Portrait of Professor Kenneth Fincham

Professor Kenneth Fincham

Deputy Dean
Professor of Early Modern History


Professor Kenneth Fincham is one of three directors of the Clergy of the Church of England Database Project, funded by the AHRC, which provides a relational database of the careers of Anglican clergymen, schoolteachers and ecclesiastical patrons between 1540 and 1835.

Since 1992 he has been a convenor of ‘The Religious History of Britain’ seminar which meets fortnightly in term at the Institute of Historical Research in London. He is also on the editorial board of the Boydell Press’s Studies in Modern British Religious History, which has published 29 monographs or collections of essays since its inception in 1999.  

He is past Secretary and Councillor of the Royal Historical Society, and was formerly on the Council of the Church of England Record Society.

Research interests

Kenneth's research centres on politics, religion and culture in early modern Britain. 

His first book, Prelate as Pastor (1990) rescued the Jacobean episcopate from accusations of negligence and indifference, demonstrated a variety of pastoral strategies to advance protestantism, and identified significant differences in churchmanship among the bishops. 

Kenneth went on to write on James I as supreme governor, on aspects of Archbishop Laud’s government of the church and on early Stuart Oxford. He edited Visitation Articles and Injunctions of the Early Stuart Church (2 vols, 1994-8)and two collections of essays, the first on The Early Stuart Church (1993) and the second, with Peter Lake, on Religious Politics in post-Reformation England (2006), a festschrift for Nicholas Tyacke – his former supervisor. 

With Tyacke, he wrote Altars Restored: the Changing Face of English Religious Worship c.1547-1700 (2007). This examines the altar as a site of tension and conflict first between Catholics and protestant iconoclasts in the mid-sixteenth century, and then between Laudian advocates of the protestant altars and their puritan opponents in the mid-seventeenth century.  The book draws on surviving artefacts (communion tables, plate and stained glass, among much else) as well as documentary sources, demonstrates the laity as active exponents of change across this 150-year period, and reassesses parochial worship, the impact of the Laudian reformation, and its enduring legacy after 1660.



