Stanisław Smolka 1854-1924

He was born on 29 June 1854 in Lviv and died on 27 August 1924 in Nowoszyce. In the academic year 1870/1871, he enrolled as a guest student at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Lviv, but in the same year he started studies in Göttingen. There, he attended classes by Reinhold Pauli, Ferdinand Frensdorff, Georg Hansean, Rudolf Herman Lotze, Alfred Stern and Kurt Wachsmuth. He was most interested in the seminar conducted by Georg Waitz, a scholar of the German Middle Ages. In 1873, he obtained a doctorate there on the basis of his work Polnische Annalen bis zum Anfange des vierzehnten Jahrhunderts. Inspired by research on the Polish Middle Ages, a year earlier he published his work Henryk Brodaty. Ustęp z dziejów epoki piastowskiej [“Henry the Bearded. Episode from the History of the Piast Era”] (1872). Already at that time, he became known as a historian who, as Henryk Barycz wrote, was close to the “critical and positivistically relativist” school of German historiography. In 1874, Smolka was appointed member of the Historical Committee of the Academy of Arts and Sciences in Kraków. With its support, he organised a scientific trip to archives in Greater Poland, Prussia and Pomerania, and presented a comprehensive report which was afterwards entitled Archiwa w W. X. Poznańskim i w Prusach wschodnich i Zachodnich [“Archives in the Grand Duchy of Poznań and in East and West Prussia”] in Rozprawy Wydziału Filozoficznego AU [“Dissertations of the Faculty of Philosophy of the Academy of Arts and Sciences”], 1875. During that time, he published a number of reviews and critical studies. In 1875, he was authorised to give lectures in universal medieval and modern history at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. Two years later, he became Associate Professor, and in 1880 Full Professor at the Chair of Austrian History. After the death of Józef Szujski in 1883, he took over the Chair of Polish History. The scholarly and teaching duties he assumed obliged him to take up new challenges and expand his research interests. During that period, he published Polska i Austria w latach 1526-7 [“Poland and Austria in 1526–1527”] (1877) and Mieszko Stary i jego wiek [“Mieszko the Old and his age”], which was especially valuable due to his innovative approach to the subject (1881). An important part of Smolka’s academic achievement were also his Szkice historyczne. Seria druga [“Historical sketches. Second series”] (1883). He became known as an excellent lecturer and teacher who promoted in Poland modern methods of work and research drawn from German historiography. He skilfully combined political history with economic history. In 1881, he became a correspondent member and in 1884 a full member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences in Kraków; from 1890 to 1903, he served as its secretary general. He was one of the organisers of studies on the history of Poland conducted on the basis of the Vatican Archive, which was open from 1881. In 1886, he personally headed the first Roman Expedition whose work he directed until 1901. Neither did he shirk organisational work at the Jagiellonian University of which he was Vice-Chancellor in 1895–1896. He was able to reconcile his numerous important and time-absorbing passions with academic work. He was increasingly interested in the period of Jagiellonian rule. He authored the following works at that time: Rok 1386: w pięciowiekową rocznicę [“1386: on the fifth centennary”] (1886), Kiejstut i Jagiełło [“Kęstutis and Jagiełło”] (1888), Najdawniejsze pomniki dziejopisarstwa rusko-litewskiego: rozbiór krytyczny [“Oldest monuments of Ruthenian and Lithuanian historiography: critical analysis”] (1889), together with Michał Bobrzyński: Jan Długosz, jego życie i stanowisko w piśmiennictwie [“Jan Długosz, his life and views expressed in his writings”] (1893) and Polska i Brandenburgia za czasów Jagiełły [“Poland and Brandenburg in Jagiełło’s Times”] (1896). He was also involved in research on the latest history of the 18th and 19th centuries. His works in that field include, among others, the centennary study Stanowisko mocarstw zachodnich wobec konstytucji 3-go maja [“Position taken by the Western Powers vis-à-vis the Constitution of May 3”] (1891) and his two-volume dissertation Polityka Lubeckiego przed powstaniem listopadowym [“Lubecki’s policies before the November Uprising”] (1907). He also published collections of sources. Smolka’s academic career declined when he started to suffer from a neurosis. In 1903, he ceased to be secretary general of the Academy of Arts and Sciences and he also terminated his employment at the Jagiellonian University, applying for retirement. However, he did not sever his contacts with academic circles. In 1908, he became director of the Archive of Town and Land Records in Kraków, and in 1912 he also decided to head the Czartoryski Museum. For his scientific achievements, he received honorary doctorates from the Faculty of Philosophy (1912) and from the Faculty of Law (1913) of the University of Lviv. During World War I, he became known as a supporter of the Supreme National Committee. The committee sent him on a political mission to Switzerland and Italy. In the interwar period, he returned to university teaching. In 1919, he accepted the Chair of Polish History at the newly established Catholic University of Lublin. He left not only a rich scientific legacy, but equally importantly, he founded a school of medieval studies at the Jagiellonian University. His students and close associates included: Franciszek Bujak, Ludwik Drobe, Adama Kłodziński, Feliks Koneczny, Józef Korzeniowski, Stanisław Krzyżanowski, Stanisław Kutrzeba, Franciszek Stefczyk, Kazimierz Szkaradek-Krotoski, Bolesław Ulanowski, Stanisław Windakiewicz, Stanisław Zakrzewski.


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