The first settlements on the future site of Lublin were established around 6th or 7th century. The earliest trading settlement was created on the Czwartek hill in 11th century. In 12th century, there already existed a fortification which played an important part in defending Polish borders against Ruthenia. Later on, between the 12th and the 13th century, a new settlement started to grow in the northeastern part of the Old Town hill. In 1317, the Polish King Władysław I Łokietek granted the town Magdeburg rights. After being destroyed by the Tatars in 1341, Lublin was encircled with defensive walls by the order of king Casimir the Great (Kazimierz Wielki). Lublin was a trade-oriented settlement located in an area allowing for interactions with both eastern and western part of Europe, which contributed largely to its multi-ethnic and multi-faith character. The town was inhabited by Poles, Lithuanians, Ruthenes, Armenians and Jews, as well as merchants from Western Europe.
One of the events that most contributed to the development of the town was the Polish-Lithuanian Union of 1385. Lublin was no longer the target of numerous attacks and it thrived thanks to its location on the route between the two capitals of the Jagiellonian country – Wilno and Kraków. The townspeople of Lublin were given the right of free trade in Lithuania. In 1447, a great fire almost completely destroyed the town. Meaning to help the inhabitants, King Kazimierz Jagiellończyk exempted them from paying a number of taxes and gave Lublin the right to organise three additional fairs each year. In 1474, the town, which until then had been a part of the Sandomierz region, became the capital of a newly created province. The Sejm held in Lublin in 1569 led to the conclusion of a real union between the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which resulted in merging the two countries into one state – the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
In the middle of the 16th century, the wave of Reformation swept through Lublin. A Calvinist congregation was founded there in 1562. A group of radical Arians also appeared in the town, making it an important national centre of Arianism. In an attempt to defend the Catholic population of Lublin from the dynamic spread of Protestantism, the Society of Jesus was brought to the town in 1582. In the 16th and 17th century Lublin was also famous for its highly developed material and spiritual culture. It hosted a number of outstanding poets, such as Mikołaj Rej, Jan Kochanowski, Marcin Kromer (a historian and a chronicle) or Łukasz Górnicki. One of the town's mayors, Sebastian Fabian Klonowic, was also renowned for his literary works.
The end of the 16th century, however, saw the gradual decline of Lublin's importance as a trade centre. As a consequence of numerous congresses and Sejms taking place in the town, and, in particular, of the annual regional assemblies of the Crown Tribunal held there since 1578, many manor houses and palaces were built throughout the town. Finally, the glorious days of Lublin were brought to an end by the wars of the 17th century. In 1655, the town was ravaged by the Swedes and in the following years the damage was exacerbated by the Muscovite army reinforced by Cossack troops, which brought almost the entire Jewish quarter to the ground and killed almost 2,000 of its residents. Lublin fell into decay and its impoverished citizens were unable to resume their former economic activity.
The economic crisis deprived the town of its cultural importance. Even though in 1703 king August II, in return for Lublin's loyalty during the war with the Swedish King Karl XII, granted the town the same rights as Kraków and confirmed the privileges bestowed to the Jews earlier on, its decay and poverty persisted due to numerous marches of troops, tribute payments, plagues and fires. Some attempts to make up for the aftermath of war damage were made in the 18th century, but Lublin never managed to regain its former importance and became a peripheral centre. After the resolutions of the Great Sejm and the implementation of the Constitution of 3 May 1791, a reform of the local government was initiated, but the entrance of Russian troops into the city in 1792 cut it short.
After the partitions of 1795, Lublin came under the Austrian rule and became a part of West Galicia. The occupation brought further tributes and requisitions, and the fire of 1803 destroyed a number of buildings in Krakowskie Przedmieście Street. In 1805, Pope Pius VII created a new Catholic diocese with capital in Lublin. Four years later, in 1809, the town was freed from the Austrian occupation and incorporated into the Duchy of Warsaw, becoming the capital of one of its departments. This meant, however, that Lublin was forced to make significant contributions for Napoleon's military campaigns.
In 1815, Lublin, in a decrepit and rundown state, became a province capital (and, from 1836, a governorate capital) in the Kingdom of Poland, a state created by the Congress of Vienna. The town slowly started to get up on its feet; houses, palaces, and temples were renovated and new streets were set out. Krakowskie Przedmieście Street gained importance as the most representative part of Lublin. The utterly ruined former royal castle was rebuilt in neogothic style with Moorish influences and served primarily as a jail.
Lublin and its inhabitants were heavily victimised for supporting both the November and the January Uprising, which resulted, among others, in the collapse of the school system and decay of the town's social and cultural life. At the same time, the post-uprising period coincided the beginning of the industrial era, which led to creating new housing estates for physical workers, developing the areas surrounding the newly-built railway station and founding a number of industrial plants.
In the 19th century Lublin underwent various architectural changes and new merchants and entrepreneurs started to arrive to the town; among Poles and Jews, one could also see people of Russian, Czech and German descent. Despite the repressions imposed by the tsar, the cultural life in Lublin thrived; various social, cultural and educational organisations were founded and several press titles were published. At the turn of the century, the activity of Polish and Jewish political parties increased substantially and the condition of the school system visibly improved. In 1877, a new railway station was created on the Vistula River Railroad (Kowel (Ukr. Kovel) – Warsaw – Mława); later on, it became a junction station (routes to Łuków and Rozwadów).
After the end of World War I, in October of 1918, the first government of the newly independent Poland was created in Lublin, with Ignacy Daszyński as the head of the state. Under the Second Polish Republic Lublin became a province capital. The interbellum period saw the economic growth of the town, occasionally brought to a halt by times of crisis. New housing estates started to appear and sewage collection system was built. Despite poverty and difficult financial conditions, the cultural life of the town was very rich. Lublin became an academic centre – the Catholic University of Lublin (Polish: Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski, KUL) was founded in 1918, the Jesuit theological collegium “Bobolabum” – in 1926, and the Chachmei Lublin Yeshiva – in 1930.
During World War II, Lublin became the headquarters of the German district occupational authorities. Given its location between the Eastern Front and the Reich, the Nazi government considered the town an important strategic point for the German army. At the same time, a strong police and military garrison implemented the German policy of extermination of Jews and Poles. In 1941, the Nazi created the Majdanek camp on the outskirts of Lublin – it served as both a POW and concentration camp, as well as a penal transit camp for Polish rural population and a death camp for Jewish people.
On 23 July 1994, Lublin was taken by the Soviet Army. Between July 1944 and January 1945, the town became the headquarters of the Polish Committee of National Liberation (Polish: Polski Komitet Wyzwolenia Narodowego, PKWN) and, later on, of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Poland, a USSR puppet state. In the autumn of 1944 the newly established authorities founded the town's second university (Maria Curie Skłodowska University [Polish: Uniwersytet Marii Skłodowskiej-Curie, UMCS]).
In the times of the Polish People's Republic (Polish: Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa, PRL), as well as later on, after the democratic transition, Lublin, the capital of the Lubelskie Province, gained importance as a big economic power of Eastern Poland and the most significant cultural and academic centre east of Vistula. In 1992, the Diocese of Lublin was promoted as a metropolitan archdiocese by Pope John Paul II.
- Lublin. Przewodnik, red. B. Nowak, Lublin 2000.
- Wójcikowski W., 670 lat miasta Lublina, Lublin 1984.
- Zins H., Historia Lublina 1317–1968 w zarysie, Lublin 1972.