International

Jews, Scots and other Vagabonds

The fact that there 250,000 Poles in the country won’t be news to anyone who has walked down a British High Street recently.

What is less well known is that, some of them at least, are coming home to the land of their ancestors:

Poland in the 16th and 17th centuries…faced a tidal wave of migrant Scots looking for work.

At a time when the Scottish population was less than a million, more than 30,000 of them were flogging their wares in Poland.

The Polish royal court claimed it could not do without them. They became bankers to noble families and some were awarded Polish aristocratic titles. In the 17th century, two of Lublin’s mayors were Scots and Alexander Chalmers, a linen merchant, was three times Mayor of Warsaw.

But not everyone was happy:

A backlash quickly set in against them. In 1566 a decree forbade Scottish peddlers to roam freely. Later, Sigismund III issued a proclamation against “Jews, Scots and other vagabonds”. The Polish Parliament passed an edict subjecting all resident Scots to a capitation tax.

Clearly offering reasonably-priced services to the locals is as potentially problematic today as it was in the Sixteenth century.

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