Emma Dench

Emma Dench is an English ancient historian, classicist, and academic. She has been McLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History at Harvard University since 2014, and Dean of its Graduate School of Arts and Sciences since 2018. She was previously Professor of Ancient History at Birkbeck College, University of London, and then Professor of Classics and of History at Harvard.

Emma Dench
York, Yorkshire, England
TitleMcLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History
Spouse(s)Jonathan Bowker
Parent(s)Jeffery Dench
Betty Martin
Academic background
Alma materWadham College, Oxford
St Hugh's College, Oxford
ThesisPeoples of the central Appennines in Roman ideology to c.80 B.C. (1993)
Academic work
DisciplineClassics and Ancient History

Early life and education

Dench was born in York, Yorkshire, England, and grew up near Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire.[1] Her father was Jeffery Dench, a Shakespearean actor, and her mother, Betty, was a speech therapist. Her paternal aunt is Judi Dench, an award-winning film actress.[2] Emma appeared in the 1968 film version of A Midsummer Night's Dream as Peaseblossom alongside her aunt, who played Titania.[2][3]

Dench studied classics at Wadham College, Oxford:[1] she achieved a first in Honour Moderations in 1984, and graduated from the University of Oxford with a double first class Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in 1987.[1][4] As per tradition, her BA was promoted to a Master of Arts (MA (Oxon)) degree in 1989.[4] She then undertook postgraduate research in ancient history at St Hugh's College, Oxford.[1] She held the Craven Fellowship at Oxford from 1989 to 1991, and was Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome from 1991 to 1992.[4] She completed her Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) degree in 1993;[1] her thesis was titled Peoples of the central Appennines in Roman ideology to c.80 B.C..[5]

Academic career

Dench began her academic career with just an undergraduate degree. From 1987 to 1988, between graduating with her bachelor's degree and starting her doctorate, she taught classics at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York, United States.[2][4]

In 1992, Dench joined the faculty of Birkbeck College, University of London.[2] She was a lecturer in ancient history between 1992 and 1998, and then, having been promoted, was a senior lecturer between 1998 and 2004.[4] In 2002/2003 academic year, she was a member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey.[1] She was appointed a Reader in 2004, and Professor of Ancient History in 2005.[4] In the 2005/2006 academic year, she was a visiting professor of the classics and of history at Harvard University.[1] From 2007 to 2009, she maintained a link with Birkbeck as a research professor.[4]

On 1 January 2007, Dench moved to the United States to join the faculty of Harvard University.[4] From 2007 to 2015, she was Professor of Classics and of History.[4] She was also a Harvard College Professor between 2010 and 2015; it is a title of honour awarded for "outstanding contributions to undergraduate teaching, mentoring and advising".[1][6] For the 2015/2016 academic year, she is a visiting professor of business administration at Harvard Business School.[7] In November 2015, she was appointed McLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History.[8] She also served as Interim Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for the 2017/2018 academic year.[9] Having been selected to succeed the former dean Xiao-Li Meng full-time, she took up the appointment as Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences on 1 July 2018.[10]

Dench holds a number of appointments outside of her university faculty positions. She is a senior fellow of the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C..[11] She held a Loeb Classical Library Foundation Fellowship between 2011 and 2012.[1] From 2013 to 2015, she was a member of the Program Committee of the American Philological Association.[4] She delivered the Grey Lectures, titled "Agreeing to differ: consensus, culture and politics in the Roman empire", at the University of Cambridge in May 2016.[1][12]

Personal life

Dench is a British citizen and a permanent resident of the United States.[4]

Dench is married to Jonathan Bowker, an artist. Together they have a son, Jacob.[2]

Selected works

  • Dench, Emma (1995). From barbarians to new men: Greek, Roman, and modern perceptions of peoples from the central Apennines. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0198150213.
  • Dench, Emma (2005). Romulus' asylum: Roman identities from the age of Alexander to the age of Hadrian. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0198150510.
  • Dench, Emma. Imperialism and Culture in the Roman World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (forthcoming[1])


  1. "Emma Dench". Scholars at Harvard. Harvard University. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  2. "Emma Dench". Harvard Magazine. March 2010. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  3. A Midsummer Night's Dream (1968) on IMDb
  4. "Emma DENCH" (PDF). Harvard University. Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  5. Dench, Emma (1993). "Peoples of the central Appennines in Roman ideology to c.80 B.C." Search Oxford Libraries Online. Bodleian Libraries. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  6. Rayman, Noah S.; Spitzer, Elyssa A. L. (12 May 2010). "Faculty Awarded Teaching Prizes". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  7. "Emma Dench". Harvard Business School. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  8. "Emma Dench receives named chair!". Department of the Classics. Harvard University. 19 November 2015. Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  9. "Emma Dench". Department of the Classics. Harvard University. Retrieved 22 December 2017.
  10. Dooher, Kathleen (8 March 2018). "Dench named dean of Graduate School of Arts and Sciences". Harvard Gazette. Retrieved 16 June 2018.
  11. "Faculty". Center for Hellenic Studies. Harvard University. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  12. "Special lectures". Faculty of Classics. University of Cambridge. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
Academic offices
Preceded by
Steven Ozment
McLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History
Harvard University

2015 to present
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