Dr Richard J. Butler

Associate Professor of Urban HistoryDr Richard Butler

Contact details

  • Tel: +44 (0)116 252 2810
  • Email: rjb86@le.ac.uk or richard.butler@le.ac.uk (both link to the same inbox)
  • Office: Office no. 23, Centre for Urban History, Marc Fitch House, 3-5 Salisbury Road, LE1 7QR, Leicester
  • Feedback and Support Times: I am on research leave as part of an AHRC-funded Leadership Fellowship until September 2021.
  • Dissertation Feedback and Support Hour: I am on research leave as part of an AHRC-funded Leadership Fellowship until September 2021.
  • Research day: N/A.

Personal details

BA (Cantab.), MPhil, PhD (Cantab.), FHEA

I am an urban and social historian of modern Ireland and (to a lesser extent) of modern India, with a background in architectural history and engineering. I research and teach on power and governance in urban centres, the role of religion in modern cities, crime and punishment, institutions, secret societies, architectural history, heritage and conservation, town planning, histories of engineering and technologies, and how people in the past thought about the future. I work broadly across the modern period and have published on subjects ranging from the 1740s to the 1970s.

I studied engineering, and later history of art, at St John's College, Cambridge. For my MPhil, also at Cambridge, I studied British colonial architecture in India with Prof. Gavin Stamp. I then worked as a journalist in Kathmandu and as a book editor in Ireland, and returned to Cambridge as a Gates Scholar for my doctoral studies, under the supervision of Dr. Frank Salmon. My thesis explored the architectural, social and political history of the Irish courthouse and prison in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. During the course of my PhD studies, I held a Fulbright Scholarship at the Department of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, where I was supervised by Prof. James S. Donnelly, Jr. I was awarded the Hawksmoor Medal for 2014 from the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain.

I came to Leicester in September 2015, joining the School of History (now History, Politics, and International Relations) and the Centre for Urban History. In June 2017 I was a Moore Institute Visiting Fellow at the National University of Ireland, Galway. In February-March 2019 I was a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Urban Studies, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda (MSU), Vadodara, India.

I am particularly interested in how historical research can be applied in non-academic sectors. In this regard I act as a consultant to a variety of tourism and heritage projects in Ireland, including groups establishing walkways and cycleways. I have also undertaken studies on behalf of Leicester City Council. I have founded a non-profit company that raised funds to protect historic architecture in Ireland and have advised companies in the Irish agricultural sector on how history can be used to improve their marketing campaigns.

I grew up in Bantry, Co. Cork, in the southwest of Ireland, and outside of my academic work I am a keen hiker, sailor, cyclist and climber.

Some of my academic and professional roles include:

  • Council member, British Association for Irish Studies (BAIS), 2018-.
  • Secretary, Society for the Study of Nineteenth-Century Ireland (SSNCI), 2018-.
  • Board of Directors, Irish-US Alumni Association, 2017-20.
  • Co-founder and secretary, Irish Modern Urban History Group, 2014-.
  • Conference Steering Committee, Urban History Group, 2017-.
  • Member, Education Sub-Committee, Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain (SAHGB), 2014-16.
  • Advisory board member, 'Religious Spaces in Transition' (IRC-funded project, University of Limerick (PI: Dr. Niamh NicGhabhann), 2019-.
  • Advisory board member, 'Deep Maps: West Cork Coastal Cultures' (IRC-funded project, University College Cork (PI: Prof. Claire Connolly), 2016-18.
  • Committee member, Conservation Course Directors' Forum, Institute of Historic Building Conservation, 2017-20.
  • Member, Leicester City Council Heritage Partnership, 2015-.
  • Academic reviewer, UCD Press, Taylor & Francis (Routledge), Oxford University Press, Manchester University Press, Yale University Press, Bloomsbury, 2018-.
  • External examiner, Trinity College Dublin, 2017-.
  • Peer reviewer, Urban History, The Historical Journal, Rural History, Family & Community History, Architectural History, 2017-.
  • Section editor, 'Ireland since 1800', Bibliography of British and Irish History (BBIH), 2018-.

    At the University of Leicester, my administrative positions include:

    • Director of Personal Tutors, History, Politics, and I.R., 2019-20.
    • Member, PGT Review Group (History), 2018-19.
    • Dissertations Officer (History), 2016-18.
    • AccessAbility and Equal Opportunities Officer, 2015-18.
    • Athena Swan lead, History, 2015-17.
    • Staff representative, New History Lab, 2015-19.
    • Convenor, Centre for Urban History seminar, 2016-19.
    • Chair, Early Career Researchers group, School of History, Politics and I.R., 2017-.
    • Chair, Early Career Researchers Action Group, College of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, 2017-19.
    • Early Career Researcher Representative, College Research Committee, 2018-19.
    • Early Career Researcher Representative (CSSAH), University Research and Enterprise Committee, 2018-19.
    • Member, Early Career Researcher and Research Staff Career Enhancement Group, Doctoral College, 2018-19.
    • REF Outputs Review Group member (History), 2019-.
    • Advisory board member, Heritage Practice Training Programme, 2015-17.



