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Wrested from Oblivion: General Ludwik Mierosławski’s Strategy Game Rediscovered

   | 17 gru 2020


During the first half of the 19th century, liberal and nationalist uprisings erupted in all corners of Europe. While militant revolutionaries fought against restorative monarchies for more tolerant legislation or even full national independence, their countries slid into turmoil. In this European struggle, which set parts of Germany, Poland, France and Italy aflame, Ludwik Mierosławski (1814–1878) was one of the key insurgents. Besides being a keen partisan of Polish independence, Mierosławski enjoyed thorough military training and proved himself an astute theoretician of military strategy. It might be argued that he was probably one of the most inventive minds of his time, creating among other things an early tank vehicle and a bulletproof knapsack that could be used as a shield.

This article brings a hitherto unknown invention of Mierosławski to light: A strategy game depicting military maneuvers on an abstract map. Defying complicated rules and adhering to pure simplicity, the game was both fast-learning and captivating. Moreover, contemporary critics praised its way of introducing players to the fundamentals of strategic thinking and military geography. Several matches were even played at the French military academy at St. Cyr in 1858. The extensive research of this article not only reveals the background of Mierosławski’s invention but also his methods of making the complete game public. The last chapter of this contribution contains a summary of the game rules, enabling the readers to bring this invention to life by themselves. In the end, the study of his game allows us to approach and discover Mierosławski’s ideas and ways of thinking, thereby shedding further light on this complex personality.