Zamoyski, Adam 1949- (Adam Stefan Zamoyski)

views updated

Zamoyski, Adam 1949- (Adam Stefan Zamoyski)


Born January 11, 1949, in New York, NY; son of Count Stefan and Princess Elizabeth Zamoyski; married Emma Sergeant, June 16, 2001. Education: Queen's College, Oxford, B.A., 1970, M.A., 1974. Religion: Roman Catholic.


Home—London, England; and Warsaw, Poland. E-mail—[email protected]


Historian and writer. Worked as freelance journalist for British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) World Service and Financial Times, London, England.


Chopin: A Biography, Collins (London, England), 1979, published as Chopin: A New Biography, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1980.

The Battle for the Marchlands, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1981.

Paderewski, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1982, Collins (London, England), 1982.

The Polish Way: A Thousand-Year History of the Poles and Their Culture, John Murray (London, England), 1987, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1988.

(Translator) Henryk Sienkiewics, Charcoal Sketches: And Other Tales (short stories), 1991.

The Last King of Poland, Jonathan Cape (London, England), 1992.

The Forgotten Few: The Polish Air Force in the Second World War, John Murray (London, England), 1995, Hippocrene (New York, NY), 1996, reprinted by Pen & Sword Aviation (Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England), 2004.

The Noble House of Starzénski, Azimuth Editions (London, England), 1997.

(Editor and contributor) Hieronim Florian, Rzeczy którymi majgodniejszego moge zabawi'c go'scia, Twój Styl (Warsaw, Poland), 1999.

Poland's Parliamentary Tradition, Chancellery of the Sejm, Interparliamentary Relations Bureau (Warsaw, Poland), 1999.

Holy Madness: Romantics, Patriots, and Revolutionaries, 1776-1871, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1999, Viking (New York, NY), 2000.

Poland: A Traveller's Gazetteer, John Murray (London, England), 2001.

The Princes Czartoryski Museum: A History of the Collections, National Museum in Cracow (Kraków, Poland), 2001.

Moscow 1812: Napoleon's Fatal March, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004, published as 1812: Napoleon's Fatal March on Moscow, HarperCollins (London, England), 2004.

Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon & the Congress of Vienna, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to numerous books, including the Dictionary of Art, (London, England), 1996; the exhibition catalogue Polens letzter Konig un seine Maler, Neue Pinakothek (Munchen, Germany), 1995; Constitution and Reform in Eighteenth-Century Poland: The Constitution of 3 May 1791, edited by Samuel Fiszman, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1997; Land of the Winged Horsemen: Art in Poland 1572-1764, edited by Jan K. Ostrowski, (Alexandria, VA), 1999; Romantyzm: Malarstwo w Czasach Fryderyka Chopina, (Warsaw, Poland), 1999; and What Might Have Been, edited by Andrew Roberts, (London, England), 2004. Contributor of articles, essays, and book reviews to numerous periodicals, including the Apollo, Catholic Herald, Country Life, Sunday Telegraph, Independent, Guardian, Evening Standard, Art Newspaper, Departures, Event, Australian, Times Literary Supplement, History Today, Spectator, Tatler, and Polish Daily. Author's works have been translated into Polish.


Commenting on his several works of history, Adam Zamoyski told CA: "My books attempt in a minor way to breach the wall of ignorance and misinformation surrounding Polish history and culture. Relative to its size and importance, Poland is the most neglected country in the world from this point of view, and I feel that more information should be made available to the English-speaking reader in whatever way the book market allows." Zamoyski has pursued this goal for several decades, producing a number of histories and biographies of pivotal Polish figures and events.

In The Last King of Poland, for example, Zamoyski rescues the reputation of King Stanislaw August Poniatowski, who died in Russia in 1798 in ignominious exile, after an often-overlooked career as one of the most enlightened rulers in Europe. The author emphasizes Poniatowski's liberal reforms, his oversight of the 1791 Polish Constitution, his makeover of Warsaw into a world-class city, and his creation of a court that attracted literary and artistic figures from throughout Europe, without ignoring the king's faults and flaws. "Zamoyski's talent for empathy enables him to provide a well-drawn psychological portrait of the King," Richard Butterwick commented in English Historical Review, "which evolves over time through hopes and disappointments." "This is biography in the grand style: vividly, elegantly and convincingly narrated, and based on a wide reading of both archival and published sources," wrote an enthusiastic Robert Frost in History Today. The Last King of Poland "is a work of considerable scholarship which should be read by all with an interest in the eighteenth century," Frost concluded.

