Skip to main content

"The Jagiellonians: Dynasty, Identity and Memory in Central Europe"

Final Report Summary - JAGEUROPE (The Jagiellonians: Dynasty, Identity and Memory in Central Europe)

The project Jagiellonians: Dynasty, Memory and Identity in Central Europe (2013-18) took as its subject one of the pre-eminent dynasties of late medieval and Renaissance Europe. Originating with Jogaila (d.1434) this lineage ruled the kingdoms of Poland, Hungary and Bohemia, as well as the vast Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Its princesses married into the leading princely houses of Germany, Austria and Scandinavia. Although little known outside Central Europe, at their peak the Jagiellonians (1377-1572) ruled more territory in Europe than any other dynasty of the period, including the Habsburgs. Uniquely among the royal houses of the Renaissance, the Jagiellonians created a regional hegemony, a large-scale geographical ‘bloc’ of neighbouring polities, which today make up thirteen separate modern states. The project had four principal aims:

(1) To pioneer a new supranational history of the Jagiellonians, who have traditionally been studied in a fragmented manner, within separate national historiographies.

(2) To offer the first fully inter-disciplinary analysis of the Jagiellonians, deploying a range of new approaches simultaneously (e.g. gender, anthropological, art historical).

(3) To use the Jagiellonians to probe the concept of dynasty itself.

(4) To explore the role which cultural memory of the Jagiellonians has played in shaping local, national and regional identities in their ex-lands (‘Central Europe’) in the long-term, from the 16th century to the present.

The project team - consisting of 5 post-doctoral Research Associates, the Principal Investigator and c.14 Research Assistants - conducted extensive fieldwork in 40 archives, libraries and museums, in over 10 countries. A wide variety of sources was studied, including royal correspondence; printed orations, poems, sermons and chronicles; heraldry, medals, portraiture and architecture. The project organised 8 major academic events on its themes of dynasty, memory, Renaissance monarchy and supra-national history. A public exhibition was also curated in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, in spring 2018. The project’s key outputs, in the form of three books, are as follows:

a) 'Remembering the Jagiellonians' (Routledge, 2018), ed. N. Nowakowska. A collection of 9 essays exploring patterns in, and the long-term implications of, long-term, comparative memory of the Jagiellonians across their former lands (16th-21st centuries). In a novel way, this volume brings Central European medieval, early modern and modern history into dialogue with each other, and with memory theory from social science.

b) 'Dynasty in the Making: the Idea of the Jagiellonians (c.1370-1660)' (forthcoming), by N. Nowakowska, I. Afanasyev, G. Mickūnaitė, S. Kuzmová, S. Niiranen & D. Zupka. This book asks who Jogaila’s royal lineage were understood to be in late medieval and early modern Europe. Its principal finding is that the terms ‘dynasty’ and ‘Jagiellonian’ were rarely or never used to describe this group while they ruled (c.1377-1572). The idea of these princes as forming a single, identifiable ‘family’ was also very hazy, and the overwhelmingly majority of sources instead identify them with reference to their princely office alone (king, grand duke). It was only c. 1520 that a named ‘Jagiellonian’ family, with a specific history and characteristics, fully emerged in humanist, courtly, Latin praise-texts. This name was, however, only adopted by family members themselves, and in wider political debate, when the male line of the lineage died out in 1572: the ‘Jagiellonians’ were therefore largely ‘invented’ in retrospect by their successors and ex-subjects, in the regional vacuum of power and legitimacy they left in their wake.

c) 'Lords of Another Europe: the Jagiellonians (1377-1596)', by N. Nowakowska (forthcoming). This monograph offers a new, trans-national and globalising history of the Jagiellonians, setting them firmly their wider European and Eurasian contexts for the first time.