    I have a broad range of research interests within modern urban history, and in particular nineteenth- and twentieth-century Irish history. These include:

    • Power, governance, and biopolitics within the modern and contemporary city.
    • Crime and punishment, and social histories of secret societies.
    • Town planning studies.
    • Histories of religion and urbanization across modern Europe.
    • Religious history, and in particular the Irish Catholic Church.
    • Social histories of housing and education.
    • Social and political and architectural histories of public institutions such as courthouses and prisons.
    • Four-nations and transnational histories of British-Irish social reform.
    • Architectural, art, and visual histories of modern Ireland, Britain, India, etc.
    • Engineering and technological histories of modern Ireland.
    • Infrastructure, railways, steamships, and network theory.
    • The environmental history of the North Atlantic, particularly Irish-North American exchange.
    • Visions of the future, how people in the past imagined their future, and discourses on utopias.


    Some recent research grants and consultancy work

    • (PI) Church, state, and the building of Ireland's south coast cities: Cork and Waterford, c. 1935-1965', AHRC Leadership Fellowship (£199,919), awarded June 2019.
    • (PI) Greyfriars Townscape Heritage Initiative, Heritage Lottery Fund/Leicester City Council (£2,000), awarded Feb. 2017. Consultancy work on 'Past and Present Trade Directory' project.
    • (PI) Moore Visiting Fellowship (National University of Ireland, Galway) (£1,200), awarded Dec. 2016 for three-week visit in June 2017.
    • (PI) 'Public architecture in Ireland, c. 1750-1850: designs for provincial courthouses and prisons', Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art Research Support Grant (£1,800), awarded Nov. 2016.
    • (PI) 'Cathedral building, post-war Irish Catholic politics, and urban memory: the regeneration of Galway prison, 1935-1965', British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant (£7,112), awarded Aug. 2016.
    • (PI) 'St Peter's Belgrave historic village church project', Leicester City Council (£15,057), with Prof. Roey Sweet, awarded Mar. 2016.
    • (PI) 'The demolition of Galway jail, c. 1930-66', Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain Research Grant (£500), awarded Oct. 2015.



    My teaching focuses largely on modern Irish history, c. 1750-1970. I also teach on British history, Indian history, and urban conservation. I teach a second-year module on post-war Irish politics and society, a final-year module on nineteenth-century Ireland, and a post-graduate course on architectural history and structural engineering for Urban Conservation students. I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA). In June 2017, and again in May 2018, I was awarded Superstar Awards from the University of Leicester Students' Union (LUSU) for my teaching and was nominated for 'Best Lecturer'.

    Examples of modules that I teach or have taught while at Leicester:

    • HS1000: Making History
    • HS1013: Great Britain: The State We're In, [Modern British History, c. 1680-2016]
    • HS1100: People and Places: Dublin's Kilmainham Jail Through History and Memory, 1770-2016
    • HS2331: Modern Ireland, 1939-1975
    • HS2238: Global Cities [comparative urban and social history of Dublin, Delhi, Johannesburg and Lagos]
    • HS2400: Perceiving the Past [Historiography]
    • HS2500: The Historian's Craft [Dissertation preparation module]
    • HS3608: Theatres of Conflict: Ireland in the nineteenth century
    • HS7075: How Buildings Work: Architectural History and Structural Engineering from the Ancient World to 2000
    • HS7081: Conservation, Heritage and the Urban Environment
    • HS7251: The City in History
    • HS7253: Urban Sustainability



    Academic publications (32)

    Forthcoming (11)


    Richard J. Butler (ed.), Dreams of the future in nineteenth-century Ireland (Liverpool University Press, forthcoming edited collection Dec. 2020).

    Richard J. Butler, 'Introduction', and 'Transatlantic exchange, urban development and heterogeneous engineering in the west of Ireland: Belmullet's unbuilt railways, c. 1820-1920, in Richard J. Butler (ed.), Dreams of the future in nineteenth-century Ireland (Liverpool University Press, forthcoming chapters in edited collection Dec. 2020).

    Richard J. Butler, Town planning and the Catholic Church in Cork and Waterford cities, 1935-1965 (monograph), in preparation.


