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Frances Larson

Non-fiction writer
University of Oxford, Medieval and Modern Languages

Frances Larson is an anthropologist who writes about the past. Her biography of Henry Wellcome, An Infinity of Things: how Sir Henry Wellcome collected the world, is a tale of ambition, intrigue, and a museum collection that eventually consumed its creator. It was a Sunday Times Book of the Year and a New Scientist Best Book of 2009, and was shortlisted for the Medical Journalists’ Association Open Book awards in 2010. In 2014, she published Severed: a history of heads lost and heads found, a serious and seriously entertaining exploration of the varied obsessions that the ‘civilized West’ has had with decapitated heads and skulls. Severed was a TLS Book of the Year and a Spectator Book of the Year, and was highly commended in the British Medical Association medical book awards 2015. She gave a TED talk about western traditions of decapitation in 2015. All her writing has been influenced by her work as a research associate at the Pitt Rivers Museum, where she trained. The Pitt Rivers’ evocative displays have inspired many novelists, artists and filmmakers, and Larson’s latest book, Undreamed Shores: the hidden heroines of British anthropology, is a biography of five extraordinary women who met there as students just before the First World War. Larson received her D.Phil. from the University of Oxford in 2004. Before embarking on her writing career she was a full-time academic and she is passionate about empowering students to express themselves succinctly and stylishly. She lives in Oxford with her twin daughters.

Frances Larson


University of Oxford, Medieval and Modern Languages 2021/22
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