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The basics
Quick Facts
Gender female
Birth 15 December 1958
Star sign SagittariusSagittarius
The details

Ruth Harris, FBA (born 25 December 1958) is an American historian and academic. She has been Professor of Modern History at the University of Oxford since 2011 and a Fellow of New College, Oxford since 1990. Previously, she was a Junior Research Fellow at St John's College, Oxford from 1983 to 1987 and an Associate Professor at Smith College from 1987 to 1990. She was awarded the Wolfson History Prize in 2010 for her book The Man on Devil's Island.

Early life and education

Harris was born on 25 December 1958. She grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. She studied at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree and a Master of Arts (MA) degree. Having won a scholarship, she then studied at the University of Oxford and completed a Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) degree in 1984. Her doctoral thesis was titled "Murders and madness: legal psychiatry and criminal anthropology in Paris, 1880-1910".

Academic career

Harris began her academic career as a Junior Research Fellow at St John's College, Oxford between 1983 and 1987. In 1987, she was shortlisted for a position at Christ Church, Oxford, but "decided to withdraw when she realised there was only one other woman Fellow at the college". Instead, she returned to the United States and took up a position at Smith College, an all-women's liberal arts college in Northampton, Massachusetts. From 1987 to 1990, she was an Associate Professor at Smith College.

In 1990, Harris returned to England was elected a Fellow of New College, Oxford. At college level, she is a Tutor in History. She also lectures in the Faculty of History, University of Oxford, and was granted a Title of Distinction in 2011 as Professor of Modern History.

Personal life

In 1985, Harris married Iain Pears, an author. Together they have two sons.


In 1996, Harris was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for research in French History. She was awarded the 2010 Wolfson History Prize for her book, The Man on Devil's Island: Alfred Dreyfus and the Affair that Divided France. In 2011, she was elected a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA), the UK's national academy for the humanities and the social sciences. In February 2014, she was made an Honorary Fellow of St John's College, Oxford.

Selected works

  • Harris, Ruth (1989). Murders and madness: medicine, law, and society in the fin de siècle. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0198229919. 
  • Harris, Ruth (1999). Lourdes: body and spirit in a secular age. London: Allen Lane. ISBN 978-0713991864. 
  • Harris, Ruth, ed. (2006). The Art of Survival: Essays in Honour of Olwen Hufton. Oxford: Oxford Journals. ISBN 978-0199208029. 
  • Harris, Ruth (2010). The man on Devil's Island: Alfred Dreyfus and the affair that divided France. London: Allen Lane. ISBN 978-0713997309. 

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