    Peer-reviewed journal articles:

    Richard J. Butler, 'The afterlives of Galway jail, "difficult" heritage, and the Maamtrasna Murders: representations of an Irish urban space, 1882-2018', Irish Historical Studies 44:166 (forthcoming Nov. 2020).

    Richard J. Butler, 'Building a Catholic church in 1950s Ireland: architecture, rhetoric and landscape in Dromore, Co. Cork, 1952-56', Rural History (forthcoming Oct. 2020).

    Richard J. Butler, '"The whole of the approaches ... are full of difficulties": early proposals for railways in Cork city, c. 1835-1850', Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies 22 (2019, forthcoming July 2020).

    Richard J. Butler, et al., 'Networked welfare: cities, infrastructure and the making of modern citizenship' (journal article, co-authored), in preparation.


    Book chapters:

    Richard J. Butler, 'The architecture of the state in Ireland: the colonial question, 1800-1922', in G. A. Bremner and Daniel Maudlin (eds), Inner Empire: Architecture and Imperialism in the British Isles, 1560-2000 (Manchester University Press, forthcoming 2020).

    Richard J. Butler, 'Building and rebuilding Galway since 1820', in John Cunningham and Ciaran McDonough (eds), Galway: Hardiman & Beyond: Arts & Culture in Galway, 1820-2020 (Melbourne, forthcoming late 2020).

    Richard J. Butler, 'Charles Blacker Vignoles and the Irish picturesque’, in Niamh NicGhabhann and Danielle O’Donovan (eds), Mapping new territories in art and architectural history: essays in honour of Roger Stalley (Brepols, forthcoming May 2020).

    Richard J. Butler, ‘The Byzantine Research Fund architect Walter Sykes George (1881-1962): his archaeological work in Turkey and Greece’, in A. G. Kakissis (ed.), Byzantium and British Heritage: Byzantine influences on the Arts & Crafts Movement (British School at Athens, forthcoming 2020).


    In print (21)

    Richard J. Butler, 'Catholic power and the Irish city: modernity, religion, and planning in Galway, 1944-49', Journal of British Studies 59:3 (July 2020), pp. 521-54.

    Richard J. Butler, Building the Irish courthouse and prison: a political history, 1750-1850 (Cork University Press, 2020). Cork University Press. Amazon.co.uk (Europe). Amazon.com (USA).

    Richard J. Butler, 'Urban governance and prison building in pre-Famine Ireland, 1820-1845', in Simon Gunn and Tom Hulme (eds), New approaches to governance and rule in urban Europe since 1500 (Routledge, 2020), pp. 45-63. Routledge.


    Richard J. Butler, '“A scene of shameful disorder and dissipation”: alcohol, music, animals, and vegetables in early nineteenth-century Irish prisons', History Ireland 28:2 (March/April 2020), pp. 26-29.

    Richard J. Butler, 'Planning for bicycles in the Irish city: a brief history', Pleanáil: Journal of the Irish Planning Institute 24 (2019-20), pp. 6-14.

    Tianhang Liu, Richard J. Butler, and Chunyan Zhang, 'Evaluation of public perceptions of authenticity of urban heritage under the conservation paradigm of historic urban landscape: a case study of the Five Avenues Historic District in Tianjin, China', Journal of Architectural Conservation (published online 8 July 2019).

    Richard J. Butler and Erika Hanna,'Irish urban history: an agenda', Urban History 46:1 (Feb. 2019), pp. 2-9.

    Richard J. Butler and Erika Hanna (eds),Urban History special section on Irish Urban History – 46:1 (Feb. 2019), pp. 2-81 and 149-62. Articles by David Dickson, Peter Hession, Niamh NicGhabhann, Ruth McManus, Anngret Simms, and Sarah Gearty.

    Richard J. Butler, 'Notes on the art and architecture of East Galway in the vicinity of Ahascragh', Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society 70 (2018), pp. 35-51.

    Richard J. Butler, ‘Cork’s courthouses, the landed elite and the Rockite rebellion: architectural responses to agrarian violence, 1820-27’, in Kyle Hughes and Donald MacRaild (eds), Crime, violence, and the Irish in the nineteenth century (Liverpool: University of Liverpool Press, 2017), pp. 87-111.

    Richard J. Butler, ‘Rethinking the origins of the British Prisons Act of 1835: Ireland and the development of central-government prison inspection, 1820-35’, The Historical Journal 59:3 (Sept. 2016), pp. 721-46.

    Richard J. Butler, ‘All Saints, Drimoleague: clarifications and new discoveries’, Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society 121 (2016), pp. 141-43.

