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The Polish Peasant in Europe and

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Cover (or one of the intro pages) of the first (1918) edition of The Polish Peasant in
Europe and America
The Polish Peasant in Europe and America is a book by Florian Znaniecki and
William I. Thomas, considered to be one of the classics of sociology. The book is a
study of Polish immigrants and their families, based on personal documents, and was
published in five volumes in the years 1918 to 1920.


1 Theme

2 Controversies

3 Significance

4 References

5 Bibliography

6 Further reading

7 External links

At the turn of the 20th century, Poles accounted for about a quarter of all new
immigrants to the United States.[1] Chicago was host to about 350,000 Poles and had the
third largest population of Poles (after Warsaw and d).[1]
The Polish Peasant in Europe and America was the culmination of research by
American sociologist William I. Thomas and Polish scholar Florian Znaniecki, carried
out primarily during their time at the University of Chicago and supported by a
substantial grant from millionaire Helen Culver.[2][3] It is a study of Polish immigrants to
America and their families based on personal documents (primarily letters) as well as on
documents such as brochures, newspaper articles, parish and court documents, and so
The work opens with an introduction, or Methodological Note, written primarily by
Znaniecki, in which he discusses the history and structure of Polish countryside, and the
study's methodology.[6][7] This topic is of primary concern of tomes one and two, with
tomes three to five focusing on the recent changes to the Polish countryside, and the
transformation of Polish peasant-immigrants in America.[4][6] The third tome's major
focus is the analysis an autobiography of one peasant, Wadysaw Winiewski.[8][9]
Thomas was the originator of this study, having taken interest in studying immigrant
communities of Chicago already in the 1890s.[10] He was also the originator of the
concept of studying written materials for sociological insight, and initially intended this
work to be a collection of translated and annotated primary documents. Znaniecki
convinced him to extend this project into a larger work, one with a more detailed
analysis of the topic subject, its methodology and corresponding theory.[11]
Thomas and Znaniecki intended to explore the relation between individuals and society,
focusing on groups such as families and neighborhoods, and community ties, which
they believed were key to social change. They argue that the Polish community was
shaped less by US government policies, and more by its own culture and social ties.
They stress the importance of the group, and attribute social disorganization to cases
when individuals become isolated from a group (see also anomie).[12] The authors start
by analyzing the circumstances of Polish countryside and reasons for immigration,[12]
and in conclusion discuss the transformation of said immigrants, show that the Poles are
becoming not American but Polish-Americans, a new ethnic group, as their culture is
changing to fit the American context, but retaining some unique characteristics.[13]
The five tomes totaled about 2,232 pages.[1] They were published over three years: in
1918 (volumes I and II), 1919 (volume III) and 1920 (volumes IV and V).[13]


The work has been subject to two major controversies. The first concerns a society
scandal that enveloped Thomas around 1918, which resulted in him losing his
professorship at Chicago University, and the Chicago University Press cancelling its
deal with the authors about the printing of the first edition. Subsequently the book was
published in the less prestigious Gorham Press from Boston.[14][15]
The second controversy concerns the question of authorship, in particular with regards
to whether Thomas or Znaniecki should be considered the primary author. The book's
idea originated with Thomas; however after seeing Znaniecki's proposal for changing it
from a collection of primary materials into an analytical piece, and reading his proposed
re-framing introduction, Thomas proposed to him that they become co-authors.[16][17]
Dulczewski in his biography of Znaniecki concludes that the question is moot, as both
had contributed to this work significantly and "neither would have been able to author
this work by themselves".[18] While some consider Znaniecki to be a junior writer,
Thomas himself wrote that "it would be quite impossible to establish who wrote what",
and Bulmer concludes that "to regard Zaniecki as merely Thomas' assistant is
incorrect... he took a major part in drafting the book... the two were true collaborators",
with Znaniecki's skill in philosophy, methodology and the subject matter of Polish
society complementing Thomas' expertise in sociology, social psychology, and the
Polish-American Chicago community.[19]

