Poland-Lithuania, the 1683 relief expedition to Vienna and the crusading movement

Philip James

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis explores the stimuli and internal processes which brought an army from Poland-Lithuania, led by King Jan III Sobieski, to the relief of Vienna in 1683, posing in addition the question of whether this expedition merits consideration as part of the crusading movement.

Previous examinations of crusading in early modernity, which have not included these events within the scope of their study, have reached the conclusion that the true end of the movement should be dated to the late sixteenth century. Meanwhile, existing studies covering the relief expedition have rarely progressed beyond examining it as a military exercise, failing to fully appreciate or missing entirely the streak of religious motivation which underpinned the assistance provided by the Rzeczpospolita Obojga Narodów (Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth). Those works in English have, moreover, frequently displayed deficiencies in their understanding of the unique political system and culture of that polity.

Working primarily through epistolary and diaristic evidence, this thesis offers the first detailed, anglophone, Rzeczpospolita-centric study of the background to and events of the relief expedition. It refines our understanding of the roles played in the political system by the elected monarch and the szlachta (the powerful noble class of the Rzeczpospolita); examines the impact of French, Imperial and Brandenburg-Prussian diplomacy; reassesses the events of the 1681 and 1683 Sejmy (parliaments), the former broken without issuing legislation through the exercise of the liberum veto, the latter successfully concluded; and brings the religious characteristics of the resulting relief expedition into the foreground. Moreover, it demonstrates that, at least in one previously overlooked part of Christendom, engagement with both the mechanisms and the ideology of crusading remained possible on a society-wide level as late as the final decades of the seventeenth century. 

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Phillips, Jonathan, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Oct 2021
Publication statusUnpublished - 9 Sept 2021


  • Poland-Lithuania
  • Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
  • Rzeczpospolita Obojga Narodów
  • Sobieski
  • Vienna
  • 1683
  • Seventeenth century
  • Sejm
  • Sejmy
  • Crusades
  • Holy War
  • Crusading

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