    Richard J. Butler, ‘All Saints, Drimoleague, and Catholic visual culture under Bishop Cornelius Lucey in Cork, 1952-9’, Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society 120 (2015), pp. 79-97.

    Richard J. Butler, ‘“The radicals in these reform times”: politics, grand juries and Ireland’s unbuilt assize courthouses, 1800-45’, Architectural History: Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain 58 (2015), pp. 109-39. Winner of the Hawksmoor Medal of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain for 2014.

    Richard J. Butler (ed.), The foundation documents of Pocklington School, Yorkshire, 1514-2014 (Cambridge: Esson Print, 2014). 114pp. ISBN 978-0-9575728.

    Richard J. Butler, ‘British solutions to Irish problems: representations of Ireland in the British architectural press, 1837-53’, Victorian Periodicals Review 47:4 (Winter 2014), pp. 577-96.

    Richard J. Butler, Secular & Domestic: George Gilbert Scott and the Master’s Lodge of St John’s College, Cambridge (Cambridge: Esson Print, 2013). 122pp. ISBN 978-0-9575739.

    Richard J. Butler, ‘Bantry Library, Co. Cork, 1962-74’History Ireland 21:1 (Jan.-Feb. 2013), p. 41.

    Richard J. Butler, ‘The Anglo-Indian architect Walter Sykes George (1881-1962): a modernist follower of Lutyens’, Architectural History: Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain 55 (2012), pp. 237-68.

    Richard J. Butler, ‘George Gilbert Scott and the Master’s Lodge of St John’s College, Cambridge’, Scroope: Journal of the Cambridge Architecture Department 21 (2012), pp. 97-107.

    Richard J. Butler, ‘George Gilbert Scott and the University of Bombay’, The Victorian, no. 37 (July 2011), pp. 10-13.


    Book reviews (5)

    Richard J. Butler, ‘Frank Keohane, The Buildings of Ireland: Cork, City and County (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2020)’ (review), Rural History, forthcoming.

    Richard J. Butler, 'Andrew Tierney, The buildings of Ireland: central Leinster, the counties of Kildare, Laois, and Offaly (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2019)' (review), Rural History 30:2 (Oct. 2019), pp. 247-48.

    Richard J. Butler, ‘Coventry: the making of a modern city, 1939-73 (Historic England, Swindon, 2016). By Jeremy Gould and Caroline Gould.’ (review), Landscape History 38:1 (2017), pp. 121-22.

    Richard J. Butler, ‘P. Barnwell, G. Tyack, and W. Whyte (eds.), Sir George Gilbert Scott 1811-1878 (Oxford, 2014)’ (review), The Victorian no. 50 (2015), p. 29.

    Richard J. Butler, ‘Simon Bradley and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Cambridgeshire (3rd edition, New Haven and London, 2014)’ (review), The Victorian, no. 48 (Mar. 2015), pp. 26-27.


    Exhibitions (2)

    Richard J. Butler, ‘The first design for the chapel of St John’s College, by George Gilbert Scott’, exhibition staged at St John’s College, Cambridge, Feb.-Mar. 2013.

    Richard J. Butler and Sharada Dwivedi, ‘Sir Gilbert Scott’s Architecture in Bombay’, exhibition staged at the Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai, India, July-Aug. 2011.

    Conferences organised/co-organised (8)

    'Transformations of the State in Ireland, c. 1600 - c. 1900' (Hertford College, Oxford, 25-26 Sept. 2019), with Ciara Breathnach, Olwen Purdue, Peter Hession, James Stafford, and Matthew Ward.

    'Dreams of the Future in Nineteenth-Century Ireland', Society for the Study of Nineteenth-Century Ireland Annual Conference (University of Leicester, 27-28 June 2019).

    4th symposium of the Irish Modern Urban History Group (Queen's University Belfast, 5 April 2019).

    'Urban Governance and its Disorders: Corruption in the Cities' (Centre for Urban History, Leicester, 27 April 2018), with Simon Gunn, Prashant Kidambi, and Peter Jones.

    'The State of Irish Urban History', 1st symposium of the Irish Modern Urban History Group (Centre for Urban History, Leicester, 15 April 2016).

    2nd Annual Graduate Student Forum of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain (St. John's College, Cambridge, 2 May 2014), with Otto Saumarez-Smith and Bridget Hembree.

    ‘George Gilbert Scott in Cambridge: A Bicentenary Study Day’ (St John’s College, Cambridge, 9 May 2011).

    'Gilbert Scott and the Gothic Revival' (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly Prince of Wales Museum of Western India), Mumbai, India, 3 August 2011)m with Sharada Dwivedi.

