In the first years of the existence of the Polish State, the terrain of present-day Pszczyna belonged to the Kraków District. Not until 1178 did Duke Kazimierz II Sprawiedliwy give it to his nephew, the Duke of Opole and Racibórz Mieszko I Plątonogi.

The origins of Pszczyna are associated with its location in the moorland valley of the Pszczyna river at the trade route from Rus through Kraków to the Moravian Gate. Archeological excavations have revealed the existence of a medieval town dating back to the second half of the 13th century.[1.1] According to the 19th century ducal chronicler named Schaeffer, the first castle of the Pszczyna Dukes already existed in the 12th century and the beginning of the town dates back to the 13th and 14th centuries.[1.2]

The first historical reference to Pszczyna dates back to 1303 in a document which mentions a ducal clerk – a castellan of the castle in Pszczyna. Although the document granting town privileges to Pszczyna did not survive, it is assumed that the town was established at the end of the 13th century. In 1498 Kazimierz, Duke of Cieszyn, issued a privilege which confirmed the town privilages earlier granted to Pszczyna.[1.3]

In 1336, Pszczyna found itself under the rule of Opawa Dukes, the dynasty of Przemyslid. In 1407 Jan II Żelazny gave Pszczyna along with the castle, Mikołów, and neighbouring villages for life to his wife Helena Korybutówna – the niece of Władysław Jagiełło, a moment that is remembered as the demarcation of the Pszczyna lands.[1.4] During the rule of Helena (1424-1449/50), the Pszczyna land was troubled by invasions of Hussites. The former Rybnik – Krnov Duchy was divided between brothers from the Przemyślid family, Jan II Starszy and Wacław II, who took the Pszczyna lands along with the towns of Pszczyna, Rybnik, Mikołów, and Mysłowice.

In 1474, the king of Hungary Maciej Korwin, who then ruled in Silesia, sold the Pszczyna Lands to Duke Henryk Młodszy of Podiebrad for 20,000 zlotys. However, in June 1475, Henryk relinquished Pszczyna in favor of Czech lands, and transferred ownership of Pszczyna to his brother Wiktoryn Opawski. Wiktoryn ruled over Pszczyna until around 1480 and then gave it to his daughter, who married the Duke Kazimierz II Cieszyński, in the form of a dowry.[1.5] The rule of Kazimierz Cieszyński was a time of great economic prosperity on the Pszczyna Lands.[1.6]

In the late Middle Ages, the main source of income for Pszyna was szos - a tax paid by citizens dependent on the size of one's estate. The authorities of Pszczyna could also collect a payment for use of a salt road. The town also derived its income from leasing a pond. The most numerous among the craftsmen of the town were smiths, shoemakers, and tailors.

In 1517, having ruled for 37 years, the Duke Kazimierz Cieszyński sold the Duchy of Pszczyna to the Hungarian magnate Alexandr Turzo. It became a free state within the German Reich, from then on a separate administrative unit including Bieruń, Mikołów, Mysłowice, and 77 villages.[1.7]

Alexander Turzo, who ruled until 1525, and his brother Jan, the owner of Pszczyna until 1548, took good care of their lands.[1.8] Jan was involved in forest management on a large scale and in settlement activities.[1.9] There were 7 butchers, 7 blacksmiths, 6 bakers, and 3 clothiers working in guilds. There was a malt house, a brewery, and two mills. Three annual fairs were organized in Pszczyna.[1.10]

In 1548, the Pszczyna State was bought by the Bishop of Wrocław, Baltazar Promnitz, who in 1561 intervened in order to prevent the division of the territory. The Promnitz family turned the Gothic castle into a Renaissance residence. During the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), Pszczyna and the nearby area were badly devastated by the fighting armies. On the initiative of Zygfryd II Promnitz, Andreas Hindenberg, a constructor, prepared a map of the Pszczyna State, which was the first to determine its exact borders. A colored map, created in 1636, is considered the oldest Polish economic map.

In 1742, pursuant to the Treaty of Wrocław, Pszczyna and a large part of Silesia came under the rule of Prussia. In 1765, Jan Erdmann, the last Promnitz, hand down the free state country to his nephew, Fryderyk Erdmann, who was the Duke of Anhalt-Köthen. The end of the 18th century was the peak period of craft development in Pszczyna: in 1878, 336 masters in 45 different specialties worked in the town. In 1825, the state of Pszczyna became the Duchy of Pszczyna.

