Dr Kate Bennett

Subject: English

Department: English Language and Literature


I read English at Oxford and took my D.Phil here. I held a Junior Research Fellowship and a British Academy Postdoctoral fellowship at Christ Church, after which I was fellow in English at Pembroke College, Cambridge. After a break I returned to Oxford and for 9 years taught English here at Magdalen. I have been a member of the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance at Warwick University, a research fellow of New College, and am a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. In 2015 my edition of John Aubrey’s Brief Lives, weighing in at a not-so-brief 1952 pages, was published; it was described as ‘unprecedented,’ ‘outstanding’, and an ‘astonishing feat of scholarly editing.’ It was a TLS Book of the Year, and in 2017 was awarded the British Academy’s Rose Mary Crawshay Prize.  In 2023 I decided to write and research full time, while remaining very attached to the college and its alumni.


I am the leading authority on the seventeenth-century biographer and antiquary John Aubrey FRS. In 2015 I published the first annotated critical edition of his best-known work, Brief Lives. I am now working on an edition of Aubrey’s life of Thomas Hobbes and a major new biography which focuses on his polymathic intellectual interests and very extensive social connections. I am also working on a book on the history of anecdote. I have forthcoming chapters on life writing and anecdote, Alexander Pope’s Dunciad, spaces in printed and manuscript texts, and biography and the idea of ‘character.’

Selected publications

·       ‘Many Excellent Good Notes’, in Melvyn New and Anthony W. Lee, Notes on Footnotes: Annotating Eighteenth Century Literature (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2023) 

·       Aubrey’s Villa with Peter Davidson and Kelsey Jackson Williams (Old School Press, 2018)

·       ‘On Mess’, in Harriet Philips and Clare Williams (eds.), A Handbook of Editing Early Modern Texts (Ashgate, 2017)

·       ‘John Aubrey’s Lives and Fame’ in Oxford Handbooks Online (2016).

·       John Aubrey, Brief Lives with An Apparatus for the Lives of our English Mathematical Writers 2 vols (OUP, 2015)

·       ‘John Aubrey and the Rhapsodic Book’, Renaissance Studies 28 (April, 2014), 317—32.

·       ‘John Aubrey and the Printed Book’, Huntingdon Library Quarterly 76 (2013), 393—411.

·       ‘John Aubrey and the “Lives of our English Mathematical Writers’’ in Eleanor Robson and Jacqueline Stedall, ed, The Oxford Handbook of the History of Mathematics (OUP, 2009), 329—52.

·       ‘John Aubrey, Hint-Keeper: Life-writing and the Encouragement of Science in the pre-Newtonian Seventeenth Century’, The Seventeenth Century 22 (2007), 358—80