Deborah Harkness

The story of my life? It can be summed up in three words: history, books, and libraries.

My career in fiction began in September 2008, when I started to wonder “if there really are witches and vampires, what do they do for a living?” A Discovery of Witches was the unexpected answer to that question….

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A Discovery of Witches debuted at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list, and was also a bestseller in the UK, France, and Germany. In total, more than thirty-seven foreign editions and translations of volumes from the trilogy have been published. The story of Diana and Matthew continues in Shadow of Night (2012) which debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and The Book of Life (2014) which debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, the Sunday Times bestseller list, and The Globe and Mail bestseller list.  In 2018,  I published Time’s Convert, a “prequelly sequel” to the trilogy, which debuted at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list (for combined print & e-book fiction). 

Before that, I spent more than a quarter of a century as a student and scholar of history, with degrees from Mount Holyoke College, Northwestern University, and the University of California at Davis. For my doctoral degree, I researched the history of magic and science in Europe, especially during the period from 1500 to 1700. The libraries I’ve worked in include Oxford’s Bodleian Library, the All Souls College Library at Oxford, the British Library, London’s Guildhall Library, the Henry E. Huntington Library, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the Newberry Library—in other words, I know my way around a card catalogue or the computerized equivalent. These experiences have given me a deep and abiding love of libraries and a deep respect for librarians.

Currently, I teach European history and the history of science to undergraduates and graduate students at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Prior to that, I taught medical history at the Northwestern University Medical School, the history of science and medicine at the University of California at Davis, paleography at the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Oxford, and early modern European history at Colgate University.

My scholarly work can be found in John Dee’s Conversations with Angels: Cabala, Alchemy, and the End of Nature (Cambridge University Press, 1999) and The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution (Yale University Press, 2007). I’ve also written articles on topics such as the influence of theatrical conventions on the occult sciences, scientific households, female medical practice in early modern London, medical curiosity, and the influence of accounting practices on scientific record keeping.

It has been my privilege to receive fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the National Humanities Center. And I was honored to receive accolades for my historical work from the History of Science Society, the North American Conference on British Studies, and the Longman’s/History Today Prize Committee.