Professor Eleanor Robson, FBA

Eleanor is Professor of Ancient Middle Eastern History, with a particular focus on Iraq. She was Head of the UCL History Department in 2018–23 and is currently on research leave until September 2025.

Eleanor 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.

Dr Rozhen Mohammed-Amin (Kurdish Institute for Strategic Studies and Scientific Research) and Dr Paul Collins (The British Museum) she runs the Nahrein Network. Working with multiple academic and non-academic partners, it aims to significantly develop the capacity of Iraqi universities, museums, archives and cultural heritage sites to foster cultural and economic growth in the region.

PhD supervision

Current supervisees:

  • Joshua Britton, "Individual agency and cultural interaction during the kārum period in central Anatolia (20th-18th centuries BCE)" (AHRC-LAHP funded) 

Recently completed:

  • Hélène Maloigne, 'Striking the Imagination through the Eye’: Relating the Archaeology of Mesopotamia to the British Public, 1920–1939' (with Dr Ellen McAdam, Birmingham Museums Trust; AHRC-funded) (2020)
  • Melissa Benson, 'Violence in the Behistun Monument: Construction and Cohesion of Achaemenid Imperial Rule under Darius I (522-519 BCE)' (with Dr Lindsay Allen, King's College London; AHRC-LAHP funded) (2019)
  • 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) (2018)
  • 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

  • 2023: Robson, E., ‘The archive’, in Jane Moon (ed.), Tell Khaiber: A Fortified Centre of the First Sealand Dynasty (Archaeology of Ancient Iraq 2), Ludlow: Moonrise Press, pp 65–122, plus open-access online edition, translations and glossaries of 145 cuneiform tablets 
  • 2022: Kathem, M., E. Robson and L. Tahan, Cultural Heritage Predation in Iraq: The Sectarian Appropriation of Iraq’s Past, Chatham House Iraq Initiative research paper, Royal Institute of International Affairs. Arabic translation 2022
  • 2019: Robson, E. Ancient Knowledge Networks: A Social Geography of Cuneiform Scholarship. UCL Press (open access). 
  • 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.


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.


Professor Robson is on research leave until September 2025.