Michal Choptiany

Socinian Education in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth: Intellectual Geography at Work

Intellectual Geography / Monday 5 September, 2011

The aim of this paper is to present the Socinian educational system in a manner slightly different from the historical accounts which have been created to date. What is surprising for one who reads works of such scholars in the history of the Polish Socinian movement as Jan Kot, Łukasz Kurdybacha, or Janusz Tazbir is the fact that they hardly ever presented schools established by the Socinians (i.e. gymnasia in Raków, Pińczów, Lewartów, Śmigiel) as a network or a system. Instead, they used to focus their attention on one of them, in majority of cases—on the Racovian Gymnasium Bonarum Artium, or the gymnasium in Lewartów—and made observations on the exchange of scholars between those educational centres, but did not make an attempt to connect them into a geographical and intellectual system or to track the ways in which schools were linked with each other.

This paper is designed therefore as an attempt to present the Socinian schools that existed on the territory of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth at the turn of the seventeenth century not as a set of separate educational ‘islands’ but as both a geographical and an intellectual system. Based on the preserved archival materials of the Polish Brethren (correspondence, school documents, albums, published and manuscript literary works), I will present results of a preliminary examination of the intensity and type of relations between the above-mentioned schools. I will explore the importance of geographical contexts (distance between them, distance from the intellectual centres of the Commonwealth and Europe, the dialectic of centre and periphery combined with the dialectic of orthodoxy and heterodoxy), indicate possible differences between them, before finally showing by what material means the circulation of ideas and exchange of scholars between peripheral schools was possible. Although the number of sources is limited, there is still a room for a historical narrative that would combine these scholarly communities into a single network, which should in turn be incorporated into a broader context of educational reform in East Central Europe.