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Dr Helena Drysdale is a Lecturer in Creative Writing. She completed a BA and MA at Trinity College, Cambridge, and a PhD in Creative Writing on Victorian and contemporary travel/life-writing at the University of Exeter, co-supervised at Bath Spa University. Title: Travel Writing's Past, Politics and Processes: A Core Sample 2021. Formerly a freelance journalist, she joined the University's English and Creative Department in 2021. She is an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Authority.




  • Oleander Valley: A Greek inheritance (forthcoming) An interdisciplinary work of fiction, history, memoir, reportage and biography, set in Greece. ‘A captivating travel memoir,’ Sara Wheeler; ‘Brilliant: a wonderful and original way of presenting history and lighting up a man,’ Jane Feaver. 
  • Waltzer (in progress). A children’s novel set in a migrant border-crossing funfair. 
  • Strangerland: a family at war (Picador 2008). Family history set in 19th century India and New Zealand. Book of the Year Sunday Times, Times, Spectator.  
  • Mother Tongues: travels through tribal Europe (Picador 2001). Exploring Europe’s indigenous minority and endangered languages including Sami, Corse, Basque, Welsh, Cornish etc. Book of the Year Sunday Times, Spectator, Independent, Times.  
  • Looking for George: love and death in Romania (Picador 1996). Life under Causescu’s dictatorship. Book of the Year Independent, Times, Independent on Sunday, Irish Times, Telegraph. ‘Books that Inspired me’ iThe Independent.  
  • Dancing with the Dead: a journey through Zanzibar and Madagascar (Hamish Hamilton 1991).  
  • Alone Through China and Tibet (Constable 1986). 

Peer-reviewed academic articles

  • 'A Pamphlet War: Colonialism versus Radical Nationalism in the Ionian Islands, 1848-1864,' in 'Radical Thinking in the Long Nineteenth Century', Romance, Revolution & Reform, 5, 2023. 
  • ‘George Bowen and his 1854 Handbook to Greece: an enriching route into the past?’, in ‘Transnationalism in the Long-Nineteenth Century’, Romance, Revolution & Reform, 4, 2022. 
  • ‘State of Emergency’ in ‘Frontiers’, Question, 3, Journal of the Humanities, 2019. Article about life-writing. 
  • ‘European Minorities and the Media’ in ‘Endangered Languages and the Media’, Foundation for Endangered Languages, 2001