    Organising committees, Urban History Group (UHG), Modern Irish Urban History Group (MIUHG) and Society for the Study of Nineteenth-Century Ireland (SSNCI).


    Outreach, engagement, public history, conservation, local history, newspaper, digital and other publications (16)

    Richard J. Butler, 'Sanctuary and Respect: A Note on the Importance of the Location in terms of History, Religious and Ecumenical Grounds', Masterplan for the Redevelopment of Nuns’ Island: NUI Galway Vision Document (NUI Galway, forthcoming late 2020).

    Richard J. Butler, 'What experts thought Ireland would look like after another crisis', RTÉ Brainstorm, 9 April 2020.

    Richard J. Butler, 'St. Finbarr’s Catholic Church, Bantry: a history', Journal of the Bantry Historical and Archaeological Society 3 (2018), pp. 16-35.

    Richard J. Butler, 'The stained glass windows in All Saints Church', Drimoleague Christmas Newsletter 2017 (Dec. 2017), pp. 112-13.

    Richard J. Butler, Rhoda Cronin-Allanic, et al., Map of Bantry Historic Town (Cork: Cork County Council, 2017). Pamphlet and map.

    Richard J. Butler, 'When a gay man with Indian roots becomes Ireland's youngest prime minister, it is time to take note', Scroll.in, 5 June 2017.

    Richard J. Butler, 'An Irish lecturer's story' and 'The Catholic church in Galway', in the St. Patrick's Day Leicester 2017 annual of The Emerald Centre (Leicester), March 2017.

    Richard J. Butler, ‘Garryvurcha Church, Bantry’, The West Cork Times, 30 Jan. 2015.

    Richard J. Butler, ‘The history of Bagenalstown courthouse, Co. Carlow’, Carloviana, no. 63 (2015), pp. 201-04.

    Richard J. Butler, ‘Landscapes and architecture: the Cork & Bandon railway today’, in Michael Patterson (ed.), The Railways of West Cork (Cambridge: Esson Print, 2014), pp. 173-85.

    Richard J. Butler, ‘Closure of our courthouses is pennywise and pound foolish’, The Irish Examiner, 30 Oct. 2014.

    Richard J. Butler, ‘Historic church to undergo conservation work’, The Southern Star (Cork), 9 May 2014.

    Richard J. Butler, ‘Historic Bantry church to undergo conservation following large donation’, The West Cork Times, 29 Apr. 2014.

    Richard J. Butler, ‘Advocating for Ireland’s architectural heritage’, The Huffington Post, 1 Aug. 2013.

    Richard J. Butler, ‘Restored Bantry church and graveyard opens to public’, The Southern Star (Cork), 7 Nov. 2012.

    Richard J. Butler, ‘The fiftieth anniversary of the closure of the Cork and Bandon railway’, The Southern Star (Cork), 17 Mar. 2011.



    In addition to supervising the dissertation work of BA students and 6 MA and MRes students since 2015, I have supervised or am supervising 5 PhD students. Their topics are press coverage of the Irish revolutionary period, 1919-21; governance and public health in Bombay, c. 1914-1950; the culture and consequences of church closures in England, c. 1945-1995; and the food cultures of Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century. I welcome enquiries from potential PhD students on a broad range of Irish, urban, and/or architectural history topics. Completions to date include:

    Mrunmayee Satam, 'Governing the Body: Public Health and Urban Society in Colonial Bombay City, 1914-1945' (2015-19, passed viva with minor corrections, 29 Aug. 2019).

    Denise Bonnette-Anderson, 'The culture and consequences of Anglican church redundancy, 1945-1995: Leicestershire and Lincolnshire' (2017-19, passed viva with minor corrections, 30 Oct. 2019).



    Recent radio/TV interviews:

    BBC Radio Leicester, on Irish communities in post-war England, 3 Feb. 2017.

    BBC Radio Leicester, on the legacy of Martin McGuinness, 21 March 2017.

    BBC Radio Leicester, 'Table Talk with Ady Dayman', 24 Jan. 2018.

    BBC Radio Leicester, 'Table Talk with Ady Dayman', 19 Feb. 2018.

    BBC Radio Leicester, 'Table Talk with Ady Dayman', 10 Apr. 2018.

    BBC Radio Leicester, 'Table Talk with Ady Dayman', 31 May 2018.

    BBC Radio Leicester, 'Table Talk with Ady Dayman', 5 July 2018.

    BBC Radio Leicester, 'Jimmy's Guests', 22 Oct. 2018.

    RTÉ Brainstorm, ‘What experts thought Ireland would look like after another crisis’ 9 April 2020.



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