Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Kith, Kin and Neighbors: Communities and Confessions in Seventeenth-Century Wilno

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Kith, Kin and Neighbors: Communities and Confessions in Seventeenth-Century Wilno

Article excerpt

Kith, Kin and Neighbors: Communities and Confessions in Seventeenth-Century Wilno. By David Frick. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 2013. Pp. xxvi, 529. $69.95. ISBN 978-0-8014-5128-7.)

In Kith, Kin and Neighbors, David Frick analyzes the ethno-confessional relations between the inhabitants of Wilno (Vilnius) in the seventeenth-century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Although well known for its ethnic and confessional diversity, the city and its intertwined social networks have rarely been treated as extensively as in this book. Based on an impressive range of source material collected over years of research, the book surveys the Vilnians' sphere of life, private and social, from birth to earth, baptism to deathbed, and everything in between.

What makes reading the sources particularly enthralling is the topographical setting re-created for each story. The place, house, or street is depicted not only as background but also, in a way, to serve as one of the characters: it corrals people together, generates confrontations, and forces them to look for ways to coexist. The royal quartermaster's surveys ("lustrations") of the intramural houses of Wilno as potential lodgings during the king's visit provide the basis. These reports have been drawn into maps of the city, the houses numbered and referred to throughout the book. Frick's technique of placing the people and their negotiations of confessional and religious differences on the physical map brings to life the daily reality of Wilno, where Roman Catholics, Calvinists, Lutherans, Orthodox, Uniates, Jews, and Muslim Tatars were inextricably entangled in networks of family, friendship, trade, cooperation, and confrontation across ethnic and confessional lines.

Seventeenth-century Wilno emerges as an exceptional mix of cultures and identities whose coexistence was conditioned by practical needs rather than ideological tolerance. It is particularly enlightening to see how, even in the aftermath of the great confessional earthquakes of the sixteenth century, which is often viewed in historiography as the basis for intense antagonism, the Vilnians looked for mutual understanding in their daily interaction. …

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