  • Fincham, K. (2018). The King James bible: crown, church and people. Journal of Ecclesiastical History [Online]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022046918001318.
    This essay addresses several unresolved problems associated with the production, dissemination and reception of the King James bible. It argues that James I’s initial enthusiasm was not sustained and that Archbishop Bancroft was the key figure for seeing the translation to completion. His death, just before the bible appeared, explains why there was no order for its purchase by parishes. Instead, its acquisition was left to individual bishops so that it took until the civil war for the new bible to be widely available in worship. Its broad acceptability by that time was a result of its increasing use in household and private devotions as much as in public worship.
  • Fincham, K. (2015). Archbishop Grindal 1519-1583: The Struggle for a Reformed Church. History [Online] 100:535-543. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-229X.12115.
    This essay seeks to explain the least celebrated of Patrick Collinson's books. It begins by looking at how it has seemed to be too much under the shadow of its predecessor, The Elizabethan Puritan Movement, and had a little imprudently been preceded by three essays that rather stole its thunder. Too many scholars have wrongly thought what was left was the husk rather than the kernel of Edmund Grindal. So they missed a masterly marriage of deep and informed study of diocesan records with a command of the treacherous currents of ecclesiastical politics in Whitehall and Lambeth. What is more, Collinson offers a long?sighted account of Grindal's importance for the subsequent history of the Church of England down to the time of Sacheverell Affair (1709–10), and a brilliant analysis of his marginalia in books now in an Oxford Library. The essay suggests that Grindal is made too central and too representative of post?Reformation evangelical Protestantism, while at the same time the roles of John Jewel, Arthur Lake and others are overlooked, but it commends the book as one of the rare accounts of a public career in the Church in the later sixteenth century. The essay ends by looking at Collinson's continuing passion for seeing the Reformation through the lens of individuals’ lives.
  • Fincham, K. and Taylor, S. (2011). Vital Statistics: Episcopal Ordination and Ordinands in England, 1646-60. English Historical Review [Online] CXXVI:319-344. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ehr/cer075.
  • Fincham, K. and Tyacke, N. (2008). Religious Change and the Laity in England. History Today 58:42-48.
    This looks at the Reformation in England, and in particular at the destruction and re-erection of altars, and makes the case that the laity were active players in this process, either as advocates or opponents of change.
  • Fincham, K., Taylor, S. and Burns, A. (2004). Reconstructing Clerical Careers: The Experience of the Clergy of the Church of England Database. Journal of Ecclesiastical History [Online] 55:726-737. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0022046904001514.
    The Clergy of the Church of England Database, a project funded by the AHRB, began work in I999 with the aim of constructing a relational database covering all clerical careers in the Church of England between I540 and I835. This article outlines the methodology and scope of the project before discussing some of the intellectual problems posed by the task of constructing a database that reflects the complexities of an irrational, pre-bureaucratic organisation. It also offers an insight into the potential of the completed database as a tool for investigating the largest profession of the early modern period.
  • Fincham, K. (2003). According to Ancient Custom: the return of altars in the Restoration of the Church of England. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society [Online] 13:29-54. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0080440103000021.
    Despite its association with the ill-fated reforms of Archbishop Laud in the 1630s and its dubious legality, the railed altar re-appeared in parish churches in the years after 1660. Initially only a handful of parishes and a minority of bishops backed so controversial a change, but the reconstruction of the city churches in London after the fire of 1666 popularised the railed altar, which was adopted elsewhere, particularly during the tory reaction of the 1680s. Studies of two urban parishes in the early 1680s indicate how struggles between dissenters and zealous anglicans could extend to disputes over worship. By 1700, what had been new and contested in the 1630s was becoming widely accepted, which may point to the powerful legacy of Laudian ideals in the restoration church.
  • Fincham, K., Taylor, S. and Burns, A. (2002). The Historical Public and Academic Archival Research: the experience of the Clergy of the Church of England Database. Archives 27:110-119.
  • Fincham, K. (2001). The Restoration of Altars in the 1630s. Historical Journal [Online] 44:919-940. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0018246X01002114.
    The nationwide campaign to erect railed altars in the 1630s has always been seen as a central feature of the Laudian reformation of the Church. Recently some scholars have denied its close association with Laud and Arminian sacramentalism, and have proposed that the policy originated with Charles I, to be reluctantly endorsed by his archbishop. As for its enforcement, Julian Davies has identified at least five variants which were implemented in the dioceses. This article argues instead that Archbishops Neile and Laud were centrally involved in the introduction of the railed altar, and that they oversaw the imposition of a single altar policy, with only Williams of Lincoln briefly championing a variation on it. Differences did emerge, however, over where communicants should receive, since this had not been prescribed by authority. Charles I, on this reading, was not the driving force for change, although he clearly came to support it.
  • Fincham, K. (2000). William Laud and the exercise of Caroline ecclesiastical patronage (Reconstructing the evolution and character of the relationship between king and archbishop in the 1630s). Journal of Ecclesiastical History [Online] 51:69-93. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0022046999002821.
  • Fincham, K. (1996). Popularity, Prelacy and Puritanism in the 1630s: Joseph Hall Explains Himself. English Historical Review [Online] 111:856-881. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/577565.
  • Fincham, K. (1988). Prelacy and Politics: Archbishop Abbot’s Defence of Protestant Orthodoxy. Historical Research [Online] 61:36-64. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2281.1988.tb01989.x.
  • Fincham, K. and Lake, P. (1985). The Ecclesiastical Policy of King James I. Journal of British Studies [Online] 24:169-207. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1086/385831.
    In a sermon preached at Hampton Court on September 30, 1606, John King proclaimed that “our Solomon or Pacificus liveth.” James I had “turned swords into sithes and spears into mattocks, and set peace within the borders of his own kingdoms and of nations about us.” His care for the “Church and maintenance to it” was celebrated. All that remained was for his subjects to lay aside contentious matters and join “with his religious majesty in propagation of the gospel and faith of Christ.” The sermon was the last in a series of four preached—and later printed—at the king's behest before an unwilling audience of Scottish Presbyterians. The quartet outlined James's standing as a ruler by divine right and laid down the conceptual foundations of the Jacobean church. A godly prince, exercising his divinely ordained powers as head of church and state, advised by godly bishops, themselves occupying offices of apostolic origin and purity, would preside over a new golden age of Christian peace and unity. A genuinely catholic Christian doctrine would be promulgated and maintained; peace and order would prevail. James I was rex pacificus, a new Constantine, a truly godly prince. As he himself observed in 1609, “my care for the Lord's spiritual kingdom is so well known, both at home and abroad, as well as by my daily actions as by my printed books.”
  • Fincham, K. (1985). Ramifications of the Hampton Court Conference in the Dioceses, 1603-9. Journal of Ecclesiastical History [Online] 36:208-227. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022046900038720.
    We finding (right dread and soveraigne Lord), in the sacred records of God that the most worthy kings set over his people sanctifyed the entrance of their raigne with clensing the house of God from all idolatry and superstition and reforming the ministers thereof, according to the order appointed by God; the safest and surest way to establish the thrones of kings to themselves and their posterity. And we acknowledging with all thankfulnes to God that he hath touched your royall hart with a true love unto his sanctuarie and raysed you up as another Josiah even to pull down all the high places and to breake in peeces all the strange altars that remaine yet in Israell (for we must acknowledg as the truth that many of us and of the people have not yet prepared our harts to the God of our fathers) ar moved in those respects (most noble king) as remembrancers of the Lord to crie with our hart and voice for the effecting herof.
  • Fincham, K. (1984). The Judges’ decision on Ship-Money in February 1637: the Reaction of Kent. Historical Research [Online] 57:230-237. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2281.1984.tb02248.x.
  • Fincham, K. (1981). Contemporary Opinions of Thomas Weelkes. Music and Letters [Online] 62:352-353. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/ml/62.3-4.352.


