Review of The Polish Peasant in Europe and America
Henry P. Fairchild
The Polish Peasant in Europe and America. By WILLIAM I. THOMAS and FLORIAN ZNANIECKI. Boston: Richard G. Badger, 1918. Vol. I. Pp. xi+526. Vol. II. Pp. vi+589. $10.00.
These volumes are the first of a series of five devoted to a study of the Polish peasant, or rather utilizing the Polish peasant as a means for developing a certain method of studying sociological problems. This method is explained in the Methodological Note which occupies the first 86 pages of the first volume; briefly stated, it consists in the application of a rational technique to the working out of social problems the solution of which is essential to human welfare and progress. As the
(332) authors say, the work is "largely documentary" and consists of compilations and transcripts of many series of letters written by members of the group in question in the two countries.
One finds it difficult in these strenuous war times to conceive that anyone ever had time to read such an enormous mass of detailed material, to say nothing of getting it ready for other people to read. Nevertheless one recognizes at once that this is just the way these things ought to be studied, and that this work is a valuable contribution to a much-neglected and very important field of research. We in this country have stubbornly closed our eyes to the significance of race mixture and the mingling of cultures. The whole question of social assimilation has received astonishingly little scientific attention. Some have maintained that the question was wholly biological, others that it was entirely a question of changing customs. Few have sought to apply to it the only scientific method of approach, that of inductive investigation. It is to be hoped that this series will be the forerunner of many similar studies of the foreign elements in our population.
The portion of these volumes which will be most read is the 200-page Introduction, which gives a remarkably vivid picture of a semi-modernized group of people in their native habitat. It is the transference of this people to the different social environment and life-conditions of the United States and the adaptive processes involved which occasion the problem of the Polish immigrant. In so far as this work contributes to an understanding of the nature of this problem and the methods of handling it, it will be of the greatest value, not only because of the importance of the Poles themselves in our national life, but because the principles worked out in the case of the Poles can be applied to many other immigrant groups.
HENRY P. FAIRCHILD