In The Forgotten Few: The Polish Air Force in the Second World War, the author spotlights the contributions of émigré Polish pilots and crews to the Allied effort after the fall of Poland to the Nazis. Zamoyski begins with an account of the formation of the Polish Air Force during World War I and its defeat by German invaders in 1939, followed by the escape to England of 17,000 Polish pilots and support personnel. Joseph Kotarba, writing in Sarmatian Review, praised Zamoyski's effort to correct the popular impression that the defeated Poland contributed nothing to the Allied cause. Thousands of Polish pilots flew in borrowed planes under the reluctant command of English officers. "Although Zamoyski's descriptions of battle activity [are] thrilling, the best material in the book is the personal stories of the heroic pilots," wrote Kotarba. For this critic, these personal stories illustrate the ways in which the Polish flyers were as dashing and brave, and even as foolhardy in combat, as other, more celebrated, Allied fighters; but they also illustrate that the Poles were not as militant as the Russians or Germans. "When I finished reading this book," Kotarba concluded, "I imagined what a great story this would be for Americans besides those of Polish descent."

In Holy Madness: Romantics, Patriots, and Revolutionaries, 1776-1871, Zamoyski places the uprisings in nineteenth-century Poland in context with those occurring throughout the world during that revolutionary century. In his narrative, Zamoyski contends that the role of religion had faded in the wake of the Enlightenment's focus on rationality, and that passion for revolutionary ideals took its place. From the well-known heroes of the American Revolution to lesser-known leaders such as Francisco de Miranda, Giuseppe Mazzini, and Giuseppe Garibaldi, Zamoyski traces the spread of a liberal belief in the innate merit of humanity and the desire to create a paradise on earth. "With insight, empathy, humor and a profound knowledge of the era, Zamoyski uses the art, poetry, music, symbols, manifestos, and archives of the time" to recount revolutionary uprisings from the Americas to France, Spain, Russia, and Hungary, commented James Swanson in Booklist. Given the renewal of nationalist sympathies that occurred in Europe during the late twentieth century, Zamoyski's insights generated increased interest. "Holy Madness is a good choice for any public or academic library that seeks to strengthen its Western civilization collections," contended Jim Doyle in Library Journal.

In Moscow 1812: Napoleon's Fatal March, published in England as 1812: Napoleon's Fatal March on Mos-cow, Zamoyski provides a comprehensive look at Napoleon's invasion of Russia and its horrible aftermath. The military excursion ultimately led to Napoleon losing 400,000 men. However, only about one-fourth of them were killed during the main fight; the rest died later, after the Russians retreated, leaving behind a burnt-out Moscow. Napoleon's decision to delay taking his army out of Moscow until late October ultimately meant his ruin as his soldiers faced an early harsh winter and attacking Russian Cossacks, leading to the death of thousands of men as they had to trudge across a vast, freezing landscape with little food during their retreat. Writing in the Economist, a reviewer noted that the author "has trawled the memoirs and military histories to create a mosaic of personal accounts and statistics." The reviewer added that Zamoyski's "elegant prose rarely falters, and there is a pleasing number of accurate and illuminating maps." Christopher Woodward, writing in the Spectator, commented that "no review can do justice to the scholarly integrity and human sensitivity of this book, or to the horrors it describes." Gilbert Taylor commented in Booklist that the author "displays not only narrative ability but also persuasive interpretive skill when he turns to events in the Russian camp." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote: "This massive study of Napoleon's famous Russian campaign may rank as the best recent study in English."

Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon & the Congress of Vienna looks at the consequences of the Napoleonic wars, the aftermath of the French Revolution, and diplomatic negotiations that shaped Europe for most of the nineteenth century. Napoleon had as big an impact on the continent in the nineteenth century as Hitler did in the twentieth; his massive armies inflicted widespread destruction, his campaigns uprooted governments established generations before, and his new regimes established legal codes and the principles of the Revolution throughout the West. The Congress was in many ways an attempt by conservatives to uproot—as much as possible—the reforms Napoleon introduced. Writing in the Guardian, reviewer Denis MacShane stated, "The system that came to be called the Concert of Europe, Zamoyski writes, ‘imposed an orthodoxy which not only denied political existence to many nations; it enshrined a particularly stultified form of monarchical government; institutionalised social hierarchies as rigid as any that existed under the ancient régime; by excluding whole classes and nations this system nurtured envy and resentment, which flourished into socialism and aggressive nationalism.’" "In his opinion," Philip Mansel wrote in his Spectator review, "the monarchs of Europe, by their paranoia and ‘state terror’ after 1815, helped to encourage the forces of liberalism and revolution which they most feared."

But the Congress was not merely a venue for the revenge of the old aristocracy. It was also a huge celebration lasting several years. "Zamoyski," wrote Jim Doyle in Library Journal, "stresses that the Congress of Vienna was a bacchanalian extravaganza where affairs of state became entwined with affairs of the heart." "The antics of Wilhelmina, Duchess of Sagan, and Princess Catherine Bagration," stated a reviewer for the Economist, "grandes horizontales both, whose favours were sought—and in most cases enjoyed—by practically all the Congress's principal participants, are especially diverting but by no means unique." "For months the parties ran late into the night, and the delegates played Musical Bedchambers with various women," declared a Kirkus Reviews contributor. "Then Napoleon escaped."

