Portrait of Dr Leonie James

Dr Leonie James

Honorary Academic


Although she has been passionate about the early modern period since her teenage years, Leonie only became an academic after having worked for a decade in the City and raising a family while doing her PhD. She joined the School of History full-time in October 2016. 

Research interests

Leonie's research focuses upon the politics of religion in the early modern period, although she is also interested in culture and diplomacy in Britain in the 17th century. Her first monograph – This Great Firebrand: William Laud and Scotland, 1617-1645, published in 2017 by Boydell & Brewer – explores the working partnership between Charles I and William Laud in its Scottish context, shedding new light on the making and shaping of Caroline religious policy, the ‘British problem’ and the British civil wars.

Her second book - The Household Accounts of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1635-1642 - was published in January 2019 and offers an entirely new appraisal of an elite, ecclesiastical household and its relationship with crown, court and community.  In addition to an edited collection of essays on interactions between churches in the Stuart composite monarchy, Leonie is now starting a new research project on the activities of the Venetian ambassadors in England during the period c.1603-1714.    





  • James, L. (2017). ‘I was no “master of this work” but a servant to it’? William Laud, Charles I and the making of Scottish ecclesiastical policy, 1634-6. Historical Research [Online] 90:506-525. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1468-2281.12184.
    Building upon recent scholarship, this article presents a study of policy formation within the composite monarchy of Charles I. Through a scrutiny of the 1636 canons – a crucial but neglected aspect of the ‘Laudian’ programme in Scotland – new light is shed on the contested dynamics of the working partnership between the king and William Laud, archbishop of Canterbury (1633–45). The article also engages with the question of whether Laud can accurately be described as ‘the master’ of religious reform in Scotland and contends that he recast retrospectively his role in policy formation – not just in the canons, but in other, equally controversial, aspects of Scottish policy – thus concealing the true extent of his involvement, by presenting himself as having been a servant, not an agent. Suggesting greater involvement in Scottish affairs than has hitherto been acknowledged, these findings put Laud at the heart of a programme of religious reform that extended across the British churches during the sixteen-thirties.


  • James, L. (2017). ’This Great Firebrand’: William Laud and Scotland 1617-1645. [Online]. Boydell and Brewer. Available at: https://boydellandbrewer.com/this-great-firebrand-william-laud-and-scotland-1617-1645-hb.html.
    William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury (1633-45), remains one of the most controversial figures in British ecclesiastical and political history. His rise to prominence under Charles I, his contribution to the framing and implementation of highly contentious religious policies, and his subsequent and catastrophic downfall remain central to our understanding of the coming of civil war. This book presents Scotland as a case study for a fresh interpretation of Laud, his career and his working partnership with Charles I. This approach throws much needed light on the depth of Laud's engagement in kirk affairs and reveals the real reasons for his ostensible abandonment by the king in 1641, enabling a better understanding of Anglo-Scottish politics in the early Long Parliament as well as developments connected to religion and the 'British Problem'. Importantly, the book demonstrates that Laud's involvement in Scotland was broadly consistent with, although differing in detail from, his approach in England and Ireland. It represents a major contribution to key debates on the nature of religion and politics in the 1630s and early 1640s and to current thinking on the role of Charles I and William Laud in the formulation of ecclesiastical policy, the 'British problem', and the causes of the British Civil Wars.

Edited book

  • James, L. (2019). The Household Accounts of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1635-1642. [Online]. Vol. 24. James, L. ed. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell and Brewer. Available at: https://boydellandbrewer.com/the-household-accounts-of-william-laud-archbishop-of-canterbury-1635-1642.html.
    A full edition of the household accounts of William Laud, at the height of his archiepiscopal career to his downfall, from 1635 until 1642.


  • James, L. (2020). Scotland in Revolution, 1685–1690. By Raffe, Alasdair. History [Online] 105:505-506. Available at: https://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1468-229X.12979.
  • James, L. (2018). Review in English Historical Review. English Historical Review [Online]:00-00. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/ehr/cey225.
  • James, L. (2018). Review in Northern Scotland Adams, S. and Goodare, J. eds. Northern Scotland [Online] 9:82 -84. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3366/nor.2018.0149.


  • James, L. (2018). Archbishop Laud: the man beneath the mitre. History Today.
    This article explores life inside the household of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, during the 1630s. Based on a neglected source - the extant household accounts for Lambeth Palace - it provides a new perspective on an important and controversial historical figure, both in terms of the archbishop personally, as well as life inside an early modern, elite household.
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