Helen King (classicist)

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Helen King
Academic background
Alma mater University College London
Academic work
Discipline Classics
Sub discipline Ancient medicine
Institutions University of Reading
Open University

Helen King is a British classical scholar, who is Professor Emerita of Classical Studies at the Open University.[1] She was previously Professor of the History of Classical Medicine and head of the Department of Classics at the University of Reading.[2]


King took her first degree in Ancient History and Social Anthropology, at University College London; followed by a PhD at the same institution on menstruation in ancient Greece.[3] She then held research fellowships in Cambridge and Newcastle, taught at the Liverpool Institute of Higher Education for 8 years, and moved to Reading on a Wellcome Trust University Award in 1996. She moved to the Open University to be Professor of Classical Studies in 2011. She retired in January 2017.

She has been a Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies (2001), a Landsdowne Visiting Lecturer at the University of Victoria, British Columbia (2002), and a Visiting Professor at the University of Texas at Austin (2005). She is chair of the Wellcome grants panel, "Research Resources in the History of Medicine".

Helen has appeared on History Cold Case, Tony Robinson's Gods & Monsters, and Harlots, Housewives & Heroines: A 17th Century History for Girls.[4]

Research interests[edit]

With the publication of her book Hippocrates' Woman: Reading the Female Body in Ancient Greece (1998), King established herself as the leading authority on the practice and theory of ancient medicine as relating to women and how it continues to influence thought to the present day.

Since completing her PhD, King has been interested in setting ancient medical thought within its social and cultural context, as one way – among others – of making sense of life. She has looked at ancient ideas about creation, the role of women, and sacrifice to illuminate Hippocratic gynaecology. From teaching the history of medicine at Reading, she wrote a short introduction to the main issues, Greek and Roman Medicine (Bristol Classical Press, 2001). A volume of essays on Health in Antiquity was published under her editorship in March 2005.

She is interested in the alleged (and imaginary) classical origins of female hysteria, on which she published Hysteria Beyond Freud (written with Sander Gilman, Roy Porter, George Rousseau and Elaine Showalter, 1993), a section in History of Clinical Psychiatry (eds G. E. Berrios and R. Porter, 1995), and 'Recovering hysteria from history: Herodotus and "the first case of shell shock"' in Peter Halligan et al. (eds), Contemporary Approaches to the Science of Hysteria: Clinical and Theoretical Perspectives (2001).

She has published on the myths of Tithonos,[5] on mermaids,[6] and on the myth/fable of Agnodice, "the first midwife". She has investigated how this story was used to give authority to women in medical roles in various historical periods.


  1. ^ "Professor Helen King". OU people profiles. Open University. Retrieved 29 August 2016. 
  2. ^ Erskine, Andrew (2009). A companion to ancient history. John Wiley and Sons. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-4051-3150-6. Retrieved 5 March 2011. 
  3. ^ King, Helen (15 August 2016). "My Classics Career". Women's Classical Committee. Retrieved 29 August 2016. 
  4. ^ "Helen King". IMDb. Retrieved 2017-02-22. 
  5. ^ Davidson, James (2009-05-26). The Greeks and Greek Love: A Bold New Exploration of the Ancient World. Random House Digital, Inc. p. 678. ISBN 978-0-375-50516-4. Retrieved 5 March 2011. 
  6. ^ Cordingly, David (2002-03-12). Seafaring Women: Adventures of Pirate Queens, Female Stowaways, and Sailors' Wives. Random House Digital, Inc. p. 265. ISBN 978-0-375-75872-0. Retrieved 5 March 2011. 

External links[edit]