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A Journey to Early 19th-Century Continental Europe. I Feature Poland:Jews to sell even their wifes and dohthers

jan peczkis|Friday, August 14, 2015

British author John Thomas James describes his 1813-1814 travels to several countries in Europe. My review is based on the original 1827 edition of this two-volume work. Owing to my personal interest, this review is limited to James’ visit to Poland. At the time of the visit, Poland had recently been Partitioned. The author spent much of his time in Austrian- and Russian-ruled Poland.

All of the following page citations are from the second volume of this work.

The author called attention to the heroism of the Kosciuszko-led peasant uprising of 1794. (p. 413). He focused on important noble families in Poland, such as the House of Lubomirski, Czartoryski, Sapieha, and Potocki. He found the Poles a generally hospitable people. (p. 390).


The author refers to the trades, practiced by the Jews, a number of times. His experience at Volhynia, in Russian-ruled Poland, near the town of Ostrog, is instructive. He writes, (quote) …the accommodation too afforded us at the inns was every where excellent, and the venal Jews usually surround the stranger in crowds with samples of their articles for sale, giving to understand that money will command every thing, even to the services of their wives and daughters. (unquote). (p. 368).

As for the ethical behavior of the Jewish middleman, author John Thomas James takes a middle view, as he comments, (quote) Wheat is never grown but with this view, and often left to spoil or waste if no opportunity of sale occurs: yet it would be difficult to say at what price it is generally afforded, for all advices are here received from the lower country through the hands of the Jews, who are the factors, and as selling prices vary not only in proportion to the urgency or slackness of the demand, but also to the honest or roguish representations of the above persons, the fluctuations in the same year are innumerable. (unquote). (p. 377).
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