The Radziwiłłs of Nieśwież
A Contribution to Industrial
"Mecenate" in the First Half
of the 1 Century*
As a result of numerous wars fought within the boundaries of the Polish-
-Lithuanian Republic in the second half of the seventeenth and the beginning
of the eighteenth century a severe economical crisis shook the whole country.
The finał destruction, which brought in its wake depopulation, hunger,
epidemics and poverty, came by way of the Great Northern War (1700-1721)
during which the armies of Sweden, Russia and Saxony, after securing
a home front, ravaged the country with contributions. This situation was not
propitious to reconstruction and development of economy and only during
the period of relative peace in the seventeen twenties and thirties putting
roperties in order and their development became possible.
On the turn of the seventeenth century the Republic was a typical agrarian
c- untry, with vast areas covered by woods and forests. Smali enterprises like
n foundries and glassworks concentrated mainly in the Southern and
Stern part of the country, in the Little Poland (Małopolska) and the Great
and (Wielkopolska). They could satisfy only the most basie needs, limiting
eir production to simple or semi-finished produets. Manufactures of high
technical level in private estates, sporadically established by magnates for
prestige, were unprofitahle. This was favourable for import of high ąuality
goods, via the main trade centres of Gdańsk and Konigsberg.
This situation changed when Frederick August, the elector of Saxony
ascended to the Polish throne. Researchers often pointed to the king’s role as
an animator of economic enterprises of many Polish and Tithuanian magnates
who knew about August’s II views on economic reforms and possibility of its
quick development, for example by establishing in estates highly specialised
manufactures to produce luxury produets and by supporting handicraft and
trade. The guests at court ceremonies in Dresden or yisitors at the Teipzig Fair
* This study is based on a paper read at a conference “Woman and Art” in the Gallery of Painting
in Lviv in November 1996, entitled Anna Radziwiłł nee Sanguszko. On Industrial “Mecenate” in
the First Half of the Eighteenth Century.