Monthly Archives: June 2021

A Polish Officer in Dutch Brazil (NL Embassy in PL)

Numerous Poles live and work in the Netherlands today, and they have been doing so for hundreds of years. One of the most colourful and famous examples is the Protestant nobleman Krzysztof Arciszewski (1592-1656), an officer, engineer and author, who through became something of a celebrity in both the seventeenth-century Netherlands and Poland. Arciszewski first arrived in Holland in 1624, at the time of the Eight Years’ War, and until 1629 actively participated in a number of battles in both the Low Countries and France, always fighting on the Protestant side. For example, he partook in the Dutch attempts to end the Spanish siege of Breda in 1624-1625, and he fought in the siege of ’s-Hertogenbosch in 1629. Moreover, he studied military engineering and artillery at Leiden University. In 1629, Arciszewski was offered a three-year contract with the Dutch West-India Company and in the rank of captain left for Brazil. He celebrated multiple victories against the Portuguese, and was eventually promoted colonel. After the arrival, in 1637, of the new governor-general, Count John Maurice of Nassau-Siegen (1604-1679), Arciszewski continued to play a key role in the Brazilian campaign, but disagreements between the two men led to Arciszewski’s return to Holland in 1639. He broke with the Dutch military, but stayed in the United Provinces until 1646, at which time he was summoned back to Poland and nominated royal general of artillery. Arciszewski next participated in a number of battles against the Turks and Cossacks, before retiring in 1649. He died in 1656.

Arciszewski had a keen interest in cartography and ethnography. He made maps of Brazil and wrote descriptions of indigenous Brazilian populations, which were used and published by Dutch scholars. In addition, he wrote poetry, and the Dutch West-India Company awarded him a golden necklace and medal for his services. Writing about Brazil in 1642, a Dutch jurist stated that “most commanders are not best pleased with the rule of Count Maurice. It is Arciszewski whom they esteem.”

*I originally wrote this post for the social media outlets of the Dutch Embassy in Poland. This was post no. 17.

New publication: Branding Jan III Sobieski and his letters

“Every civilized Dutchman who has studied modern history, even if only in general terms, knows the brave Jan Sobieski.” These words come from a book review from 1832, discussing the recent publication of the letters of Jan III Sobieski (1629-1696), in Dutch translation. The review illustrates how famous the former Polish king was in the Northern Netherlands, even more than a century after his death.

I have previously written about Sobieski’s Dutch reception in the late seventeenth century, prior to his acclaimed victory at the Battle of Vienna, in 1683. In a new publication, entitled ‘A Hero and His History. The Branding of Jan III Sobieski and His Letters in the Northern Netherlands during the Early Nineteenth Century’, I explore a related topic, venturing out of the early modern period. In the late 1820s and early 1830s, Europe saw the appearance of several editions of Sobieski’s correspondence. Three Dutch editions were published in The Hague. My publiation analyses the ways in which Sobieski and his letters were branded in these Dutch editions, particularly in the books’ extensive front matter. It argues that, while the Dutch branding was directly inspired by earlier French and Polish versions, the motives behind these different editions varied greatly, depending on their contexts. Of key importance were events related to Polish patriotism, such as the November Uprising. A number of reviews furthermore make clear how the brands in the Dutch editions were received.

My research has resulted in a book chapter, which has now appeared in H. van den Braber, J. Dera, J. Joosten and M. Steenmeijer (eds.), Branding Books Across the Ages. Strategies and Key Concepts in Literary Branding (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press 2021). You can find the Open Access publication on the publisher’s website.