A History of Poland
"God's Playground" was first conceived in the early 1970s as a collection of essays on Polish History. I had just started my first academic post at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies in London, and I aimed to put the best of my lectures to good use. I wrote up one essay/lecture on the Szlachta i.e. the Nobility, and then another on the Baltic Grain Trade, and sent them as samples to a distinguished literary publisher, Chatto and Windus, whose offices were on nearby Bedford Square. The proposal was accepted and Christopher Maclehose was appointed as my editor.
Differences of opinion, however, soon arose. I thought that the contents could easily be expanded to produce a complete survey of Poland's 1000 year history. Mr. Maclehose thought that the essays should be slimmed down. We parted company, when, after defeating me heavily in a game of squash, he tried to insist that I cut 40 percent of the text from every page.
Fortunately, a more senior editor, Hugo Brunner - later the Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire - to whom I appealed, agreed with me; since he was about to move to Oxford University Press, he decided to take the nascent book with him. OUP's excellent History editor, Ivon Asquith, fully supported the arrangements. The last chapter was delivered in the summer of 1979 just after Pope John Paul II’s visit to Poland. I managed to add a few paragraphs about the rise of Solidarity when the book was already being edited. As I discovered to my horror after publication the text was never checked by a Polish language editor, so many of the Polish names and terms were badly spelled. I designed the covers of the two volumes myself; and they finally appeared in the bookshops on the best day possible - 14 December 1981.