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Dr Laura Stewart

M.A. Hons (St Andrews); M.Sc., PhD (Edinburgh)

Contact details

Department of History, Classics and Archaeology
Birkbeck, University of London
Room 2.16
27/28 Russell Square

Tel: 020 7631 6400


  • I joined Birkbeck in 2006 as a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow and I am now Senior Lecturer in Early Modern British History. My specialization is seventeenth-century Scottish history and I have published widely on many aspects of the reigns of James VI and I (1567-1603-1625), Charles I (1625-49), and the British civil wars (1637-60). I am particularly interested in the British problem, state formation, and Anglo-Scottish relations.
  • In addition to my research and teaching, I am interested in communicating the importance and relevance of the study of history to a wider public.

Research and teaching

  • Research interests
  • My work focuses on the political culture of early modern Scotland and Britain, with particular emphasis on the reign of James VI and I (1567-1603-1625), the reign of Charles I (1625-49), and the civil wars (1637-60).
  • Over the past ten years, my initial work on the political culture of early modern Scotland – the subject of my first book (2003) – has widened to encompass processes of state formation. Throughout the seventeenth century, Scotland’s political autonomy was compromised by its subordinate status within a larger ‘multiple monarchy’, which came into being when James VI acceded to the English throne in 1603. While many current British histories emphasize the gradual integration of Scotland into a stable British polity, my work investigates the ways in which the resilience of the Scottish state complicated processes of British integration and generated volatility in the Anglo-Scottish relationship. See my numerous articles exploring these themes in 'Publications' below.
  • My second book, Rethinking the Scottish Revolution: Covenanted Scotland, 1637-51 will be published by Oxford University Press in January 2016. It aims to reconsider the Scottish rebellion against Charles I and Scotland’s involvement in the British civil wars (1637-51) in light of recent debates about state formation and the creation of publics. The book provides the first full analysis of the vital role of popular political engagement in the Scottish crisis, by examining interactions between crowds, texts, performances, and formal political processes. In contrast to England, however, where the outbreak of civil war (1642) and the collapse of the ecclesiastical order sustained spaces for debate, Scotland saw propertied and clerical elites retain their dominance over discourses of power. Although Covenanted government did not survive, the state it created profoundly affected Scottish society, and the nature of the Anglo-Scottish relationship, for the rest of the century.
  • I am currently writing a history of early modern Scotland, aimed at general readers as well as undergraduates, for Edinburgh University Press. Focussing on the volatile and under-researched period from the reign of Charles I to the Jacobite rebellions, the book covers themes such as Scotland's evolving religious cultures, the volatility of the Anglo-Scottish relationship, and artistic expressions of power. It will be published in 2016.
  • I am also putting together a special forum, due for submission to the Journal of British Studies in 2016, that will examine political participation in early modern Britain. Articles by leading specialists in the history of political communication in a British context will consider the ways in which subordinate social groups used and subverted political languages, practices, and performances, to question what constituted a legitimate act and hold their social superiors to account. This collection originated in an interdisciplinary conference supported by the Birkbeck Institute of the Humanities: Publics and Participation in Early Modern Britain, 3-4 July 2014.
  • In collaboration with principal organiser, Brodie Waddell, and our colleagues Sue Wiseman and Becky Tomlin, I will be taking part in the international and interdisciplinary workshop, Addressing Authority: Petitions and Supplications in Early Modern Society' in March 2016. For more information, contact Brodie Waddell.
  • In collaboration with my colleague, Julian Swann, I organized a conference exploring state power in early modern Europe, which was held at Birkbeck in July 2010: Power and the State: Early Modern Perspectives. Funding was secured from the Leverhulme Trust, through the mediation of Dr Peter Campbell, Versailles-St-Quentin, and Prof. Jim Collins, Georgetown, USA, and from the Centre for Financial History at Newnham College, Cambridge, through Dr D’Maris Coffman. Further support was generously provided by the School of Social Sciences, History, and Philosophy and the Royal Historical Society.
  • Teaching
  • Undergraduate courses
  • Group I: British History, 1450-1750 (with Prof. Vanessa Harding and Dr Brodie Waddell)
  • Group II: Rebellion and Revolution: Britain in the Seventeenth Century
  • Group II: Noble Society in Early Modern Europe (with Prof. Julian Swann and Dr Brodie Waddell)
  • Postgraduate courses
  • Power and Authority in Early Modern Britain
  • Plots, Conspiracy Theories and Political Culture in Early Modern Britain and France (with Prof. Julian Swann)
  • PhD supervision
  • I am happy to supervise projects on many aspects of early modern British religious and political culture, especially in relation to the reigns of James VI and I or Charles I, the civil wars of the mid-seventeenth century, and the early modern state. The student who expresses an interest in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Scotland will be greeted with particular enthusiasm.
  • Three things matter if you want to embark on an MPhil or a PhD: the feasibility of your project, an ability to work independently, and an enthusiasm for historical research. You should also think carefully about why you want to work with a particular person at a particular institution. If Birkbeck looks like the place for you, begin by reading the College’s basic advice on how to apply for MPhil/PhD. Potential applicants who are interested in working with me are welcome to make a general enquiry, but it’s helpful to provide some information about your academic interests: a brief outline of a possible research proposal (one side of A4) and a short résumé are ideal. If you wish to apply for a funded place, you must contact me well in advance of the deadlines (usually near the beginning of the calendar year/Spring Term). It is strongly recommended that you begin working on your research proposal as early as possible, ideally at the beginning of the academic year prior to commencing doctoral work or earlier.
  • See information about my current research students:
  • Hilary Maddicott
  • Calum Wright


