James is originally from Derby, East Midlands. She received an undergraduate degree at the University of Durham in Ancient History and Archaeology. She then did a Master's degree in Byzantine studies at the University of Birmingham. She received her doctorate at the Courtauld Institute in London, studying under Robin Cormack with a thesis discussing light and colour in Byzantine art. Upon completion, she embarked on postdoctoral fellowships, notably at the Barber Institute. In 1993 she joined the University of Sussex, where in 2007 she was appointed professor.
James is known as a keen promotor of all areas of Byzantine art and Byzantine culture. She has particular interests in mosaics and in gender issues. She has written extensively on mosaics, discussing practical, iconographic and materialistic approaches to the subject. She has also established a database of Byzantine glass mosaics. In the field of gender, she has discussed Byzantine empresses, eunuchs and the way Byzantine society reacted to gender. She is also interested in the relationship between text and image, believing Byzantine texts to be of equal importance to Byzantine art.
- Empresses and Power in Early Byzantium (Leicester University Press, 2001)
- Light and Colour in Byzantine Art (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1996)
- Art and Text in Byzantium (Cambridge University Press, 2007), Introduction, and paper, '"And shall these mute stones speak?" Text as image'.
- Icon and Word. The power of images in Byzantium (Ashgate, 2003), editor with Antony Eastmond, and contributor, "Introduction: Icon and Word", xxix–xxxiv, and "Art and Lies: Text, image and imagination in the medieval world", 59–72.
- Desire and Denial in Byzantium (Variorum, Aldershot, 1999)
- Women, men and eunuchs: gender in Byzantium (Routledge, London, 1997), editor and contributor, "Introduction: Women's Studies, Gender Studies, Byzantine Studies", xi–xxiv
- 'At Church' in eds. R. Cormack and M. Vassilaki, Byzantium 330–1453 (Royal Academy, London, 2008)
- "Byzantine glass mosaic tesserae: some material considerations". Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies. 30 (1): 29–48. 2006.
- 'Seeing is believing but words tell no lies: captions and images in the Libri Carolini and Byzantine Iconoclasm' in eds. A. L. McClanan and J. Johnson, Negating the image: case studies in iconoclasm (Ashgate, 2005), 97–112
- 'Get your kit on! Issues in the depiction of clothing in Byzantium' (with Shaun Tougher) in ed. L. Cleland, M. Harlow and L. Llewellyn-Jones, The Clothed Body in the Ancient World (Oxbow, 2005), 154–161
- 'Good luck and good fortune to the Queen of Cities: empresses and tyches in Byzantium' in eds. E. J. Stafford and J. Herrin, Personification in the Greek world (Ashgate, 2005), 293–308
- 'Adorned with piety: authority, devotion and the empress in early Byzantium', in ed. M.Vassilaki, Images of the Mother of God, (Ashgate, 2005), 145–52
- "Senses and sensibility in Byzantium". Art History. 27: 522–537. 2004.
- "Building for God: imperial women and monastic foundations in Constantinople". Basilissa. 1: 50–64. 2004.
- 'Who's that girl? Personifications of the Byzantine empress' in ed. C. Entwistle, Through a Glass Brightly. Festschrift for David Buckton (Oxbow Publications, Oxford 2004), 51–6
- "Color and meaning in Byzantium". Journal of Early Christian Studies. 11 (2): 223–233. 2003.
- 'Dry bones and painted pictures: relics and icons in Byzantium' in ed. A. Lidov, Eastern Christian Relics (Research Centre for Eastern Christian Culture, Moscow, 2002), 45–55
- 'Bearing gifts from the East: imperial relic-hunters abroad' in ed. A. Eastmond, Eastern Approaches to Byzantium (Ashgate, Aldershot, 2000), 119–132
- 'What colours were Byzantine mosaics?' in eds. E. Borsook, F. Superbi, G. Pagliarulo, Medieval mosaics: light, color, materials (Harvard University Centre for Italian Renaissance Studies, Florence, 2000), 35–46
- 'As the actress said to the bishop...Byzantine women in English-language fiction', in eds. R. S. Cormack and E. Jeffreys, Through the Looking-Glass. Byzantium through British eyes (Ashgate, Aldershot 2000), 237–249
- 'Women and politics in the Byzantine Empire: imperial women' in ed. L. E. Mitchell, Women in Medieval Western European Culture (Garland, 1999), (with Barbara Hill), 157–178
- 'Goddess, whore, wife or slave? Will the real Byzantine empress please stand up' in ed. A. Duggan, Queens and Queenship in Medieval Europe (Boydell and Brewer,1997), 123–40
- '"Pray not to fall into temptation and be on your guard". Antique Statues in Byzantine Constantinople', Gesta 35 (1996), 12–20
- "Hysterical (Hi)stories of art, Review Article". Oxford Art Journal. 18: 143–147. 1995.
- 'The East Dome of San Marco: a reappraisal', Dumbarton Oaks Papers 48 (1994), (with E. J. W. Hawkins), 229–242
- 'Monks, monastic art and the Middle Byzantine Church' in eds. M. Mullett & A. Kirby, The Theotokos Evergetis and Eleventh Century Monasticism (Belfast Byzantine Texts and Translations, Belfast 1994), 162–175.
- 'Zoe. The rhythm method of imperial renewal' in ed. P.Magdalino, New Constantines (Variorum, Aldershot, 1994) (with B. Hill & D. C. Smythe), 215–230
- "Colour and the Byzantine rainbow". Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies. 15: 66–95. 1991.
- Liz James and Ruth Webb, eds. (1991). "To understand ultimate things and enter secret places: ekphrasis and art in Byzantium". Art History. 14: 1–15.
- Liz James University of Sussex profile page, URL: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/profiles/1380.
- AHRB Centre for Byzantine Cultural History, URL: http://www.byzantine-ahrb-centre.ac.uk/Staff/Liz.htm.
- The Composition of Byzantine Glass Mosaic Tesserae, URL: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/byzantine/mosaic/
- Professorial Lecture: Byzantine Art: all that glitters is gold, URL: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/newsandevents/sussexlectures/lecturemov?id=64.
- Women, Men and Eunuchs: The Three Sexes in Byzantium, Royal Academy Lecture, URL: http://static.royalacademy.org.uk/files/lizjames-414.mp3.