This book explores resilience, social capital and relationships of power in an examination of the manner in which capital can be converted from one form to another. Through a study of the survival of the Polish gentry, in spite of the communist regime's attempts to disempower and discredit them through land reform and high-profile trials, Patrons of History shows how the gentry managed not only to survive as a class, but also to remain influential. By revitalising older forms of cultural capital invested with education and transnational networks, the gentry were able to transform wealth, land, patronage, lifestyle and the ability to define patriotism and authorise a version of history, so as to ensure that noble heritage remained an advantageous resource in the face of communist opposition. Drawing on rich interview material spanning fifteen years, Patrons of History sheds light not only on communism as it existed and the stratification that persisted under such regimes, but also on the functioning of relationships of power and the ways in which privilege can be studied in the contemporary world. As such, this book will appeal to anthropologists, sociologists, ethnographers and historians interested in cultural and social capital, inequality and resistance.
Longina Jakubowska is Anthropology Fellow at University College Utrecht, Utrecht University, The Netherlands.
Awarded the BASEES George Blazyca Prize in East European Studies, 2013 'In this compelling ethnography of the charm, sensibilities, and horror of a bygone era, Jakubowska brings to life the lasting tale of the Polish gentry. This extraordinary book addresses not only how this nobility has read and interpreted its own history, but also how others continue to be fascinated by the sheer allure of their habitus. Here we are provided with both a record and an explanation as to how the history of a class is transformed, made magical, and instantiated in the popular imagination of the nation in a way that is at times, "natural" and at times "manipulative." Bourdieu is surely smiling on this ethnography.' Donna M. Goldstein, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA 'Over centuries the Polish szlachta has skillfully fused familial identities with those of the Polish nation and Western civilization, but Jakubowska illuminates the class and even racial dimensions of noble myth-making. The continuing magic of the old surnames suggests that Polish social structure has more in common with other old countries in Western Europe than with postsocialist neighbours in the East. Jakubowska's sensitive analysis of these carriers of the national memory is a fine study in historical anthropology, rich in implications for both theory and method.' Chris Hann, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Germany 'This is an extraordinary book - undoubtedly one of the most important works on Poland to be written in recent years. Although the author is an anthropologist, this should be essential reading for historians as well, because of both the subject matter and the methodological approach... The goal of this book is not merely to debunk the historical memory of the Polish gentry, but to show how their own sense of identity has shaped that memory (and vice versa). This matters, because their strong position among the educated elite has ensured that their version of the past has set the con