  • Fincham, K. and Tyacke, N. (2007). Altars Restored: the changing face of English Religious Worship, 1547-c1700. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
    Altars are powerful symbols, fraught with meaning, and during the early modern period they became a religious battleground. Attacked by reformers in the mid-16thc because of their allegedly idolatrous associations with the Cathoplic sacrifice of the mass, a hundred years later they served to divide protestants following their reintroduction by Archbishop Laud and his associates as part of a counter-reforming programme. Moreover, having subsequently been removed by the victorious puritans, altars gradually came back after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. This book explores these developments, over a 150-year period, and recaptures the experience of the ordinary parishioner in this crucial period of religious change. Far from being the passive recipients of alterations imposed from above, the laity are revealed as actively engaged from the early days of the Reformation, whether as zealous iconoclasts or their Catholic opponents - a division later translated into competing protestant views.

    Altars Restored integrates the worlds of theological debate, church politics and government, and parish practice and belief, which are often studied in isolation from one another. It draws from hitherto largely untapped sources, notably the surviving artefactual evidence comprising communion tables and rails, fonts, images in stained glass, paintings and plates, as well as exploring the wealth of local parish records - especially churchwardens' accounts. The result is a richly textured study of religious change at both local and national level.
  • Fincham, K. (1990). Prelate as Pastor: the Episcopate of James I. [Online]. Oxford, UK.: Clarendon Press. Available at: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/prelate-as-pastor-9780198229216?cc=gb&lang=en&.
    This is a study of the sixty-six bishops who held office during the reign of James I. Kenneth Fincham surveys their range of activities and functions, including their part in central politics, their role in local society, their work as diocesan governors enforcing moral and spiritual discipline, and their supervision of the parish clergy. Dr Fincham argues that the accession of James I marked the restoration of episcopal fortunes at court and in the localities, seen most clearly in the revival of the court prelate. This detailed analysis of the early seventeenth-century episcopate, intensively grounded in contemporary sources, reveals much about the church of James I, the doctrinal divisions of the period, and the origins of Laudian government in the 1630s. Prelate as Pastor offers a new perspective on the controversies of early Stuart religious history.

