Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Dr. Eva Plach

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor


Located on both sides of the Polish-Belarusian border in north-eastern Poland, the Białowieża forest is the largest remaining remnant of the vast primeval forest that once covered most of Europe. It is also home to Europe’s biggest land animal—the European bison. Over the past century Polish governments, as well as modern-day Polish and European environmental groups, have promoted the forest as the “last European wilderness.” Even today, the public regularly protests and decries news of human encroachment on the forest. Yet in reality, the Białowieża forest has been exploited and studied by humans for centuries, making it one of the best-known places on earth. Despite clear evidence of human intrusion into Białowieża through successive political regimes and both world wars, the myth of a wild Białowieża nevertheless persists in Poland and Europe. This dissertation explores the history behind the myth of the wild forest as well as the myth-making process. Based on extensive research using archival material and published primary and secondary sources, this dissertation asks where the myth of a wild Białowieża came from and why it emerged, and explores how this myth shaped the history of the forest from the second half of the 19th century through to the first half of the 20th century. This dissertation argues that the myth was powerful enough to dictate various government policies related to the forest and ultimately to determine the fate of the forest itself.

Convocation Year


Available for download on Friday, January 16, 2026