Congratulations to Francis Young on the Publication of his Book Pagans in the Early Modern Baltic, funded by an AABS Book Publication Subvention

Apr 25, 2022

The AABS Board is pleased to announce that Arc Humanities Press has been awarded the AABS Book Publication Subvention for publishing “Pagans in the Early Modern Baltic: Sixteenth-Century Ethnographic Accounts of Baltic Paganism.” The book, authored by English historian Francis Young, is the first translation into English of the key Latin texts written between around 1450 and 1580 about the religion, culture and language of the Balts, at a time when paganism was still a living reality in the Baltic region.

©Francis Young, 2022

Francis Young is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and holds a
PhD in History from Cambridge University. He is the author, editor or translator of 18 books and works on the history of European religion
and belief. He is interested in how history illuminates the nature of
belief and in the intersections between religion, folklore, magic and other forms of supernatural belief. His books have dealt with early modern Catholicism, the history of exorcism, medieval monasticism, folklore, the cult of saints, the history of magic and witchcraft, and
Baltic paganism. He is also a professional indexer and a translator specialising in medieval and early modern Latin.
Pagans in the Early Modern Baltic is the first translation into English of the key Latin texts written between around 1450 and 1580 about the religion, culture and language of the Balts, at a time when paganism was still a living reality in the Baltic region. The Union of Krewo and the formal conversion of Lithuania to Christianity in 1387 created a vast domain ruled by the Lithuanian Jagiellonian dynasty. It therefore became imperative for the scholars of Europe to understand Lithuania and the Lithuanians, who had become in a short time one of the major powers of Catholic Christendom. Pagans in the Early Modern Baltic brings together the writings of ten authors of diverse nationalities (Polish, Lithuanian, German and Italian) who were all trying to make sense of the Baltic peoples in the context of the Renaissance ethnography of the time. These authors, who displayed genuine curiosity about Baltic beliefs and customs even while they condemned pagan ignorance, preserved valuable information about Baltic cultures (although it is important to treat these sources, largely written by outsiders, with caution). The book includes the entire texts of Jan Łasicki’s On the Gods of the Samogitians and Jan Malecki’s Little Book on the Sacrifices and Idolatry of the Old Prussians, as well as extracts from larger works that discussed Baltic religion and society.

 

The Impact of an Award: Report from Francis Young

After the publication of Pagans in the Early Modern Baltic on April 12,
Francis Young submitted the following to AABS.
We thank him for his permission to publish his thoughts here.

 

I am very grateful to the AABS for the award of the annual Book Publication Subvention to Pagans in the Early Modern Baltic, which was published on 12 April 2022, and I take this opportunity to express my appreciation of the AABS for its support for my book. As a consequence of the award, Arc Humanities Press was able to reduce the price at which the book was offered for sale, and was also able to offer me an additional paperback contract for the book, which will see a paperback edition published a few months after the hardback edition. Furthermore, the publisher offered to include a frontispiece illustration for the book (from Sebastian Münster’s Cosmographia), which would not otherwise have been affordable. The award of the Book Subvention assisted me in promoting the book, and my promotion of the book on social media (especially Twitter) has consistently received strong engagement, suggesting there is a public appetite for a volume in English on Baltic paganism. The translator of the Lithuanian summary, Saulė Kubiliūtė, has also made an important contribution to sharing news of the book’s publication by promoting it to Lithuanian-speaking academic and non-academic audiences.

 

My book was the subject of an article in The Baltic Review on 25 February 2022 (‘Introducing Baltic paganism to the English-speaking world’) and I authored a blogpost for Arc Humanities Press about the book that was published on 18 April 2022. The press was able to introduce a 40% discount on the book that is available until 24 June 2022 (code: PEMA40).

In late 2021 I approached the Lithuanian Embassy in London about the possibility of their hosting an online book launch for Pagans in the Early Modern Baltic, and I met with officials at the Embassy in January 2022 to discuss the plan. Over the next few months we determined a format for an online launch, which took place on 31 May. The launch was introduced by the Ambassador of Lithuania to the United Kingdom, Renatas Norkus, and was chaired by Dr Pavel Horák of Cambridge University. After I introduced the main themes of the book, Professor Vytautas Ališauskas of Vilnius University and Dr Toms Ķencis of the University of Latvia responded with their reflections on the book, before the discussion was opened to people participating via Zoom and YouTube.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and Russia’s threats against the Baltic states have sharpened many scholars’ awareness of the urgency of communicating the history and culture of East-Central Europe to a Western European and North American public to whom the region is still largely unknown. I was heartened to see that the publication of my book quite closely coincided with the publication of a book on a similar theme in France, Les derniers païens (‘The Last Pagans’) by Sylvain Gouguenheim (a book of which I was unaware until its publication); it feels as though Baltic paganism’s moment has arrived as a subject of wider public awareness beyond the Baltic states.

What is the AABS Book Publication Subvention?

The AABS awards its Book Publication Subvention of up to $5,000 for individually authored books, edited volumes, and multiple-authored books in English that make a substantial scholarly contribution to Baltic Studies. The applications must be submitted by publishers, not authors. Priority will be given to single author’s first monographs.

AABS awards two Book Publication Subventions each year. Applications may be submitted for review anytime, on a rolling basis.

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