The Poles who were West Slavic people established Poland in the late 5th century. History was first written in the 10th century about Poland when the Polish nation changed into Christianity in 966. Prince Mieszko I was the first ruler and his son, Boleslaw I, was the first king of Poland. This established the Piast dynasty that lasted from 966 to 1370. During the Piast dynasty there where Piast kings with a lot of rivalries from nobility and Bohemian and Germanic invasions that made Poland a very troubled country. The last king of the dynasty was Casimir III, crowned in 1333. He extended Polish influence eastward to Lithuania and Russia. He acquired Pomerania from the Teutonic Knights and shifted borders between Poland and Germany. During his 37-year reign a university was established, laws were made more organized, castles grew strong, and minority groups were given protection (Grolier).
The Polish nobility selected Jagello as grand duke of Lithuania in 1836, to rule by arranging his marriage to the Polish Princess Jadwiga. The initial personal union with Lithuania was formalized only 200 years later by the Union of Lublin in 1569 and it produced a state that extended from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south (Grolier).
Poland’s Golden Age started when Poland won the Battle of Tannenberg in 1410 against the Teutonic Order. The Polish would deal very well with threats from other countries. It was slowly devolving to rule under nobility that led the state to its disintegration (Grolier).
The Polish Renaissance of the 16th century produced a flourishing of arts and intellectual life. Some examples are the scientific work of Copernicus and the lyric poetry of Jan Kochanowski. Protestantism grew in Poland during this time and the Jewish community, which has been around Poland since the 14th century, won the right of self-government. The economic wealth at this time was based on grain exports (Grolier).
The Jagello dynasty ended in 1572, with the death of Sigismund II. The power was then transferred from aristocracy to the broader class of nobility called the szlachta. From 1573 to the last partition of Poland in 1795 the Republican Commonwealth was organized by a system of elective monarchy and of a Sejm (Parliament), meaning each noble had a vote. Even though the kings had to follow the idea of szlachta rule, they still used their own ideas and seeked greater influence. Stephen Bathory (ruled 1575-86) and Sigismund III (ruled 1587-1632) intervened in Russia, and Sigismund got his son on the Russian throne during Muscovy’s Time of Troubles. After Polish troops were driven out of Moscow in 1613, Russia became more powerful. After that Poland went into a time of war beginning in 1648, Ukrainian, Cossacks, marauding Tartars, Turks, and Russians attacked Poland. The Swedes did the greatest damage. They conquered and laid to waste almost the entire country in 1655. King John III Sobieski’s victory over the Turks at Vienna in 1683...