of Polish foreign policy since 1918.