Cover: Jozef Pilsudski: Founding Father of Modern Poland, from Harvard University PressCover: Jozef Pilsudski in HARDCOVER

Jozef Pilsudski

Founding Father of Modern Poland

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$39.95 • £34.95 • €36.95

ISBN 9780674984271

Publication Date: 06/28/2022


640 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

42 photos, 1 illus., 8 maps


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Compelling… Zimmerman narrates Pilsudski’s life with authority, clarity and verve… The book is an important achievement in its introduction of the English-language reader to a key figure in the historical contest between Russian imperial ambition and the smaller nations that resist it.—Stanley Bill, Times Literary Supplement

Joshua Zimmerman’s masterful new biography, based on Polish and English sources, explores the controversy that surrounded this contradictory man in his own lifetime and thereafter… This deeply researched study brings to life a restless Polish soul.—Mark Cornwall, Literary Review

Excellent…a detailed, absorbing book that peels back the complexities of histories to reclaim the figure of Jozef Pilsudski for a new generation.—Colin Shindler, Jewish Chronicle

Magisterial… Zimmerman, in his splendid book, paints a balanced and thoughtful portrait of an eminent Polish leader who devoted body and soul to reestablishing a state that had been swept away by the tides of fate.—Sheldon Kirschner, Times of Israel

Zimmerman’s biography is long overdue. Balanced, meticulously researched and very well written, it provides a panoramic portrait of the man who towers over modern Poland, warts and all.History Today

Zimmerman has made Pilsudski’s mostly supportive dealings with the Jewish community, and its experience of antisemitism, a central theme of his book. This tends to crowd out his treatment of other topics or minorities, but it’s good that Pilsudski’s long alliance with Jewish and other non-Polish parties should be more widely known. Necessary, too, though shocking, is Zimmerman’s detailed account of the pogroms that broke out as Poland regained independence, crimes Pilsudski condemned but was curiously slow to halt.—Neal Ascherson, London Review of Books

I much enjoyed Joshua Zimmerman’s biography Józef Piłsudski: Founding Father of Modern Poland… Will be heartily welcomed by the history buff in your life.—Roger Moorhouse, Aspects of History

Piłsudski’s story, complete with flaws, accomplishments and echoes of today’s war in Ukraine, is brought to life in [this] recent biography.—John Daniszewski, Associated Press

Clearly written, detailed, and absorbing… Zimmerman presents Pilsudski as a classical hero, masterfully balancing the description of events that showcase his hubris and tragedy.—Magdalena Bogacz, H-Net Reviews

This well-researched and balanced biography of Józef Piłsudski seems destined to become the standard English-language work on the ‘father of modern Poland.’ It is a significant achievement and deserves a wide readership.—Michael Fleming, Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs

A well-timed book… This well-researched and clearly written biography sheds light on the emergence of an independent Poland, which without Pilsudski might never have existed. It is also a meditation on the confluence of ethnic, religious, national, and imperial history that is Eastern Europe.—Michael Kimmage, The National Interest

Perfectly timed… [Zimmerman’s] even-handedness gives Pilsudski’s history a nuance that was not allowed by Poland’s post-WWII communist authorities, who portrayed him as a proto-fascist and cracked down on his legacy… Impressively documented… Ultimately, Pilsudski’s life was that of a classical hero, replete with both hubris and tragedy.—James Jackson, Notes from Poland

A masterful biography… This book should be ready widely by historians of modern Europe, and not just historians of Poland. Zimmerman’s account of Piłsudski’s life and legacy helps make sense of modern Poland, to be sure, but it also makes a case for his relevance far beyond Poland’s borders.—Eva Plach, Slavic Review

Zimmerman’s book can be read not only as a historical monograph, but also as a fascinating account of how Western ideas found their way to Europe’s peripheries and what their implementation in political activism and state-building looked like in that part of the world… A must-read for scholars interested in Eastern Europe.—Tadeusz Koczanowicz, Studies in East European Thought

The ultimate Pilsudski biography for our era. Deeply researched, authoritative, and very well written, it fearlessly faces the great mystery of the man. For how can the Father of Modern Poland, a soldier and statesman of genius and the savior of his country in 1920, be the same man who ruthlessly discarded democracy in a military coup only six years later? Zimmerman’s portrayal of Pilsudski in the courageous Polish Legions days will come alive for readers, but the complexity of the authoritarian period under the ‘Napoleon of Poland’ will give them pause for thought.—Andrew Roberts, author of Churchill: Walking with Destiny

Pilsudski had a profound influence on the politics of twentieth-century Europe, and his legacy is discernible to this day. Yet this extraordinary man—an idealistic political activist turned terrorist, military commander, statesman and finally virtual dictator—has been sorely neglected by historians outside Poland. This well-researched, balanced, and highly readable account of the truly Napoleonic trajectory of his life and complex political evolution is timely and very welcome.—Adam Zamoyski, author of Napoleon: A Life

Here is the ‘founder of modern Poland’ for twenty-first-century eyes. This fascinating portrait of Pilsudski, one of the most important political figures of twentieth-century Europe, is full of vivid details and incisive observations. Zimmerman has drawn from a huge body of material, much from newly available sources, and turned it into a critical yet brilliantly balanced analysis of a man and statesman.—Andrzej Nowak, Jagiellonian University

A thorough, nuanced biography of Pilsudski, whose extraordinary life sheds so much light on his era and the Poland of his dreams and of his making. Zimmerman highlights Pilsudski’s pluralist and federalist inclinations without downplaying his later authoritarianism. Pilsudski’s attitude toward Polish Jews in particular serves as a bellwether of his cultural pluralism and respect for minority rights. A much-needed, comprehensive account essential for readers seeking to understand this complex, important figure.—Patrice M. Dabrowski, author of Poland: The First Thousand Years

The personality and policies of Jozef Pilsudski have long been obscured by both ideological attacks and mindless adulation. This welcome new portrait places the marshal in his rightful position, not just as a military leader whose plans worked out and a would-be democrat whose plans went awry, but as a statesman with a broad, tolerant vision. Zimmerman’s emphasis on Pilsudski’s hopes for a multinational Poland, where all could live in harmony—including the country’s huge Jewish community—is spot on.—Norman Davies, author of God’s Playground: A History of Poland

Pilsudski was a central figure not only in the emergence and development of an independent Polish state but also in the larger history of interwar Europe. Zimmerman clearly portrays the complex, multifaceted nature of the man and his political legacy. While Pilsudski sought to create a multiethnic Poland in which all citizens would feel at home, his understanding of how a constitutional system should function was flawed, and he used brutal, extra-legal methods to suppress the opposition after he seized power in a coup. This welcome book will become the definitive treatment in English of Pilsudski, and I enthusiastically recommend it.—Antony Polonsky, author of The Jews in Poland and Russia

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