This book aims to present a general picture of the development of Polish literature, from its beginnings in the Middle Ages to the end of the Second World War, as seen against a cultural background which includes important historical and political events, the life of society, intellectual trends, education, and the arts. The main puropse of the book is to serve students and in part scholars not only in Polish, but also in the other Slavic literatures and in comparative literature. Since the study of Polish on the graduate level includes literature in the proper sense, social history, and culture, and since many literary historians are interested in cultural problems, it seemed desirable to give them at least general information about these subjects. This was done for purely didactic reasons, although not in accordance with the author's theoretical attitude concerning the autonomous character of literature and its development according to its own specific and to a large extent independent 'laws'. This is also the reason why the term 'literature' has been conceived, for the purpose of this book, in the broader sense, including not only poets, novelists, and dramatists, but also political, social, and moral writers, as well as historians and literary critics.
However, literary works in the strict sense are treated mostly from the literary point of view, and the choice of authors is based on their artistic significance and achievements. Literature, too, constitutes the bulk of the book, while historical and cultural developments are treated less thoroughly.
The present English version is by no means a simple translation of the author's Literatura polska na tle rozwoju kultury ('Polish Literature and its Cultural Background') published in New York by Roy Publishers in 1945. On the contrary, it is a thoroughly reworked and revised version of the Polish original adapted to the new purpose of the book and its new readers. Among other things, it is shorter, contains fewer excerpts and quotations from Polish (unavailable in English translation) and omits that material which would appear to be of little interest to the foreign reader. On the other hand, the English version is provided with more of