The Roads Not Taken: Liberty, Sovereignty and the Idea of the Republic in Poland-Lithuania and the British Isles, 1550–1660

Robert Frost* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

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In the mid sixteenth century, there were many parallels between the political cultures of Poland-Lithuania and the kingdoms of the British Isles, as thinkers inspired by the ideals of Renaissance civic humanism challenged traditional currents of thought. Across the British Isles and Poland-Lithuania there were strong native traditions asserting the liberties of communities of the realm and the need to check unbridled royal authority through parliamentary assemblies. As the Reformation swept across the British Isles and Poland-Lithuania, traditional claims concerning the right to resist tyrannical authority were bolstered. Finally, in 1603, Scotland and England formed a loose political union as Poland and Lithuania had formed a loose political union in 1386, although It was not until 1707 that England and Scotland followed the example of the 1569 Lublin Union, when Poland and Lithuania established the first parliamentary union in European history. Despite these parallels, the fates of these composite polities were very different, and their political cultures diverged substantially. This article considers the idea of the Renaissance republic in Poland-Lithuania and the British Isles. It suggests why their roads diverged, and asks what made all the difference.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-112
Number of pages20
JournalTransactions of the Royal Historical Society
Issue number1-4
Early online date16 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2022
EventThe Prothero Lecture - Royal HIstorical Society, University College London, Gower Street, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 2 Jul 20212 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgements. A version of this article was first presented as the Royal Historical Society’s 2021 Prothero Lecture, read on 2 July 2021


  • history of Poland-Lithuania
  • Early Modern British and Irish history
  • Civic Humanism
  • Renaissance republicanism
  • civic humanism
  • early modern British and Irish history


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