A young historian retraces the phases of nineteenth-century Polish nationalism as it emigrated from the democratic, broad-minded ideals of the French Revolution early in the century to antisemitic authoritarianism by the century's end.
As Porter argues, intellectuals on the right became increasingly convinced that history would betray them unless they directed its course. As they struggled to come to terms with socioeconomic forces awakening the masses and rebelled against increased Russian cultural oppression in the wake of the 1863 revolution, they let slip their original democratic commitments and sought enemies in their drive toward national consciousness and social solidarity. But since out of the same earlier tradition a liberal, tolerant, and socialist version of nationalism evolved, the author admits that he cannot pin down the exact "causes" of this fork in the road. But by providing this rich intellectual history, he has usefully weighed in on the study of nationalism lately dominated by political scientists.