I grew up in Manchester in the north-west of England and went to my local high school (Parrs Wood), leaving in 1998 with A Levels in Modern History, English Literature, Mathematics, Russian, and General Studies.
In 2002, I graduated from the University of Oxford (Wadham College) with a double First in Modern History and English, also ranking first in my subject. After training as an English teacher, I spent a semester teaching at a university in Nanjing, China. Then, in the autumn of 2003, I took up a von Clemm fellowship at Harvard University (awarded to one graduating student from Oxford annually to fund a year of study at Harvard in any discipline).
At Harvard, I began to work on the history of political thought under Richard Tuck, and enjoyed it so much that the following year I undertook an M.Phil. in Intellectual History and Political Thought at the University of Cambridge (King's College). There, I focused on 19th and 20th century political thought and wrote my Master’s dissertation on Marx's and Hayek's views of capitalism and freedom. I was fortunate to receive a prize studentship from the Centre for History and Economics, one of whose directors, Gareth Stedman Jones, was also my supervisor.
In the autumn of 2006, I began doctoral study at Harvard, working again with Richard Tuck. In part, I was keen to return because all my undergraduate and Master’s training had been on modern material, and I looked forward to reading ancient authors such as Plato and Aristotle for the first time and to studying ancient Greek and Latin. But I was particularly happy to be readmitted because it meant I could move in with my husband, David Singh Grewal—another political theory graduate student at Harvard—whom I'd married in 2005.
My main interest remained modern European political thought and in 2008 I defended a dissertation prospectus on the birth of modern constitutionalism, focusing on the political thought of the English, American and French revolutions, before a committee consisting of Richard Tuck, Emma Rothschild, Jennifer Hochschild and Eric Nelson. In the same year I became a member of the Center for European Studies at Harvard and worked as a teaching fellow for Richard Tuck (in ancient and medieval political thought) and Jane Mansbridge (in democratic theory).
From 2009/10 to 2014/15 I was lucky enough to hold a series of research fellowships: in 2009/10 courtesy of the Project on Justice, Welfare and Economics at Harvard, in 2010/11 at the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard, from 2011 to 2013 at Yale Law School, and from 2013 to 2015 at the Harvard Society of Fellows. While I missed teaching, those years were fantastic for reading. During the 2009/10 academic year I decided to put my work on early modern constitutionalism on hold and concentrate full time on a rapidly developing side interest: the role of the courts in classical Athenian democracy. Thanks to the confidence shown in me by my advisors, I was able to make a systematic study of most of the extant primary sources from the ancient Greek world and found the material fascinating.
The first fruit of that research was my dissertation, Rethinking Athenian Democracy, which won Harvard's Robert Noxon Toppon prize for the best dissertation in political science in 2013. Since then, alongside three happy years teaching at Yale, having a wonderful daughter (born 2017), and moving to Berkeley in 2019, I’ve written a series of articles on ancient Greek political thought and practice: “Aristotle on the Virtue of the Multitude” (Political Theory 2013), “Aristotle's Denial of Deliberation About Ends” (Polis 2013), “Plato and Athenian Justice” (History of Political Thought 2015), “The Dēmos in Dēmokratia” (Classical Quarterly 2019), “Were the Ancient Greeks Epistemic Democrats?” (inThe Discovery of the Fact ed. Clifford Ando and William Sullivan, 2020), “Deliberation and Discussion in Classical Athens” (Journal of Political Philosophy 2020), and “Deliberation in Ancient Greek Assemblies” (Classical Philology 2020). Still in the pipeline are a few more articles: “Representation in Ancient Greek Democracy,” “The Popular Courts in Athenian Democracy,” and (my first foray into Roman politics) “Popular Representation in Republican Rome: the Case of the Tribunes of the Plebs.”
In February 2020 I signed a contract with Princeton University Press for my first book, Demos: How the People Ruled Athens, aiming for publication in spring 2022. In August 2020, I signed a contract for another—A Short History of Democracy, to be written shortly thereafter.
Working at home, April 2020
Año Nuevo, California, February 2020
Tiruvannamalai, January 2019