Book section

  • Fincham, K. (2018). Hampton Court Conference (act. 1604). in: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/92779.
    Hampton Court conference (act. 1604), was a three-day meeting of privy councillors, bishops, other senior clergy, moderate puritans, and civil lawyers in January 1604, called by James I to discuss complaints about the Church of England. The discussion ranged over the church's doctrine, liturgy, discipline, and pastoral provision. Although few significant reforms were adopted, and puritan hopes for major changes were dashed, the conference demonstrated James I's creative use of his royal supremacy and represented his first serious engagement with the complexities of governing the English church.
  • Fincham, K. and Taylor, S. (2017). Episcopalian Identity, 1640-1662. in: Milton, A. ed. The Oxford History of Anglicanism. Oxford, UK.: Oxford University Press, pp. 457-482. Available at: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-oxford-history-of-anglicanism-volume-i-9780199639731?cc=gb&lang=en&#.
  • Fincham, K. (2013). 'Expansion and Retrenchment 1574-1660' and 'A protestant College 1574-1660'. in: Catto, J. ed. Oriel College: A history. Oxford University Press, pp. 94-159.
  • Fincham, K. and Taylor, S. (2012). The restoration of the Church of England 1660-2: ordination, re-ordination and conformity. in: Taylor, S. and Tapsell, G. eds. The Nature of the English Revolution Revised. Boydell & Brewer. Available at: https://bookshop.blackwell.co.uk/jsp/adv_search.jsp?wcp=1&keywordType=ANYWHERE&Search=Search&title=&titleOp=AND&titleStem=&author=&authorOp=AND&authorStem=&keywords=&keywordsOp=AND&keywordsStem=&publisher=&isbn=978-1843838180&media=&minPrice=&maxPrice=&fr.
  • Fincham, K. (2011). The Hazards of the Jacobean Court. in: Oxford Handbook to John Donne. Oxford University Press.
  • Fincham, K. and Taylor, S. (2010). Episcopalian Conformity and Nonconformity, 1646-60. in: McElligott, J. and Smith, D. L. eds. Royalists and Royalism during the Interregnum. Manchester University Press, pp. 18-43.
  • Fincham, K. (2010). Annual Accounts of the Church of England 1632-1639. in: Barber, M., Taylor, S. and Sewell, G. eds. From the Reformation to the Permissive Society. A Miscellany in Celebration of the 400th Anniversary of Lambeth Palace Library. The Boydell Press: Church of England Records Society, pp. 63-149.
  • Fincham, K. (2006). Material Evidence: the Religious Legacy of the Interregnum at St George Tombland, Norwich. in: Fincham, K. and Lake, P. eds. Religious Politics in post-Reformation England: Essays in honour of Nicholas Tyacke. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell and Brewer, pp. 224-240.
    This essay traces the religious divisions of the mid-seventeenth century into the post-Restoration period, and demonstrates the influence that Presbyterians and perhaps some Independents continued to exercise over parish affairs well beyond the imposition of the Clarendon Code in the 1660s.
  • Fincham, K. (2004). Entries on George Abbot, Ralph Barlow, Thomas Dove, Nicholas Felton, Arthur Lake, Anthony Lapthorne, Richard Milbourne, Robert Snoden, William Swaddon, Giles Thomson and John Young. in: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.
  • Fincham, K. (2000). Clerical Conformity from Whitgift to Laud. in: Lake, P. and Questier, M. eds. Conformity and Orthodoxy in the English Church, c.1560-1660. Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, pp. 125-158. Available at: https://boydellandbrewer.com/conformity-and-orthodoxy-in-the-english-church-c-1560-1660-hb.html.
  • Fincham, K. (1997). Oxford and the Early Stuart Polity. in: Tyacke, N. ed. The History of the University of Oxford: Volume IV Seventeenth-Century Oxford. Oxford: Clarendon Press, pp. 179-210. Available at: http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199510146.001.0001/acprof-9780199510146.
  • Fincham, K. (1987). John Howson’s answers to Archbishop Abbot’s accusations at his trial before James I, 1615. in: Cranfield, N. ed. Camden Miscellany XXIX, Camden 4th series. London: Royal Historical Society, pp. 319-410.

Datasets / databases

  • Fincham, K., Burns, A. and Taylor, S. (2005). The Clergy of the Church of England Database (CCEd). [Internet]. Available at: http://www.theclergydatabase.org.uk/.
    Its objective is to create a relational database documenting the careers of all Church of England clergymen between 1540 and 1835.

