New Director of Institute of Classical Studies appointed

Wednesday 23 June 2021

Katherine Harloe

Professor Katherine Harloe has been appointed Director of the University of London’s Institute of Classical Studies (ICS), the national centre for research in the Classics, succeeding Professor Greg Woolf. She is currently Professor of Classics and Intellectual History at the University of Reading, and will take up the role in October 2021.

She said: “It’s an honour to head an institution which plays such a vital role in the national and international landscape of Classics research.  Classics is a huge and fascinating subject, encompassing the language, literature, history, art, archaeology and thought of the ancient Mediterranean and neighbouring lands. It is also a connecting thread that runs through many other disciplines – informing the languages, literature, art, history and philosophy of other places and periods. 

“It’s this vastness, variety and connection that first drew me to study Classics, and continues to inform my own research in the history of classical scholarship and the classical tradition. I take very seriously the ICS’s responsibility to foster and facilitate research across the entire range of classical studies, providing as one of the most prominent interfaces of UK Classics with the international research community and offering resources, training, and networking to classical researchers across the UK.”

Professor Harloe’s route into Classics was unorthodox. Educated in a state school in Essex with no classical provision, in her sixth form she took Latin classes on weekend mornings with a retired teacher and sat it at GCSE alongside her A-Level subjects before reading Literae Humaniores at Magdalen College, Oxford. She then pursued graduate studies in modern intellectual history and philosophy before returning to Classics via postdoctoral research fellowships in Bristol and Oxford. She is the first black professor of Classics in the UK, and will be the first woman director of the ICS.

Professor Harloe’s principal research interest is the history of classical scholarship in the context of that of other humanities disciplines and broader political, cultural and intellectual currents, from the middle of the eighteenth century to the present.

She has an international reputation for her work on the eighteenth-century German classicist and art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann, and is Joint Editor-in-Chief of International Journal of the Classical Tradition, as well as Interdisciplinary Research Advisor to the Classics sub-panel of REF 2021.

Professor Harloe’s previous research has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust.

She is keen to continue the ICS strategies of interdisciplinary research and public engagement when she takes up the role, and will bring with her an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project in association with Dr James Baker (Southampton), Dr Amara Thornton (UCL) and the Society of Antiquaries of London (SAL).

“Our project turns around investigating historical archives in order to recover and reconstruct the role of women and other subaltern actors in archaeology, historical and heritage work in the 19th and 20th centuries,” she explains.

“Archives offer a key to unlock the work of women and other non-elite historical actors, creating a fuller and more inclusive understanding of the past.

“This project will bring intellectual and social historians, information science and digital humanities specialists to conduct the first extensive study of the SAL’s important historical archive in order to recover the broad landscape of women's work in archaeology, history, and heritage in the 19th and 20th centuries and their intellectual and scholarly networks.”

Hellenic Society and Roman Society Presidents Professor Paul Cartledge and Professor Tim Cornell expressed their delight on her appointment.

Professor Cartledge said: “Katherine is already very well acquainted with the Societies' projects and goals and especially their joint Hellenic and Roman Library and its digital ambitions, and she will be bringing a fresh, original perspective to the Institute's management and outreach.”

Dean and Chief Executive of the University’s School of Advanced Study, Professor Jo Fox, said: “I am absolutely thrilled that Katherine will be joining the School. She has an exciting and compelling vision for the Institute, and will play a key role in advocating for the importance of the humanities more broadly. Katherine’s appointment comes at a critical time for the School, as we prepare to launch our new strategy and with important new projects in the pipeline.”