Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Recasting Utopia: Montesquieu, Rousseau and the Polish constitution of 3 May 1791*

  • Jerzy Lukowski (a1)

Between the sixteenth and eighteengh centuries, the nobility of the Polish–Lithuanian commonwealth had developed an ideology of extreme individualism and libertarianism, within a correspondingly weak and decentralized state structure. The first partition of 1772 starkly revealed the weaknesses of the Polish polity, but any hopes of major political overhaul were frustrated by the dead hand of Russian ambassadorial policing. The war of 1787–92 with Turkey proved a temporary distraction for Russia, which the Polish parliament of 1788–92 showed itself only partly capable of exploiting. Factional conflicts and a wary conservatism hampered reforms: the ideas of Montesquieu and Rousseau, which closely complemented so many aspects of traditional Polish noble ideology, seemed to offer the most acceptable way forward, culminating in the constitution of 3 May 1791, a compromise between enlightened idealism and political pragmatism.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

F. Venturi , Utopia and reform in the Enlightenment (Cambridge, 1971).

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Historical Journal
  • ISSN: 0018-246X
  • EISSN: 1469-5103
  • URL: /core/journals/historical-journal
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 22 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 119 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 27th June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.