George Lukowski is Reader in Polish History at the University of Birmingham. He studied History at Queens’ College, Cambridge, where Brian Pullan was his personal tutor. However, it was primarily Derek Beales who encouraged him to develop his interests in eighteenth-century Polish history. In 1971-2 and, again, in 1973-4, he was the recipient of British Council scholarships, in order to research to doctoral level in Poland, first at the Jagiellonian University of Kraków, then at the University of Warsaw. His principal Polish supervisor was Professor Jerzy Michalski of the Polska Akademia Nauk (Polish Academy of Sciences), at whose suggestion he undertook an examination of the Confederacy of Radom of 1767-8, a Russian-backed league of Polish nobles discontented by a new, reforming regime.
His supervisor at Cambridge was Lucjan Lewitter. In 1975, Cambridge University awarded him his PhD for his thesis, The szlachta and the Confederacy of Radom, 1764-1767/68: a study of the Polish nobility. Academic jobs were hard to come by in the wake of the first great oil shock, and from 1975 to 1976, he was employed in the export sales department of the Manchester-based engineering firm, Mather & Platt, an experience which taught him much about the decline of British industry. In October 1976, he joined the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, as assistant librarian, in which capacity he learned much about the sorts of people who decide on library book classifications. In May 1979 he was appointed lecturer in Modern History at the University of Birmingham, where he has been ever since. In 1994, he was appointed Senior Lecturer in Modern History. From September 2003 to September 2005, he was appointed to a British Academy Readership to pursue research into ‘Utopianism and Enlightenment: the Political Culture of eighteenth-century Poland-Lithuania’. In October 2004, in recognition of his work in the field of eighteenth-century Poland, he was named Reader in Polish History.
George Lukowski is currently working on a series of research articles on aspects of the Polish-Lithuanian nobility.
One has to be careful in the choice of research in early modern Polish history. There is no point in pretending that ther is any great interest in it in the Anglo-Saxon world, even if there should be. In reality, one has to choose a topic which can in some way relate to that outside world. That, almost inevitably means the Polish nobility, who occupied a position of unparallelled political and social dominance within the state. The doctoral thesis, The szlachta and the Confederacy of Radom, 1764-1767/68: a study of the Polish nobility, was a study of the mentalité of this numerous body of men and the way in which they were manipulated by Catherine the Great of Russia and her ministers in order to force Poland into the role in which they envisaged of a malleable, controllable satellite. The governmental dysfunctionality of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, acceptable to Peter the Great, was too erratic for Catherine’s ambitious plans of projecting Russian influence into Germany and the Balkans. The study pointed up the gulf between what the Russians and the Poles wanted to achieve. It was published in 1977 as vol. XXI of Antemurale by the Institutum Historicum Polonicum, Rome.
Dr Lukowski’s next major publication, Liberty’s Folly: the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the eighteenth century, London, Routledge, 1991, sought to bring the eighteenth-century Commonwealth in all its complexity to a wider scholarly audience. His The Partitions of Poland: 1772, 1793, 1795, London, Longman, 1999, was the first comprehensive account in English of all three partitions since GJ Eversley’s The Partitions of Poland of 1915 and incorporated much new Polish material. George Lukowski’s interest in the Polish nobility led him to portray a wider context, in The Eighteenth-century European nobility, Basingstoke, Palgrave, 2003. His British Academy Readership of 2003-2005 has most recently borne fruit in a major monograph, Disorderly Liberty: the political culture of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the eighteenth century, published by Continuum in 2010.
At a more popular level, Dr Lukowski is co-author, with Hubert Zawadzki of A Concise History of Poland, Cambridge, University Press, 2001 - a second, revised and extended edition came out in 2006.