Returning from exile on the island of Elba, off the coast of Italy, the former emperor took advantage of the dissatisfaction of the French people with their newly restored kingship under Louis XVIII. Within weeks, he had raised an army of combat veterans, including some Royalist troops that defected to join him. Within four weeks of his escape from exile Napoleon entered Paris in triumph, with scarcely a challenge offered to him. But his defeat on the field of Waterloo in June 1815 did not mean the end of the Congress. Personages such as Talleyrand, the French negotiator, Metternich, the Austrian representative, and Lord Castlereagh, who spoke for the British government, kept meetings going on until Europe was given a new face. "Underscoring the influence of personality on history," Gilbert Taylor concluded in his Booklist assessment, "Zamoyski's fast-moving chronicle will enthrall the diplomacy audience." "Zamoyski has achieved a rare feat," MacShane stated. "He has taken the driest of diplomatic archives and turned them into a compelling narrative."



Booklist, September 1, 2000, James Swanson, review of Holy Madness: Romantics, Patriots, and Revolutionaries, 1776-1871, p. 62; July, 2004, Gilbert Taylor, review of Moscow 1812: Napoleon'sFatal March, p. 1814; July 1, 2007, Gilbert Taylor, review of Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon & the Congress of Vienna, p. 24.

Catholic Review, May, 1998, review of The Polish Way: A Thousand-Year History of the Poles and Their Culture, p. 276; January, 1999, review of The Last King of Poland, p. 52.

Christian Century, December 8, 1982, R. Alan Johnson, review of Paderewski, p. 1263.

Christian Science Monitor, March 30, 1983, Spencer Punnet, review of Paderewski, p. 9.

Contemporary Review, May, 1998, review of The Polish Way, p. 276; October, 2004, review of 1812: Napoleon's Fatal March on Moscow, p. 254.

Economist, April 17, 2004, review of 1812, p. 81; April 14, 2007, "The World's First Summit; Congress of Vienna," p. 94.

English Historical Review, July, 1991, Jakub Basista, review of The Polish Way, p. 761; April, 1996, Richard Butterwick, review of The Last King of Poland, p. 493.

Guardian, April 28, 2007, Denis MacShane, "Diplomatic Baggage."

History Today, March, 1983, J. Krok Paszkowski, review of Paderewski, p. 50; June, 1993, Robert Frost, review of The Last King of Poland, p. 54.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2004, review of Moscow 1812, p. 436; May 1, 2007, Adam Zamoyski, review of Rites of Peace.

Library Journal, April 1, 1980, Allen B. Skei, review of Chopin: A Biography, p. 861; July, 1982, review of Paderewski, p. 1320; September 1, 2000, Jim Doyle, review of Holy Madness, p. 229; July 1, 2007, Jim Doyle, review of Rites of Peace, p. 106.

National Review, April 15, 1983, Selden Rodman, review of Paderewski, p. 449.

New Statesman & Society, March 10, 1989, review of The Polish Way, p. 34.

New York Times Book Review, July 17, 1988, Piotr Wandycz, review of The Polish Way, p. 35.

Partisan Review, fall, 1988, Stanislaw Baranczak, The Polish Way, p. 682.

Publishers Weekly, May 7, 1982, review of Paderewski, p. 72; March 15, 1991, Penny Kaganoff, review of Charcoal Sketches: And Other Tales, p. 54; November 27, 1995, review of The Forgotten Few: The Polish Air Force in the Second World War, p. 60; May 31, 2004, review of Moscow 1812, p. 61.

Spectator, November 7, 1992, John Jolliffe, The Last King of Poland, p. 55; May 13, 1995, George Pownall, review of The Forgotten Few, p. 36; November 13, 1999, review of Holy Madness, p. 61; April 28, 2001, Anne Applebaum, review of Poland: A Traveller's Gazetteer, p. 35; April 10, 2004, Christopher Woodward, review of 1812, p. 32; June 16, 2007, Philip Mansel, "The Viennese Charades."

Times Literary Supplement, October 8, 1993, Norman Davies, review of The Last King of Poland, p. 34; July 26, 1996, Keith Sword, review of The Forgotten Few, p. 31; February 11, 2000, Derek Beales, review of Holy Madness, p. 30; May 25, 2001, review of Poland, p. 32; July 20, 2007, "In the Most Personal Manner," p. 22.

Washington Post, November 13, 1982, Jospeh McLellan, review of Paderewski, p. 7.


Adam Zamoyski Home Page, (January 4, 2008).

Sarmatian Review, (January 4, 2008), Joseph Kotarba, review of The Forgotten Few.