Edited book

  • Fincham, K. ed. (2018). The Further Correspondence of William Laud. [Online]. Boydell Press. Available at: https://boydellandbrewer.com/the-further-correspondence-of-william-laud-hb.html.
    The correspondence of William Laud, archbishop of Canterbury from 1633 to 1645, provides revealing insights into his mind, methods and activities, especially in the 1630s, as he sought to remodel the church and the clerical estate in the three kingdoms.
  • Fincham, K. ed. (1998). Visitation Articles and Injunctions of the Early Stuart Church: II. 1625-1642. [Online]. Boydell Press. Available at: https://boydellandbrewer.com/visitation-articles-and-injunctions-of-the-early-stuart-church-ii-1625-1642-hb.html.
    This selection of articles and injunctions issued by archbishops, bishops, archdeacons, and other ecclesiastical ordinaries in the early Stuart church concentrates on the church of Charles I, from his accession in 1625 to the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642. The volume traces the impact of Laudian reforms as well as the defensive reaction of the Church hierarchy in 1641-2. The range of churchmanship included is broad, stretching from the articles and injunctions of Laudian enthusiasts such as bishops Wren and Montagu to those issued by Calvinist Episcopalians such as Hall and Thornborough. The introduction places these texts in their historical and historiographical contexts, and an appendix lists all surviving sets of visitation articles for the years 1603-1642. The volume will be a valuable work of reference for anyone interested in the government and ideals of the early Stuart church.
  • Fincham, K. ed. (1994). Visitation Articles and Injunctions of the Early Stuart Church: I. 1603-25. [Online]. Boydell Press. Available at: https://boydellandbrewer.com/visitation-articles-and-injunctions-of-the-early-stuart-church-i-1603-25-hb.html.
    This is the first of two volumes which reproduce manuscript and printed documents for the years 1603-1642. The articles issued by archbishops, bishops, archdeacons and others exercising ecclesiastical jurisdiction have been frequently used by historians as evidence of the priorities and concerns of church government, but until now there has been no systematic examination of the structure and contents of articles, nor the relationship between sets issued by different archbishops, bishops or archdeacons. These two volumes attempt to fill this gap.
    Volume 1, centring on the Church of James I, contains no less than sixty-six sets of articles, printed either in full or in collated form and includes injunctions or charges issued during or after visitations. Volume 2 extends the same treatment to the Caroline Church up to the Civil War.
    KENNETH FINCHAM is lecturer in history at the University of Kent at Canterbury.
  • Fincham, K. ed. (1993). The Early Stuart church, 1603-1642. Basingstoke: Macmillan.
    This volume takes a fresh look at the recent controversy over the character of the Early Stuart Church. The rival beliefs and practices of both clergy and laity are explored in a wide-ranging collection of original essays which investigate complementary themes including the royal supremacy, episcopal government, parish religion and theological disputes. Each is firmly grounded in its political and social context. Among the contributors are several leading figures in the current academic debates, as well as a number of younger scholars presenting their ideas for the first time.


  • Fincham, K. (1999). Government by polemic: James I, the king's preachers, and the rhetoric of conformity, 1603-1625. Catholic Historical Review 85:466-467.
  • Fincham, K. (1999). King James VI and I and the reunion of Christendom. Journal of Ecclesiastical History 50:597-598.
  • Fincham, K. (1995). Court, Country and Culture. English Historical Review [Online] 110:999-1000. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ehr/CX.438.999.
  • Fincham, K. (1994). An Uncounselled King. History of European Ideas 18:597-598.
  • Fincham, K. (1993). Predestination, policy and polemic - conflict and consensus in the English church from the reformation to the civil-war - White, P White, P. ed. History 78:510-510.
  • Fincham, K. (1992). Church and State in Early-Modern England, 1509-1640. History 77:307-307.
  • Fincham, K. (1992). The Idea of History in Early Stuart England. History 77:309-309.
  • Fincham, K. (1985). Personalities and Politics in Early Stuart England. Historical Journal [Online] 28:1000-1009. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0018246X00005197.
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