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James graduated with a BA in English & History from the University of York in 1966, and subsequently undertook a research degree at Merton College, Oxford. Following a career as a teacher, James became a full-time writer in 1985.
- Crimea 1854–56: The War With Russia from Contemporary Photographs (1981)
- The Savage Wars : British Campaigns in Africa 1870–1920 (1985)
- Mutiny: In the British and Commonwealth Forces, 1797–1956 (1987)
- Imperial Rearguard: The Last Wars of Empire (1988)
- The Golden Warrior: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia (1990)
- The Iron Duke: A Military Biography of Wellington (1992)
- Imperial Warrior: The Life and Times of Field Marshal Viscount Allenby (1993)
- The Rise and Fall of the British Empire (1994; revised ed. 1998; illustrated ed. 1999)
- Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India (1997)
- Warrior Race: A History of the British at War (2001)
- The Middle Class (2006)
- Aristocrats: Power, Grace and Decadence – Britain's Great Ruling Classes from 1066 to the Present (2009)
- Churchill and Empire – A Portrait of an Imperialist (2014)
- Empires in the Sun: The Struggle for the Mastery of Africa (2016)
- James, Lawrence (1998). The Rise and Fall of the British Empire (2nd ed.). Abacus. p. i. ISBN 0-349-10667-3.
- "Raj - The Making and Unmaking of British India". Grapevine. Alumni Office, University of York (Spring/Summer 1998): 20.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 April 2007. Retrieved 18 November 2007.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)