The Further Correspondence of William Laud

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Kenneth Fincham
Church of England Record Society
  • Sheffield, England: 
    Boydell & Brewer Publishers
    , February
     355 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


Kenneth Fincham’s edited volume The Further Correspondence of William Laud is a meticulously researched compilation of letters of the former Archbishop of Canterbury William Laud (1573–1645), many of which did not exist in print before the publication of this volume. Fincham contends that “what The further correspondence does contain is new information, fresh insights and a fuller appreciation of the character, career and impact of William Laud” (xxii).

This edited volume provides a year-by-year compilation of William Laud’s letters from 1614 to 1640. This work contains 223 letters, 150 of which appear for the first time in print. Each letter is numbered and typeset in a legible font, making them easy to find and read, and begins with the header to whom the letter was written and when. Fincham’s volume expands the total number of known letters of the former Archbishop of Canterbury to a total of 771 letters. Fincham's research, drawn from thirty-eight archives, is an addition to the original multi-volume collection of The Works of the Most Reverend Father in God, William Laud, D.D. Sometime Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.

Fincham devotes much of the introduction to contextualizing the letters in the collection. They range from correspondence with various bishops, especially John Bridgeman, the bishop of Chester, to Thomas Wentworth (who would become the earl of Stratford), to King Charles I. The author gives particular care to documenting each letter with footnotes. Fincham devotes a page of his work to "Textual Conventions," in which he notes whether Laud wrote the message in his hand, if a secretary wrote it, whether or not this is the first time the letter exists in print, and other footnotes with various elucidations. These notes give much detail to the context of the message within further footnotes, such as the location of the letter in the archive, who the recipient is and a brief description of them, contextualization of works in which the letter referenced, and comments on stylistic changes, such as whether a word or phrase that was initially been crossed out.

While this is an exhaustive work that adds to the collection of Archbishop Laud, Fincham contends that there are three “individual gems” this work brings to light. The first is a letter “which suggests that Laud had not yet made up his mind whether or not to accept the offer of a commendam and retain the presidency while becoming bishop of St David’s, although in the end he was to decline it” (xxii-xxiii). The next record “is the only letter we possess from Laud in his capacity as dean of the chapel royal, a post he held from 1626–1633” (xxiii). The last gem “is the first direct evidence of his intervention, on behalf of the crown, in the affairs of either English university [Oxford and Cambridge]” (xxvii). Although Fincham contextualizes many parts of Laud’s life to better frame the letters, this work does not contain a biography of Laud’s life.

This volume provides a large portion of Laud's work in a readable typeset, complete with extensive footnotes on each letter, organized by year. Fincham provides insight into one of the foremost leaders and reformers in the Church of England.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Tanner J. Moore is doctoral student in History at Purdue University.

Date of Review: 
June 29, 2020
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Kenneth Fincham is Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Kent. He has written extensively on religion and politics in early modern Britain, including two monographs, Prelate as Pastor: the Episcopate of James I (1990) and, with Nicholas Tyacke, Altars Restored: the Changing Face of English Religious Worship 1547-c.1700 (2007); edited two collections of essays, The Early Stuart Church 1603-1642 (1993) and, with Peter Lake, Religious Politics in post-Reformation England (2006); and edited two volumes of Articles and Injunctions of the Early Stuart Church (1994-8) for the Church of England Record Society.


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