Dr Philip James

Supervised by

Research interests


Doctoral Research:

My doctoral thesis explores the stimuli and internal processes which brought an army from Poland-Lithuania, led by King Jan III Sobieski, to the relief of Vienna in 1683, posing in addition the question of whether this expedition merits consideration as part of the crusading movement.

Previous examinations of crusading in early modernity, which have not included these events within the scope of their study, have reached the conclusion that the true end of the movement should be dated to the late sixteenth century. Meanwhile, existing studies covering the relief expedition have rarely progressed beyond examining it as a military exercise, failing to fully appreciate or missing entirely the streak of religious motivation which underpinned the assistance provided by the Rzeczpospolita Obojga Narodów (Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth). Those works in English have, moreover, frequently displayed deficiencies in their understanding of the unique political system and culture of that polity.

Working primarily through epistolary and diaristic evidence, this thesis offers the first detailed, anglophone, Rzeczpospolita-centric study of the background to and events of the relief expedition. It refines our understanding of the roles played in the political system by the elected monarch and the szlachta (the powerful noble class of the Rzeczpospolita); examines the impact of French, Imperial and Brandenburg-Prussian diplomacy; reassesses the events of the 1681 and 1683 Sejmy (parliaments), the former broken without issuing legislation through the exercise of the liberum veto, the latter successfully concluded; and brings the religious characteristics of the resulting relief expedition into the foreground. Moreover, it demonstrates that, at least in one previously overlooked part of Christendom, engagement with both the mechanisms and the ideology of crusading remained possible on a society-wide level as late as the final decades of the seventeenth century.


Other Research:

I have also conducted research exploring the influence of the medieval Knights Templar upon the ideology of the contemporary Mexican criminal organisation, Los Caballeros Templarios de Michoacán, which has recently been published by Routledge as part of the second volume of Engaging the Crusades.

Personal profile



'Los Caballeros Templarios de Michoacán: Knights Templar identity as a tool for legitimisation and internal discipline' in The Crusades in the Modern World: Engaging the Crusades, Volume Two, ed. by Mike Horswell and Akil N. Awan (London: Routledge, 2019), pp. 25-40.


Talks and Conferences

‘Mass Engagement with Crusading Ideas through Communal Religious Observance during the Polish Relief Expedition to Vienna, 1683’, SSCLE Conference, RHUL (28/06/2022)

'The Battle of Párkány, 1683: Polish Acts of Spiritual Rededication and the First Crusade', Leeds International Medieval Conference, University of Leeds (04/07/2018)

'The Crusading Context of the Polish Relief of Vienna, 1683', Crusades and the Latin East Seminar, Institute of Historical Research, London (19/02/2018)

'The Relief of Vienna, 1683: A Polish Crusade?', Leeds International Medieval Conference, University of Leeds (03/07/2017)

'"What's in a Name?": A Twenty-First Century Drug Cartel's Borrowed Identity as a Military Order', Engaging the Crusades: Reflected, Refracted, Invented, Institute of Historical Research, London (18/09/2015)


Scholarships and Awards

RHUL Matched Funded Scholarship with the Friendly Hand (2015-2018)

MA Crusader Studies Prize (2014)



From Renaissance to Revolution: Europe and the World, 1500-1800 (RHUL, HS1108, 2019-2020)

Killing the King: England in an Age of Revolutions, 1603-1714 (RHUL, HS2019, 2018-2019)

Educational background


PhD History, Royal Holloway, University of London (2015-2021)

MA Crusader Studies, Royal Holloway, University of London (2013-2014)

BA Ancient & Medieval History, University of Birmingham (2006-2009)

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