UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)

Prof Richard Butterwick - Pawlikowski

Prof Richard Butterwick - Pawlikowski

Professor of Polish-Lithuanian History



Joined UCL
2nd Jan 2005

Research summary

My research interests take in the Enlightenment and Anti-Enlightenment, with a particular focus on Poland-Lithuania. A co-edited collection on Peripheries of the Enlightenment appeared as a volume of SVEC (Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century) in 2008. I have published several papers on Catholicism and Enlightenment in Poland-Lithuania, including a chapter in the Brill Companion to the Catholic Enlightenment in Europe (2010). Among my future plans is an extended comparison of the relationship between Catholicism, Enlightenment and the state in the two large polities of Central Europe: the Habsburg or Austrian Monarchy and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is noted for its distinctive parliamentary institutions and republican political tradition. In the eighteenth century this tradition engaged with the ideas of Montesquieu and Rousseau; it was a pleasure for me to translate the late Jerzy Michalski's Rousseau and Polish Republicanism into English. I have developed my interest in the role of monarchist thought and discourse in this challenging context since I hosted the 1999 Wiles Colloquium on The Polish-Lithuanian Monarchy in European Context, c. 1500-1795. The revised proceedings were published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2001.

I argued for the importance of monarchist and Providentialist discourse in the Four Years’ Parliament or Polish Revolution of 1788-92 in an article for the English Historical Review in 2005, which set out the methodological premises for my subsequent monograph, The Polish Revolution and the Catholic Church, 1788-92: A Political History, published by Oxford University Press in 2012. Its principal aim was to establish why certain decisions were made by a parliamentary assembly in a republican political culture, while others, which at the time seemed equally plausible, were not. It explains how the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth went to the verge of schism with the Holy Apostolic See, before the negotiation of a compromise which facilitated the Church's blessing for the Constitution of 3 May 1791. A feature are extended comparisons between the Polish-Lithuanian reforms and the reforms undertaken by Joseph II in the Habsburg Monarchy and the National Assembly in Revolutionary France. A much longer edition of this opus monstrum was published in Polish translation by Arcana of Cracow in 2012, thanks to the generosity of the Museum of Polish History.

The Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which together with the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland constituted the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth has taken an increasingly important part in my research. My final contribution as editor of Central Europe was a special issue on the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and I have also co-edited the collection Social and Cultural Relations in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania: Microhistories, published by Routledge in 2019. Both were preceded by conferences held at UCL in cooperation with Lithuanian and Belarusian partners.

A more general history of the Commonwealth's last decades, which saw the illumination of its potential before its spectacular immolation, will be published by Yale University Press towards the end of 2020: The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, 1733-1795: Light and Flame. A Polish edition is also in preparation. I have also written a shorter book on the Constitution of 3 May 1791, to be published by the Museum of Polish History.

At some point in future I'd like to return to researching the extraordinary life, works and career of the British diplomat and libertine poet Sir Charles Hanbury Williams (1708-59), who in 1755 introduced the young Stanisław A. Poniatowski to the Grand Duchess Catherine. I have published an article on his libertinism in the Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies.

Teaching summary

I teach Thematic (Group 2) courses on Poland and Lithuania Transformed, 1569-1923, and Crown, Church and Estates in Central Europe, 1500-1700 (jointly with Professor Martyn Rady), a survey (Group 1) course on History of the Habsburg Monarchy, 1700-1918 (jointly with Dr Rebecca Haynes) and a Special Subject (Group 3) on Monarchs and the Enlightenment in Russia and Central Europe (jointly with Professor Simon Dixon). I am prepared to supervise research students on diverse topics in Polish-Lithuanian, Polish or Lithuanian history through the nineteenth century, and would also welcome those with a wider interest in the European Enlightenment and its critics.


University of Cambridge
Other higher degree, Master of Arts |
University of Oxford
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 1994
University of Cambridge
First Degree, Bachelor of Arts | 1993


Having realized while reading History at Queens' College, Cambridge, in 1986-89, that nirvana could be found in the study of the age of Mozart and Canova, my initial research was on the Anglophilia of the last King of Poland. This led to several years spent in Poland, first as a Polish Government scholar and later as a visiting lecturer at Łódź University. In the meantime Hertford College, Oxford, was so kind as to bestow the Mary Staruń scholarship in Polish Studies upon me, so I left Cambridge for the other place, where I found the best of supervisors in R. J. W. Evans. A DPhil in Modern History was awarded in 1994 for a thesis 'Stanisław August Poniatowski, his Circle and English Political Culture'. A revised version was published by Oxford University Press in 1998 as Poland's Last King and English Culture: Stanisław August Poniatowski 1732-1798, named as an academic book of the year by Choice in 1999. An expanded Polish edition appeared under the auspices of the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in 2000. I then held a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at Oxford in 1994-97, which in 1995-97 was combined with a Research Fellowship at Wolfson College. In 1997 I was appointed Lecturer in Modern European History at The Queen's University of Belfast, where I co-founded the interdisciplinary Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies. I moved to London to become Lecturer in Polish History at SSEES in January 2005, Senior Lecturer in 2006 and Professor of Polish-Lithuanian History in 2013. In 2014 I moved to Warsaw to take up  the European Civilization Chair (founded by the European Parliament in memory of Bronisław Geremek) at College of Europe, Natolin, while researching, teaching and supervising for UCL on a part-time basis. I gained the degree of habilitated doctor (DLitt.) from the Polish Academy of Sciences in 2016. In the summer of 2020 I returned full-time to UCL. For me the greatest pleasure to be had from history is to make an unexpected discovery in an archive.