Methodology in British and Commonwealth Studies

Statutory Research Grant, Chair of European Studies, Faculty of Journalism and Political Science, University of Warsaw


Project duration: March 2011–March 2013


Research team:

Franciszek Gołembski, Prof (Institute of European Studies, University of Warsaw)

Przemysław Biskup, PhD (Institute of European Studies, University of Warsaw) – Project Manager

Małgorzata Kaczorowska, PhD (Institute of Political Science, University of Warsaw)

Wojciech Lewandowski, PhD (Institute of European Studies, University of Warsaw)

Krzysztof Winkler, PhD (Research Group BRITANNIA)

Jaroslaw Szczepanski M.A. (Ph.D. Student, Faculty of Journalism and Political Science, University of Warsaw)


Studies devoted to individual regions, in Europe or in other corners of the world, are gaining an increasing importance within the domain of social sciences. This is due, among others, to an ever closer regional cooperation and inter-, trans- and supranational integration. Such studies often lack, however, well-defined methodological identity. The primary purpose of the project was to analyse the research theories, methods and techniques within the social sciences in order to, first, identify and further develop the ones which are the most useful in the domain of British Studies and, secondly, to propose new solutions to the problems which are specific and unique to the British and Commonwealth Studies. Creation in 2009 of the British Socio-Political Studies Research Group BRITANNIA made the need for systematic reflection over methodological aspects of the British Studies most natural and indispensable.

It needs to be stressed that the British Studies, similarly to other Area Studies, are in general of interdisciplinary character and concern many aspects of social and political life that fall into the scope of interest of such branches of social sciences as Political Science; Sociology; Social Psychology; History (including History of Political Ideas and History of Art); Anthropology; European Studies; or Literary Studies; and such related sciences as Economy; Jurisprudence and Legal Science; Demography; or Geography.

In the case of the British Studies, the theoretical and methodological reflection is necessary in at least two fields. First, it is necessary to define the basic object criterion, which needs to take into account the fact that the meaning of the key notion of Britishness has been characterised by high dynamic in historical, political, geographical and cultural dimension (e.g. imperial vs. post-imperial dimension, insular vs. European dimension, Celtic vs. Anglo-Saxon dimension).

Secondly, the peoples of British Isles and the peoples overseas bound to them by common history, as well as the social institutions and many forms of the cultural life created by them, represent general tendencies characteristic for wider groups of reference (such as Western Europe or high-developed states, post-industrial societies or processes of the globalisation). Nevertheless against this background the British Studies are keeping their distinct and most interesting specificity. Therefore there is a visible need for reflection on the ways of applying in the field of British Studies such research theories as the systemic or constructivism, and such research methods as the system analysis (key to the research on transformation of social structures, identities, awareness, and axiology); or the comparative method (helping to capture the British specificity by comparison with other socio-political systems).

The findings have been used in the process of preparing doctoral and post-doctoral projects by the members of the Research Group Britannia.