The Map as a Political Manifesto: The Case of "Karta dawnej Polski and Hôtel Lambert’s Concepts of the Polish State and Nation

  • Oliver Zajac


The failure of the November uprising in 1831 and the resultant Great Polish Emigration not only caused the massive exodus of elites from the Polish Kingdom to western Europe and, consequently, the organization of pro-independence activities from their exile, but also highly influenced the discourse about the geographical shape and political nature of the (desired) future Polish state. The majority of this discourse was represented by memoranda and newspapers, yet there were also other relevant sources to promote the ideas of various factions. In my study I suggest that cartographical representations have also played an important role in both of the mentioned levels of discourse. This conclusion was made as a result of the analysis of Karta dawnej Polski, the only map of the former PolishLithuanian Commonwealth in its pre-1772 borders created by émigrés. This project was led by Wojciech Chrzanowski and was under the patronage of the aristocratic faction led by Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski (known as Hôtel Lambert). By applying the methodological approach, which has been presented by John Brian Harley, and focusing on the historical and anthropological attributes of the map rather than solely on its empirical description, I conclude with the suggestion that this map communicated various narratives at both levels of discourse. The most evident was its military narrative, which has promoted the idea of an armed uprising as the only possible way to restore an independent Polish state. The second concerned the ideas cultivated by the representatives of Hôtel Lambert regarding the shape and nature of a future state. According to this opinion, Poland could become a political entity only if its pre-1772 borders were reinstated. Within the emigrational discourse, the idea of a restored state with pre-1772 borders was not a unique assumption. On the other hand, the Karta dawnej Polski might have been an important asset comparable to Russian cartographical projects (mainly the “Three-verst map”) which presented the territory of the Polish Kingdom under the rule of the Russian tsar as a cartographical and therefore objective (legal and legimitate) reality.
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