University of Wisconsin–Madison

Piotr Puchalski

Advisor: Kathryn Ciancia

Piotr Puchalski


I am interested in the global context of Poland’s interwar history (1918-1939). I currently explore the ways in which Poland and its citizens defined their relationship to maritime colonialism in the Wilsonian era of empires, nation-states, mandates, and colonies. Among other topics, I examine Poland’s treatment of its diaspora communities as political and economic outposts, creation of additional pioneer settlements in Africa and Latin America, attempts to obtain colonial concessions from other states and the League of Nations, and inclusion of minorities such as Jews in its maritime projects.

In particular, I am fascinated by the tensions between Poland’s colonial aspirations, justified at the time as a function of the country’s urgent economic needs and overpopulation, and its anti-colonial orientation stemming from its own past as a stateless nation. I believe that understanding these tensions is instrumental to evaluating interwar Poland’s complicated position at home and abroad and, consequently, the road to World War II. Moreover, the study of this aspect of Poland’s interwar history demonstrates the ways in which states have navigated international institutions – as well as the ways in which citizens have navigated states – to secure their interests, negotiate their identities, and establish their ideas.

Unrelated to my dissertation project, my other historical passions include the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth during its golden age, the Habsburg Monarchy in the nineteenth century, and World War II. In addition, I am interested in the historical and philosophical development of the political Left and Right.


B.A., (New York University ’14)


  • Modern European History

M.A. Title

  • “The Polish Mission to Liberia, 1934-1938: Constructing Poland’s Colonial Identity”

Working Dissertation Title

  • “Beyond Empire: Interwar Poland and Maritime Colonialism, 1918-1939”

Selected Publications

  • Review of Daniel Kupfert Heller, Jabotinsky’s Children: Polish Jews and the Rise of Right-Wing Zionism, in The Polish Review, forthcoming.
  • Review of Volodymyr Muzychenko, Jewish Ludmir: The History and Tragedy of the Jewish Community of Volodymyr-Volynsky, in The Polish Review, forthcoming.
  • Review of Robert E. Alvis, White Eagle, Black Madonna: One Thousand Years of the Polish Catholic Tradition, in The Polish Review, forthcoming.
  • “The Polish Mission to Liberia, 1934-1938: Constructing Poland’s Colonial Identity,” The Historical Journal 60, no. 4 (December 2017): 1071–96. doi:10.1017/S0018246X16000534


  • IRIS Graduate Fieldwork Award (2017)
  • CREECA Graduate Fieldwork Award (2017)
  • Lapinski Graduate Assistanship in Polish Studies (2015-2016)
  • Mellon Foundation Area and International Studies Fellowship (2015)

Professional Affiliation

  • The Association for Slavic, East European, & Eurasian Studies
  • Central Slavic Conference (graduate representative)
  • Józef Piłsudski Institute of America (volunteer)

Courses Taught as TA

  • History 120 – Europe and the Modern World (Fall 2016)
  • History 419 – History of Soviet Russia (Spring 2017)