I am a cultural historian specialising in the history of religion, the history of Near Eastern archaeology, and the development of historical thought. From 2004-2007 I undertook a PhD on ‘Egyptology and the British imagination, 1880-1922’ at Trinity College Cambridge, supervised by Professor Peter Mandler. From 2007-2010 I was Postdoctoral Research Fellow on a Leverhulme-funded project at Cambridge University entitled ‘Past versus Present: Abandoning the Past in an Age of Progress’; I was also a fellow of Wolfson College Cambridge from 2008-2010.
My research explores the ways in which knowledge of the past (especially the ancient world) was created and used in the nineteenth century. I’m particularly interested in the ways in which knowledge of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia was dragged between biblical and classical modes of interpretation for centuries before either civilisation was able to gain its own identity. This involves exploring the delayed impact of decipherment, and the persistence of religion as the primary framework in which these civilisations were interpreted. I’m also interested in developments in the cultural authority of the Bible, especially as it was altered by archaeology, the nineteenth-century sciences and the formation of academic disciplines (with all the implications this had for relationships between scholarship and society).
The themes listed above are long-term projects, but I have also published studies of nineteenth-century interpretation (and reworking) of ancient epics, and historic preservation and heritage.