Mary Beard (classicist)
Mary Beard being filmed in Rome
|Born||Winifred Mary Beard
1 January 1955
Much Wenlock, Shropshire, United Kingdom
|Alma mater||University of Cambridge|
|Awards||Wolfson History Prize (2008) for Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town
Winifred Mary Beard, OBE, FBA, FSA (born 1 January 1955) is the professor of classics at the University of Cambridge, a fellow of Newnham College, and Royal Academy of Arts professor of ancient literature. She is the classics editor of the Times Literary Supplement, and author of the blog, "A Don's Life", which appears in The Times as a regular column. Her frequent media appearances and sometimes-controversial public statements have led to her being described as "Britain's best-known classicist".
Youth and education
Beard, an only child, was born on 1 January 1955 in Much Wenlock, Shropshire. Her mother Joyce Emily Beard was a headmistress and an enthusiastic reader. Her father, Roy Whitbread Beard, worked as an architect in Shrewsbury. She recalled him as "a raffish public-schoolboy type and a complete wastrel, but very engaging".
At the age of eighteen she was interviewed for a place at Newnham College, Cambridge, and sat for the then-compulsory entrance exam. She had thought of going to King's, but rejected it when she discovered the college did not offer scholarships to women. Although studying at a single-gender college, she found in her first year that some men in the university held dismissive attitudes toward the academic potential of women, and this strengthened her determination to succeed. She also developed feminist views that remained "hugely important" in her later life, although she later described "modern orthodox feminism" as partly cant. Beard has since said that "Newnham could do better in making itself a place where critical issues can be generated" and has also described her views on feminism, saying "I actually can't understand what it would be to be a woman without being a feminist." Beard received a BA (Hons) at Newnham, which in time was converted to an MA. She remained at Cambridge for her 1982 Ph.D. thesis entitled, The state religion in the late Roman Republic: a study based on the works of Cicero.
From 1979 to 1983 Beard lectured in Classics at King's College London. She returned to Cambridge in 1984 as a Fellow of Newnham College and the only woman lecturer in the Classics faculty. Rome in the Late Republic, which she co-wrote with the Cambridge ancient historian Michael Crawford, was published the same year.
Shortly after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, Beard was one of several authors invited to contribute articles on the topic to the London Review of Books. She opined that many people, once "the shock had faded", thought "the United States had it coming", and that "[w]orld bullies, even if their heart is in the right place, will in the end pay the price" (the so-called "Roosting Chickens argument"). In a November 2007 interview, she stated that the hostility these comments provoked had still not subsided, although she believed it had become a standard viewpoint that terrorism was associated with American foreign policy.
In 2004, Beard became Professor of Classics at Cambridge. She also was elected Visiting Sather Professor of Classical Literature for 2008–2009 at the University of California, Berkeley, where she has delivered a series of lectures on "Roman Laughter".
In December 2010, on BBC Two, Beard presented the graphic historical documentary, Pompeii: Life and Death in a Roman Town, submitting remains from the town to forensic tests, aiming to show a snapshot of the lives of the residents prior to the eruption of Vesuvius. In 2011 she took part in a television series, Jamie's Dream School on Channel 4, and for BBC Two in 2012 she wrote and presented the three part television series, Meet the Romans with Mary Beard, which concerns how ordinary people lived in Rome, "The world's first global metropolis". Beard is a regular contributor to the BBC Radio 4 series, A Point of View, delivering essays on a broad range of topics including Miss World and the Oxbridge interview.
Beard received considerable online abuse after she appeared on Question Time from Lincolnshire in January 2013 and spoke positively about immigrant workers living in the county. Beard repeated abusive comments she had received on her blog, illustrating their ugly nature. She reasserted her right to express unpopular opinions and to present herself in public in an authentic way. On 4 August 2013, she received a bomb threat on Twitter. She said she did not think she was in physical danger, but she did feel harassed in a particularly unpleasant way.
In July 2013, she wrote and presented Caligula with Mary Beard, broadcast by BBC Two, where she attempts to sort the truth from the myth.
In the September 1, 2014 The New Yorker magazine (p. 34), she is quoted as saying about the hostility her comments have provoked, "I think if people get very upset at what you say, and you didn't mean them to, then you got it wrong." Regarding another hostile encounter she replied, "Throughout Western history there have always been men like Gill who are frightened of smart women who speak their minds, and I guess, as a professor of Classics at Cambridge University, I’m one of them." and she went on to suggest that this detractor, who "had not enjoyed a university education, had been obliged to resort to insult as a substitute for well-reasoned argument... She then offered—or perhaps threatened—to expose him to her tutorial method should he agree to visit her study at Cambridge’s Newnham College."
- Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours for "services to classical scholarship"
- Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (2005)
- National Book Critics Circle Award (Criticism) shortlist for Confronting the Classics (2013)
- Rome in the Late Republic (with Michael Crawford, 1985, revised 1999); ISBN 0-7156-2928-X
- The Good Working Mother's Guide (1989); ISBN 0-7156-2278-1
- Pagan Priests: Religion and Power in the Ancient World (as editor with John North, 1990); ISBN 0-7156-2206-4
- Classics: A Very Short Introduction (with John Henderson, 1995); ISBN 0-19-285313-9
- Religions of Rome (with John North and Simon Price, 1998); ISBN 0-521-30401-6 (vol. 1), ISBN 0-521-45015-2 (vol. 2)
- The Invention of Jane Harrison (Harvard University Press, 2000); ISBN 0-674-00212-1
- Classical Art from Greece to Rome (with John Henderson, 2001); ISBN 0-19-284237-4
- The Parthenon (Harvard University Press, 2002); ISBN 1-86197-292-X
- The Colosseum (with Keith Hopkins, Harvard University Press, 2005); ISBN 1-86197-407-8
- The Roman Triumph (Harvard University Press, 2007); ISBN 0-674-02613-6
- Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town (2008); ISBN 1-86197-516-3 (US title: The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found; Harvard University Press)
- Confronting the Classics: Traditions, Adventures and Innovations (Profile Books, 2013); ISBN 1-78125-048-0
- Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up (University of California Press, 2014); ISBN 0-520-27716-3
- Vanessa Thorpe (29 April 2012). "Mary Beard: the classicist with the common touch". The Guardian.
- (Winifred) Mary Beard; Debrett's biodata
- "A Don's Life". Timesonline.typepad.com. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
- Paul Laity (10 November 2007). "The dangerous don" (interview). The Guardian (London). Retrieved 16 July 2008.
- Robert McCrum "Up Pompeii with the roguish don", The Observer, 24 August 2008.
- "BEARD, Prof (Winifred) Mary" (subscription required). Debrett's People of Today. 2008. Retrieved 16 July 2008.
- Story: Ashley Chhibber . "Interview: Mary Beard | Interviews | The Cambridge Student". Tcs.cam.ac.uk. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
- "The Cambridge MA: : Student Registry". Admin.cam.ac.uk. 26 January 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
- Collins, Nick (12 February 2011). "Oxbridge students' MA 'degrees' under threat". The Daily Telegraph (London).
- Mary Beard (4 October 2001). "11 September". London Review of Books. Retrieved 16 July 2008.
- "Appointments, reappointments, and grants of title". Cambridge University Reporter. CXXXV.20 (5992). 2 March 2005.
- "The Sather Professor". University of California, Berkeley Department of Classics. Retrieved 16 July 2008.
- Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town (2008); ISBN 1-86197-516-3 (U.S. title: The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found; Harvard University Press)
- A Point of View: Mary Beard – On Age and Beauty
- A Point of View: Mary Beard – The Oxbridge Interview
- Dowell, Ben. "Mary Beard suffers 'truly vile' online abuse after Question Time". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
- "Cambridge professor under fire for Boston immigration comments on BBC Question Time", Boston Standard, 21 January 2013
- Beard, Mary (27 January 2013). "Internet fury: or having your anatomy dissected online". The Times Literary Supplement. Archived from the original on 7 August 2013. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
- Lark Turner (15 February 2013). "In Britain, an Authority on the Past Stares Down a Nasty Modern Storm". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 February 2013. "I've chosen to be this way because that's how I feel comfortable with myself," Ms. Beard said. "That's how I am. It's about joining up the dots between how you look and how you feel inside, and I think that's what I've done, and I think people do it differently."
- Bomb threat tweet sent to classicist Mary Beard
- "Mary Beard named as Royal Academy of Arts professor of ancient literature", The Independent, 10 April 2013
- "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories | Politics". theguardian.com. 2014-08-07. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
- Mead, Rebecca, The Troll Slayer, A Cambridge classicist takes on her sexist detractors, Profiles, The New Yorker, September 1, 2014, page 34
- The London Gazette: . 29 December 2012.
- Kirsten Reach (14 January 2014). "NBCC finalists announced". Melville House Publishing. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
- Admin (14 January 2014). "Announcing the National Book Critics Awards Finalists for Publishing Year 2013". National Book Critics Circle. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
- Mary Beard's blog at The TLS
- Works by or about Mary Beard in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Beard, Mary (8 September 2000). "The story of my rape". The Guardian.
- Beard, Mary (14 February 2014). "The Public Voice of Women". London Review of Books.
- Debretts People of Today