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The Peasant Prince: Thaddeus Kosciuszko and the Age of Revolution
by Alex Storozynski
St. Martin's Press / Thomas Dunne Books, April 2009


Thaddeus Kosciuszko (1746-1817), was one of the most important figures of the modern world. He came to America one month after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, literally showing up on Benjamin Franklin’s doorstep in Philadelphia with little more than a revolutionary spirit and a genius for engineering. He quickly proved his capabilities and became the most talented engineer of the Continental Army, constructing the fortifications for Philadelphia, devising battle plans that were integral to the American victory at the pivotal Battle of Saratoga, and designing the plans for Fortress West Point – the same plans that were stolen by Benedict Arnold. Then, seeking new challenges, Kosciuszko asked for a transfer to the Southern Army, where he oversaw a ring of African-American spies.

A lifelong champion of the common man and woman, Kosciuszko was ahead of his time in advocating tolerance and standing up for the rights of slaves, Native Americans, women, serfs, and Jews. After the war, Kosciuszko returned to Poland and was a leading figure in that nation’s Constitutional movement. He became Commander in Chief of the Polish Army and in 1794 valiantly led what was dubbed the Kosciuszko Uprising – a revolt of Polish-Lithuanian forces against the Russian occupiers. Captured during the revolt, he was ultimately pardoned by Russia’s Paul I and lived the remainder of his life as an international celebrity and a vocal proponent for human rights. Thomas Jefferson, with whom Kosciuszko had an ongoing correspondence on the immorality of slaveholding, called him “as pure a son of liberty as I have ever known.” This definitive and exhaustively researched biography fills a long-standing gap in historical literature with its account of a dashing and inspiring revolutionary figure.

...a sweeping, colorful, and absorbing biography that should restore Kosciuszko to his proper place in history – Andrew Nagorski, Newsweek

The Peasant Prince is an objective history that is needed in today’s America and Poland. The hero of Alex’s book is one of the fathers of modern democracy in the same mold as Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Lincoln. – Adam Michnik, Solidarnosc activist and editor in chief of Gazeta Wyborcza

Kosciuszko's years of devotion to the American cause framed his efforts to transform Poland into a self-governing republic freed from the oversight of Russia's interests. He antagonized Catherine the Great and, later, Napoleon. Kosciuszko rallied the first Jewish military force since biblical times to fight for Polish independence, and consistently supported equality and education for peasants, Jews, Muslim Tatars and American slaves – which earned him the devotion of the masses and lectures by the upper classes. Readers of military and American history should take note: the minute details will enthrall devotees. Casual readers will benefit from Storozynski's expert crafting of a readable and fact-filled story that pulls readers into the immediacy of the revolutionary era's partisan and financial troubles. – Publishers Weekly

In a meticulously researched work, Storozynski greatly enhances our understanding of Kosciuszko’s personality and motivations by investigating the Pole’s relationship and feelings toward Africans, Jews, and peasants. His contribution advances our knowledge of this complex character whom Jefferson considered the ‘purest son of liberty’ he ever knew. – James Pula, Purdue University

a testament to a great man and an important addition to world history. – Byron E. Price, Texas Southern University

Alex Storozynski is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, a former member of the New York Daily News editorial board, founding editor of amNewYork, and former city editor of The New York Sun. In April 2009 he was appointed Director of the Kosciuszko Foundation.


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