I undertook my first degree, in Modern Languages, at the University of Oxford, specializing in French and Spanish. I continued with my doctoral work at Oxford, becoming Queen Sofía Junior Research Fellow at Exeter College in 1994. In 1996, I joined the University of Edinburgh as a Lecturer in Hispanic Studies, before becoming Chair of Hispanic Studies and, initially, Head of Languages, Cultures, and Religions at the University of Stirling in 2005. After working in Scotland for many years, I returned to England, as Chair of Iberian and Latin American Studies at the University of Bristol. In 2016, I joined the University of Birmingham as Chair of Spanish and Head of School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music.
In 2010, the Spanish government awarded me the title of Oficial de la Orden de Isabel la Católica in recognition of my services to Spanish culture.
I have undertaken a range of roles in the Higher Education sector, including Chair of the University Council of Modern Languages Scotland, REF sub-panel member for Modern Languages and Linguistics, and AHRC Strategic Reviewer. I was for several years the officer with responsibility for postgraduate matters in the Association of Hispanists of Great Britain and Ireland. I founded and co-lead the International Network of Nineteenth-Century Hispanists, which holds annual conferences, and has many members across two continents. I am a member of the Histopia project team on utopias at the Autónoma University in Madrid, and of the related Transatlantic Utopias network.