Bettany Hughes

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Dr. Bettany Hughes is an award-winning historian, author and broadcaster. She has devoted the last 25 years to the vibrant communication of the past. Her speciality is ancient and mediaeval history and culture. A Scholar at Oxford University she has taught at Oxford and Cambridge Universities and lectured at Cornell, Bristol, UCL, Maastricht, Utrecht and Manchester. She is a Tutor for Cambridge University’s Institute of Continuing Education and a Research Fellow of King’s College London. This year she joined the New College of the Humanities as Visiting Professor.

Her first book Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore has been translated into ten languages. Her second, The Hemlock Cup, Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life was a New York Times bestseller and was shortlisted for the Writer’s Guild Award.

She has written and presented numerous television and radio documentaries for the BBC, Channel 4, Discovery, PBS, The History Channel, National Geographic, Discovery, BBC World and ITV. Her programmes have now been seen by over 250 million worldwide. In 2010, she was awarded the Naomi Sargent Education Prize for Broadcast Excellence and was given a Special Award for services to Hellenic Culture and Heritage.

In 2011 she was Chair of the Orange Prize for Fiction and was made an Honorary Fellow of the Historical Association and a Fellow of Cardiff University. In 2013 she was given an Honorary Doctorate by York University. In 2014 she was awarded the Distinguished Friend of Oxford Award and this year will be given the International Fem 21 Award for journalism.

Bettany has long drawn attention to women’s position in society both past and present. She was named as one of the BBC’s 100 Global Woman, launched the UK’s Inspiring Women mentoring scheme and his written extensively on the subject for national and international publications. Bettany stands on the Women of the World Committee. As a commentator, she frequently contributes to national newspapers. Bettany is a judge for English Heritage Angel Awards, The Art Fund’s Museum of the Year Award and is a reader on the Queen’s Anniversary Prize. She regularly judges for the RTS and Grierson Awards.

Bettany is also an honorary, founding patron of Classics For All – a national campaign to promote the study of classical languages and civilisations in state schools, Bettany is a long-standing patron and supporter of the educational and campaigning charity, The Iris Project. She is Vice President of the Churches Conservation Trust and of the National Churches Trust. She was an advisor to the Foundation for Science Technology and Civilisation which promotes large-scale collaborative projects between East and West. Bettany co-produced a seven part global documentary series about the shared roots of Eastern and Western culture which premiered at UNESCO in 2013.

Her latest 15-part philosophy series, The Ideas That Make Us is aired on the BBC in Summer 2016. Following the success of Pompeii Live, she presented Vikings Live for the British Museum. Bettany recently wrote and presented a new landmark BBC series on Socrates, the Buddah and Confucius and will follow that up later this year with a new series on the classical influences on Freud, Nietzsche and Marx. For the last decade she has been researching a new history of Istanbul for publication in 2017.

Bettany is a fascinating and hugely entertaining speaker with a breadth of talks on the history which has shaped our planet. As charismatic on stage as off, her blend of serious scholarship, wit and insight makes for a captivating after dinner or keynote speaker.

Bettany is brilliant at communicating her passion for, and knowledge of, the subject. She chaired our discussion at the Lyttelton Theatre with great ease, charm and warmth, skilfully encouraging him to examine the surprising relationship between Greek tragedy and Greek vase-paintings to the uninitiated but enthralled audience.

Sarah Mowat, Platforms Department, National Theatre


Bettany Hughes takes her audience on an instant journey to the ancient world, from Persia to Greece and Rome. She has the brilliant and engaging ability to connect the history of those civilisations and individuals with science and contemporary philosophy and culture, using technology to bring the story to life and making sense of it all for a captivated audience.

Director of Historic Houses Association


Bettany is an absolutely magnetic speaker. Our all-female audience were entranced and inspired by her wit and scholarship. She brought ancient civilisations alive and made the enigmatic and unknown Helen of Troy feel real, immediate and relevant to us.

The Kit-Kat Club


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