This five-volume work is considered a classic of empirical sociology.[2][20] Martin Bulmer
in 1986 described it as a "neglected classic... landmark because it attempted to integrate
theory and data in a way no American study had done before".[21] In the introduction to
the 1996 edition, Eli Zaretsky argues it can be seen as a "founding work" of American
It is a valuable contribution to the methodological development of the social sciences in
the United States.[23][24] The book had begun a shift from theoretical research into one
grounded in empirical data.[21] Bulmer notes that "the subsequent use in sociological
research of personal documents, such as life histories, letters, diaries, and other firstperson material, may in large measure be traced back to the influence of The Polish
Peasant. (This approach is known as content analysis, and this study has also been
described as a classic case study of this approach[25]). The life story of Wadek was the
first systematically collected sociological life history".[26]
It was a major influence on the Chicago school, providing a model for much future
research.[24][27] It contributed to the development of the social disorganization theory[24][28]
and became a landmark study of Americanization (in the word's original meaning, i.e.
how do new immigrants to United States become "Americans").[29][30] It was also one of
the earliest works to study the topic of immigration to the United States, particularly
with regards to trying to understand both the European and the American social context.

In 1937 the Social Science Research Council listed the book as one of the six most
important works in social sciences.[29] A year later, Herbert Blumer headed a commission
which produced an extensive, approximate 200-pages analysis of the book, and became

the first tome in a series of Critiques of Research in the Social Science.[29] By 1939 it had
at least 30 English reviews and 10 in different languages.[29]
A Polish edition, Chop polski w Europie i Ameryce, was published in 1976.[32]


^ Jump up to: a b c Bulmer, p. 50

^ Jump up to: a b c Piotr Sztompka (2002). Socjologia: Analiza spoeczestwa. Znak.
pp. 5253. ISBN 978-83-240-0218-4.


Jump up ^ Bulmer, p. 47


^ Jump up to: a b Dulczewski, p. 169


Jump up ^ Bulmer, p. 52


^ Jump up to: a b Dulczewski, pp. 14554


Jump up ^ Bulmer, p. 56


Jump up ^ Bulmer, pp. 524


Jump up ^ Dulczewski, pp. 1669


Jump up ^ Bulmer, p. 46


Jump up ^ Dulczewski, pp. 1414


^ Jump up to: a b Zaretsky, pp. xxiixiv


^ Jump up to: a b Zaretsky, p. 105 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name
"Thomas1996" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).


Jump up ^ Dulczewski, pp. 1646


Jump up ^ Bulmer, pp. 5960


Jump up ^ Zaretsky, p. xi


Jump up ^ Dulczewski, p. 143


Jump up ^ Dulczewski, p. 184


Jump up ^ Bulmer, p. 49


Jump up ^ Zaretsky, pp. 11


^ Jump up to: a b Bulmer, p. 45


Jump up ^ Zaretsky, p. ix


Jump up ^ Dulczewski, p. 180


^ Jump up to: a b c Bulmer, p. 58


Jump up ^ Leonard Cargan (19 January 2007). Doing Social Research. Rowman &
Littlefield Publishers. p. 78. ISBN 978-0-7425-7731-2.


Jump up ^ Bulmer, p. 54


Jump up ^ Zaretsky, p. xiv


Jump up ^ Bulmer, pp. 61


^ Jump up to: a b c d Dulczewski, pp. 1757


Jump up ^ Dulczewski, pp. 1804


Jump up ^ Zaretsky, p. x


Jump up ^ Isaac, William. "Results for 'Chop polski w Europie i Ameryce'".

Worldcat.org. Retrieved 2014-05-29.


Martin Bulmer (15 August 1986). The Chicago School of Sociology:

Institutionalization, Diversity, and the Rise of Sociological Research. University
of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-08005-5.

Eli Zaretsky; Florian Znaniecki; William I. Thomas (1996). "Introduction". The

Polish Peasant in Europe and America: A Classic Work in Immigration History.
University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-06484-5.

Zygmunt Dulczewski (1984). Florian Znaniecki: ycie i dzieo (in Polish).

Wydawnictwo Poznaskie. ISBN 978-83-210-0482-2.

Further reading[edit]

Critiques of Research in the Social Sciences: An Appraisal of Thomas and

Znaniecki's The Polish Peasant in Europe and America. Transaction Publishers.
1 January 1979. ISBN 978-1-4128-2076-9.

External links[edit]

Full text of the book at archive.org: 1927 edition, 1918 edition, other versions

Full text of the book, 1918-1920 edition, at cornell.edu

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