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Dr Richard Butler

Dr Richard Butler

Director of Research
Research & Graduate School

Research interests

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

ORCiD: 0000-0001-6534-2106

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 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. Between 2015 and 2021 I was Lecturer, and later Senior Lecturer, in Urban History at the University of Leicester. 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. In 2020-21 I was a Visiting Fellow at the School of History, University College Cork (UCC), Ireland. I grew up in Bantry, Co. Cork, and outside of my academic work I am a keen hiker, sailor, cyclist, mountaineer, and volunteer for Bantry Inshore Rescue (BISRA).

I joined Mary Immaculate College as Director of Research in February 2021.


Professional roles

Expert evaluator, European Commission, 2022-.

President, Society for the Study of Nineteenth-Century Ireland (SSNCI), 2022-.

Advisory board member, 'Queer Northern Ireland: Sexuality Before Liberation' (AHRC-funded project, Queen's University Belfast (PI: Dr. Tom Hulme), 2022-.

Co-founder and secretary, Irish Modern Urban History Group, 2014-.

Conference Steering Committee, Urban History Group, 2017-.

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.

Academic reviewer, UCD Press, Taylor & Francis (Routledge), Oxford University Press, Manchester University Press, Yale University Press, Bloomsbury, Liverpool University Press, etc., 2018-.

External examiner, Trinity College Dublin, 2017.

Peer reviewer, Urban History, The Historical Journal, Irish Historical Studies, Rural History, Family & Community History, Journal of Victorian Culture, Architectural History, etc., 2017-.

Section editor, 'Ireland since 1800', Bibliography of British and Irish History (BBIH), 2018-.


External grant funding (select)

  • (PI) Church, state, and the building of Ireland's south coast cities: Cork and Waterford, c. 1935-1965', AHRC Leadership Fellowship (€228,400), 2019-21.
  • (PI) Greyfriars Townscape Heritage Initiative, Heritage Lottery Fund/Leicester City Council (€2,300), 2017-19.
  • (PI) Moore Visiting Fellowship (National University of Ireland, Galway) (€1,400), 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 (€2,100), 2016-18. 
  • (PI) 'Cathedral building, post-war Irish Catholic politics, and urban memory: the regeneration of Galway prison, 1935-1965', British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant (€8,150), 2016-18.
  • (PI) 'St Peter's Belgrave historic village church project', Leicester City Council (€17,200), 2016-17.
  • (PI) 'The demolition of Galway jail, c. 1930-66', Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain Research Grant (€600), 2015.

More information


Richard 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 2023).

Richard Butler, 'Building and rebuilding Nuns' Island since 1820', in John Cunningham and Ciaran McDonough (eds), Galway: Hardiman & Beyond: Arts & Culture in Galway, 1820-2020 (Melbourne, forthcoming 2023).

Richard Butler, ‘The Byzantine Research and Publication Fund architect Walter Sykes George (1881-1962): his academic studies and his architecture’, in Amalia G. Kakissis (ed.), Byzantium and British Heritage: Byzantine influences on the Arts and Crafts Movement (Routledge, forthcoming 2023), pp. 266-89.


Tom Spalding and Richard Butler, 'Faith, fundraising and community in modern Ireland: Building Cork’s new churches, 1953-1966', Éire-Ireland 57:3-4 (Fall/Winter 2022), pp. 339-79.

Richard Butler, 'Bantry’s Former Courthouse in its Historical Context’, Journal of the Bantry Historical and Archaeological Society 4 (2022), pp. 46-66.

Richard Butler, Simon Gunn, Greet De Block, Mikkel Høghøj, and Mikkel Thelle, 'Cities, Infrastructure and the Making of Modern Citizenship: The View from North-West Europe since c. 1870', Urban History (published online 25 March 2022).

Richard Butler, 'Charles Blacker Vignoles, the Irish Picturesque, and the Unbuilt Railway to Berehaven, 1836-38’, in Niamh NicGhabhann and Danielle O’Donovan (eds), Mapping New Territories in Art and Architectural Histories: Essays in Honour of Roger Stalley (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2021), pp. 507-25.

Richard Butler (ed.), Dreams of the future in nineteenth-century Ireland (Liverpool University Press, 2021).

Richard Butler, 'Introduction', and 'Transatlantic exchange, urban development and heterogeneous engineering in the west of Ireland: Belmullet's unbuilt railways, c. 1820-1920, in Richard Butler (ed.), Dreams of the future in nineteenth-century Ireland (Liverpool University Press, 2021), pp. 1-18 and 215-44.

Richard Butler, 'Transatlantic visions of a technological modernity: railway development and North Atlantic steam networks in the west of Ireland, 1825-38', New Hibernia Review 25:2 (Summer 2021), pp. 17-44.

Richard 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 (Nov. 2020), pp. 295-325.

Richard Butler, 'Building a Catholic church in 1950s Ireland: architecture, rhetoric and landscape in Dromore, Co. Cork, 1952-56', Rural History 31:2 (Oct. 2020), pp. 223-49.

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

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

Richard 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), pp. 116-29.

Tianhang Liu, Richard 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 25:3 (2019), pp. 228-51.

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

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

Richard 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: Liverpool University Press, 2017), pp. 87-111.

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

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

Richard Butler, ‘“The radicals in these reform times”: politics, grand juries and Ireland’s unbuilt assize courthouses, 1800-45’, Architectural History 58 (2015), pp. 109-39.

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

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

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

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


Book reviews

Richard Butler, 'Sven Sterken and Evan Weyns (eds), Territories of Faith: Religion, Urban Planning and Demographic Change in Post-War Europe (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2022)' (review), Urban History (forthcoming)

Richard Butler, ‘James H. Murphy, The Politics of Dublin Corporation, 1840-1900: From Reform to Expansion (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2020)’ (review), H-Albion, H-Net Reviews (Jan. 2021). .

Richard Butler, ‘Frank Keohane, The Buildings of Ireland: Cork, City and County (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2020)’ (review), Rural History, 31:2 (Oct. 2020), pp. 251-52.

Richard 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 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 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 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.



Richard 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 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 or co-organised

'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).


Other publications

Richard Butler, Towns on the Wild Atlantic Way: from Donegal to Cork (Dublin: O'Brien Press, 2022).

Richard 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 2022).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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