In 1846 Pszczyna passed to the Counts of Hochberg, one of the richest magnate families in Europe, who had their residence in Książę in Lower Silesia. Having received the princely title in 1848, they changed their name to von Pless. They undertook investement projects on their lands. Pszczyna saw the development of a coal mine, steel mill, factory, and power station. Tychy Prince Brewery was modernized, which made it the biggest brewery in reborn Poland and one of the biggest breweries in Europe. Forest management was reformed. In 1870 the construction of the Katowice-Pszczyna railway line was completed. The castles in Książę and Pszczyna were nicely renovated. In 1844 a new hospital building was built. In 1868 a gasworks was constructed and in 1893 a water pipe with a water tower.

In the 19th century, Pszczyna was mainly inhabited by Germans. From 1845, for two years, "Tygodnik Polski Poświęcony Włościanom"—the first Polish newspaper in Silesia—was issued in the town. Pszczyna did not become a typical industrial town, but it remained the administrative center of the county and the residence for one of the wealthiest Silesian aristocrats of the day.

During World War II, the Hochberg family offered the Pszczyna Palace to serve as accommodation for Wilhelm II and as the headquarters of the German army.

Following the end of the war, Hans Heinrich XI of Hochberg attempted to keep the Pszczyna Land within Germany to establish an independent state which would consist of Upper Silesia. The fact that people participated in three uprisings along with the referendum results of 1921 (74% of inhabitants of county were in favor of the incorporation into Poland), contributed to Pszczyna County finding itself within the territory of the Second Polish Republic (within the autonomous Silesian Province). In June 1942, Polish troops entered the town, which was participated by the leader of Silesian Uprisings - Wojciech Korfanty.

During World War II, in the early September of 1939, there was heavy fighting between Polish and German troops near Pszczyna. In October 1939, Pszczyna and Upper Silesia were incorporated into the Third Reich. At the turn of 1944 and 1945, Pszczyna witnessed "Death Marches" of prisoners from the Nazi German Concentration Camps Auschwitz-Birkenau. The Soviet Army entered Pszczyna on 10 February 1945. The buildings in Pszczyna were hardly touched during the fighting.

After the war, the town remained the capital of the county (except between 1975-1998) within the Silesian Province (1950-1953 and 1956-1998 - Katowice Province, 1953-1956 - Stalinogród Province). In 2012 Pszczyna was inhabited by 26 thousand people.

Other sources:

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Footnotes
  • [1.1] J. Pierzak, Rozpoznanie archeologiczne ziemi pszczyńskiej, in: A. Barciak (ed.), Ziemia pszczyńska przez wieki. Stan badań, archiwalia, problemy badawcze, (2002),  27 and n.
  • [1.2] H. W. Schaeffer, Kronika wolnego państwa stanowego a od 1827 r. księstwa pszczyńskiego, part 1 and 2, (1997), 55.
  • [1.3] J. Wysmułek, Pszczyna i jej społeczeństwo w późnym średniowieczu 14661517, (2008), 19, 32; A. Złoty, Powiat pszczyński w dawnej kartografii, (2006), 83 and n.
  • [1.4] A. Złoty, Powiat pszczyński w dawnej kartografii, (2006), 84.
  • [1.5] J. Wysmułek, Pszczyna i jej społeczeństwo w późnym średniowieczu 1466–1517, (2008), 9.
  • [1.6] A. Złoty, Powiat pszczyński w dawnej kartografii, (2006), 85.
  • [1.7] J. Wysmułek, Pszczyna i jej społeczeństwo w późnym średniowieczu 14661517, (2008), 8, 39, 41, 45, 78; A. Złoty, Powiat pszczyński w dawnej kartografii, (2006), 90.
  • [1.8] R. Kubiciel, Ziemia pszczyńska i jej właściciele do połowy XVI wieku, in: A. Braciak (ed.), Ziemia pszczyńska przez wieki. Stań badań, archiwalia, problemy badawcze, (2002), 197.
  • [1.9] A. Złoty, Powiat pszczyński w dawnej kartografii, (2006), 88 i n.
  • [1.10] H. W. Schaeffer, Kronika wolnego państwa stanowego a od 1827 r. księstwa pszczyńskiego, 1 and 2, (1997), 44 and n.