Professor Stephen Alford

Professor of Early Modern British History

+44 (0)113 343 3606

Summary: Chair in Early Modern British History


I studied at the University of St Andrews, where I was taught by John Guy, before moving in 1997 to the University of Cambridge as a British Academy Post-doctoral Research Fellow in the Faculty of History and a Junior Research Fellow of Fitzwilliam College. In 1999 I was elected Ehrman Senior Research Fellow in History at King’s College, Cambridge. I stayed at King’s as a Fellow when I joined the Cambridge Faculty of History as an Assistant Lecturer, a Lecturer and finally a Senior Lecturer. In 2000 I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. I left Cambridge to come to Leeds as Professor of Early Modern British History in September 2012.

Research interests

My principal interests lie in the history of politics, political thought and monarchy in sixteenth-century Britain. For a long time I have worked on the life and career of William Cecil, first Baron of Burghley (1520-98), the most powerful man in Elizabethan England. I am interested also in Tudor espionage, commerce, diplomacy and travel literature, Anglo-Russian relations in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and Tudor and Jacobean London.

Current research projects

My main research interest at the moment is the history of the City of London in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. I am also revisiting the life and reign of King Edward VI in a short study to be published by Penguin.


My doctoral dissertation at St Andrews was published in the series of Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History, The Early Elizabethan Polity: William Cecil and the British Succession Crisis, 1558-1569 (Cambridge University Press, 1998). Cambridge University Press also published my second book, Kingship and Politics in the Reign of Edward VI, in 2002. Burghley: William Cecil at the Court of Elizabeth I (Yale University Press, 2008) was shortlisted for the Marsh Biography Award. My latest book, The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I, which was published in 2012 by Allen Lane/Penguin Press in the United Kingdom and Bloomsbury Press in the United States, was one of the Books of the Year in both the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Times.

School of History publications

Postgraduate supervision

I should welcome enquiries from potential MA and PhD students with interests in all aspects of early modern British history


I teach at all three undergraduate levels, including a third-year Special Subject on ‘The Tudor discovery of Russia, 1553-1603’ (HIST3686).

I hope one day to teach a postgraduate module on the historical thought of R.G. Collingwood.