Dr Mindaugas Sapoka

Poland-Lithuania and Jacobitism c. 1714 – c. 1750

Mindaugas Sapoka was educated at Vilnius University (Lithuania) and the University of Aberdeen where he wrote his doctorate. His dissertation ‘The Genesis of the Vilnius Confederation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1710-1715’ explores a crucial part of the Great Northern War of 1700-21, which saw the rise of Russia and the accelerated decline of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It provides a synthetic account of the economic, social, and political factors in Lithuania that led to the formation of the Vilnius Confederation, which was of crucial importance in the developments that led up to the 1717 Silent Sejm, and which have never been studied in depth in any language. His research demonstrates that because of the long-established tendency to neglect Lithuanian political history in favour of studies that focus on Poland, existing scholarship fails to reflect the reality of Lithuanian political culture in the first quarter of the 18th century. His research disproves deep-rooted myths which portray the Lithuanian nobility as largely subservient to the magnates and challenges another myth which views Lithuanian magnates as entirely subservient to the Russian tsar, Peter I. The dissertation shows that, despite conventionally held beliefs which emphasise chaos and underdevelopment, Lithuania’s economy and political system were functioning fairly well in 1710-17, considering the circumstances, and provided a sound basis for the fiscal reforms of the Silent Sejm in 1717.

Mindaugas Sapoka’s postdoctoral research examines Jacobitism from an entirely new angle. Utilizing the under-researched Sobieski papers in Belarus and drawing on extensive sources in Poland and in Scottish Catholic Archives in Aberdeen, it aims to recalibrate the boundaries of Jacobitism, shifting the Jacobite history to the East. This project looks at the Jacobite connections with Poland in several dimensions. Firstly, it examines the marriage of James III to Clementina Sobieska, granddaughter of King John III Sobieski of Poland. The project will draw on materials in east European archives to cast light on the marriage and the early upbringing of the two princes: Charles Edward and Henry Benedict. Secondly, the research will concentrate on the contacts between the Sobieski family and the Stuarts which have been neglected by historians. The third focus is another set of Stuart-Polish connections with the court of Stanislaw Leszczynski, the former king of Poland and candidate for the throne in 1733, who, as Louis XV’s father-in-law and Duke of Lorraine, ran an enlightened court in Nancy that was a place of constant meetings between the French and Polish aristocracies.