  • Forthcoming books
  • Rethinking the Scottish Revolution: Covenanted Scotland, 1637-51. Oxford University Press, January 2016.
  • Innovative new study of the civil war era in Scotland, focussing on state formation, popular political participation, the use of history, and the making of political and religious identities.
  • Union, Revolution and War: Scotland, 1625 – 1750. The New History of Scotland. Volume 5.
  • New textbook synthesizing the latest research on Scottish and British early modern history, and establishing future areas of enquiry. Commissioned by Edinburgh University Press. Expected publication date: 2016.
  • Books
  • Urban Politics and the British Civil Wars: Edinburgh, 1617-53 (Brill, Leiden, 2006).
  • Recent articles and chapters
  • 'Why were there no Levellers in Scotland?', History Today, 65 (2015)
  • ‘Scottish politics, 1644-51’ in Michael J. Braddick, ed., Oxford Handbook of the English Revolution (Oxford University Press, 2015).
  • ‘Faith and power in early modern Scotland’ in The Scottish Historical Review. Supplementary Issue: The State of Scottish History: Past, Present and Future (Edinburgh University Press, 2013).
  • ‘Authority and agency in the Scottish church, 1638-51’ in R. Armstrong and T.  Ó hAnnracháin, eds, Insular Christianity: Alternative models of the Church in Britain and Ireland, c.1570–c.1700 (Manchester University Press, 2013).
  • ‘Cromwell and the Scots’ in J. Mills, ed., Cromwell’s Legacy (Manchester University Press, 2012).
  • ‘The rise of the state?’ in T.M. Devine and J. Wormald, eds, Oxford Handbook of Modern Scottish History (Oxford University Press, 2012).
  • ‘Fiscal revolution and state formation in mid seventeenth century Scotland’, Historical Research, 84:225 (2011).
  • ‘English funding of the Scottish armies in England and Ireland, 1640-48’, Historical Journal, 52:3 (2009).
  • Plus numerous other articles, reviews, and essays on early Scottish and British politics and religion
  • Collaboration and works-in-progress
  • ‘“New and vast taxes”: Fiscal innovation in early Stuart Scotland’.
  • 'Contesting the constitution: the debate on Scottish parliamentary reform, 1639-41'
  • Publics and participation in early modern Britain. A special forum due for submission to The Journal of British Studies, summer 2016


  • Watch my contribution to the 2005 BBC television programme, ‘Cathedral: Rebellion at St Giles
  • Listen to my podcast, produced for the Historical Association and aimed at A-level students, explaining the Union of the Crowns, 1603
  • In August 2013, I was selected to take part in the BBC’s Expert Women (Scotland) media training day, which aims to address the under-representation of women as specialist commentators in the broadcast media. Find out more about the Expert Women programme
  • The Scotsman, 'Historical Wikileaks' (June 2011)
  • I will be speaking at the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh on 14 April 2016, about my forthcoming book, the National Covenant of 1638, and the making of Scottish political identity. More information will appear next year on this site.

Honours and awards

  • ‘Honorable mention’, Frank Watson Book Prize for Scottish History, University of Guelph, 2006
  • British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, 2005-2008
  • Joint-winner, Jeremiah Dalziel Prize in British History, Edinburgh University, 2003
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council, 1999-2000; 2000-2003

Detail of "Thrissels Banner" by Thomas Cunningham (1640) © National Museums of Scotland