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Professor Eleanor Robson


Eleanor is Professor of Ancient Middle Eastern History, with a particular focus on Iraq. She joined UCL in 2013 after ten years teaching in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge (2004-13) and a varied postdoctoral career in and around the Faculty of Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford (1995-2003). Eleanor's research has three main focal points:

  • the social and political contexts of knowledge production in the cuneiform culture of ancient Iraq, five to two thousand years ago;
  • the construction of knowledge about ancient Iraq in Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East over the past two centuries;
  • and use of open, standards-based online resources for democratising access to knowledge about the ancient Middle East.

With Dr Saad Eskander (University of Kurdistan Hewler) and Dr Paul Collins (Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford) she runs the AHRC-funded Nahrein Network: New Ancient History Research for Education in Iraq and its Neighbours. Working with multiple academic and non-academic partners, it aims to significantly develop the capacity of Middle Eastern universities, museums, archives and cultural heritage sites to foster cultural and economic growth in the region.

PhD supervision

Current supervisees:

  • Chaitanya Kanchan, 'Towards an ontology of first-millennium Assyria: interiority in Assyrian texts, 745-630 BC' (with Dr Alex Pillen, Department of Anthropology; ESRC-funded)
  • Melissa Benson, 'Violence and the Persian Empire (539-ca.519 BCE)' (with Dr Lindsay Allen, King's College London; AHRC-LAHP funded)
  • Hélène Maloigne, 'Describing and depicting the Ancient Near East in interwar Britain' (with Dr Ellen McAdam, Birmingham Museums Trust; AHRC-funded)

Recently completed:

  • Sushma Jansari, 'From Megasthenes to Sophytes: a re-examination of literary and numismatic sources for Seleucid-Mauryan relations in British and Indian Scholarship' (2016)
  • Jennifer Hicks, 'Hollow archives: bullae as a source for understanding administrative structures in the Seleukid Empire' (2016, with Dr Riet van Bremen)

Major publications

  • In press: Robson, E. Ancient Knowledge Networks: A Social Geography of Cuneiform Scholarship. Princeton University Press.
  • 2011: K. Radner and E. Robson (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture. Oxford University Press.
  • 2008: Robson, E. Mathematics in Ancient Iraq: a Social History. Princeton University Press. Arabic translation, 2014. Winner of the History of Science Society's Pfizer Prize, 2011.

For a full list of publications, see Eleanor's Iris profile.

Grants/projects

Media appearances

Eleanor is often interviewed by print media (e.g. the Times, Sunday Times, Telegraph) and broadcast media (e.g. BBC, Channel 4) on ISIS/Da'esh's occupation and destruction of cultural heritage sites in northern Iraq, and the consequences for ancient Assyrian archaeological sites such as Nimrud and Nebi Younus.

Teaching