Journalism and reviews

  • ‘Forest School’, Slightly Foxed, 59, 2018. Essay on Brendon Chase by BB. https://foxedquarterly.com/helena-drysdale-forest-school-brendon-chase/ 
    * ‘Beside the Folly Brook’, Slightly Foxed, 55, 2017. Essay on The Little Grey Men and Down the Bright Stream by BB. https://foxedquarterly.com/bb-classic-childrens-books-literary-review/
  • ‘Transcending Boundaries’, Country Life book review of Border: a journey to the edge of Europe’ by Kapka Kassabova, 1 February 2017. 
  • ‘Manhattan Moments’, Slightly Foxed, 49, 2016. Essay on Real People by Alison Lurie. https://foxedquarterly.com/alison-lurie-real-people-literary-review/ 
  • The Villa Ariadne by Dylis Powell, book review, Country Life, 17 August, 2016. 
  • ‘Grecian Hours’, Slightly Foxed, 46, 2016. Essay on George Bowen’s 1854 Handbook for Greece. https://foxedquarterly.com/helena-drysdale-murray-handbooks-literary-review/ 
  • Yashim Cooks Istanbul by Jason Goodwin’, Country Life book review, 9 November 2016. 
  • ‘Small Island: Turkey’s Greek minority’, New Statesman, 13 June 2013. Reportage, including interview with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch. https://www.newstatesman.com/world-affairs/world-affairs/2013/06/small-island 
  • ‘Night Vigil in Thrace’, Aeon, 17 September 2012. Article about migration from Turkey into Greece. https://aeon.co/essays/greece-s-other-crisis-coping-with-a-rising-tide-of-immigrants 
  • ‘End of Byzantium’ Aeon, 20 December 2012. Article about Greek minority in Istanbul. https://aeon.co/essays/could-an-orthodox-patriarch-bridge-east-and-west. 
  • Going as Far as I can; the ultimate travel book by Duncan Fallowell, book review, Spectator, Feb 2008 
  • Small Wars Permitting; Dispatches from Foreign Lands By Christina Lamb, book review, Spectator, Dec 2007 
  • Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin by Nicholas Ostler, book review, New Statesman, Nov 2007 
  • Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know by Ranulph Fiennes, book review, Spectator, Nov 2007 
  • Family Romance by John Lanchester, book review, Spectator, March 2007 
  • The Khyber Pass, a history of empire and invasion by Paddy Docherty, book review, New Statesman, April 2007 
  • Christmas Books, New Statesman, Nov 2007 
  • The Black Hole by Jan Dalley, book review, Standard, Dec 2006 
  • Ollie by Stephen Venables; Daniel isn’t Talking by Marti Leimbach, book reviews, New Statesman May 2006 
  • Empires of the Word, a Language History of the World by Nicholas Ostler, book review, New Statesman, Feb 2005  
  • The Meaning of Tingo by Adam Jacot, book review, New Statesman, October 2005 
  • Spoken Here, Travels among Threatened Languages by Mark Abley, book review, New Statesman, Jan 2004 
  • Dust Diaries by Owen Shears, book review, New Statesman, Feb 2004 
  • Telegram from Guernica by Nicholas Rankin, book review, New Statesman, Feb 2003 
  • The Places In Between by Rory Stewart, book review, New Statesman, July 2004 
  • ‘Ultimate Puzzle’, book review of Lost Languages by Andrew Robinson, New Statesman, July 2002 
  • The Wreck at Sharpnose Point by Jeremy Seal, book review, New Statesman, March 2002 

Previously I have written articles and reviews for the Independent, Independent on Sunday, Observer, Daily Telegraph, Evening Standard, Vogue, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Harpers, The Sunday Times, and Artscribe.


  • ‘Fiction in an Age of Globalisation’ conference, Tuebingen University, Germany. Presented paper ‘Touching the Void: Memoir and Trauma’, 2021. 
  • Transnationalism conference, Southampton University. Presented paper ‘George Bowen and his 1854 Murray Handbook for Greece’, 2020. 
  • ‘Known and Imagined Landscapes’, Hauser & Wirth Gallery. Chaired event with poet Alice Oswald, Times art critic Rachel Campbell Johnston and artist Catherine Goodman, 2019. 
  • ‘Embodiment’, SWW DTP Cluster Conference, University of Bristol. Presented paper on life-writing, 2019. 
  • Translation, Representation, Adaptation, and Mobility [TRAM] Cluster conference, Bristol University. Presented paper on material culture 2019. 
  • TRAM Cluster conference, SWW DTP, Bristol University. Presented research on language and identity, 2019.  
  • ‘Meantime’ literary event, At the Chapel. Interviewed Costa Award-winner Andrew Miller about his latest novel, Now We Shall Be Entirely Free, 2018. 
  • ‘Meet the Author’ fund-raising ticketed events in London and Somerset. Guests have included Will Self, Victoria Glendinning, Terry Pratchett, Julie Myerson, Philip Hensher, Tom Holland, Andrew Miller, Richard Sennett and many others. I research the writers, find venues, advertise and promote the events, organise book sales and author displays, sell tickets and host, 2001-2019.  
  • Material Culture PhD conference, Bath Spa University. Presented paper on life-writing, 2018. 
  • ‘Our man on the Spot’, Postgraduate Conference, Centre for Imperial and Postcolonial Studies, Southampton University. Presented paper on Handbook to Greece (John Murray, 1854), 2016. 
  • Regular interviewer/panel chair/speaker for Dartington’s ‘Ways With Words’ and Bath literary festivals, 2008-2019. 
  • Centre for Victorian Studies Conference, Exeter University. Presented paper on Strangerland. 2007. 
  • ‘Endangered Languages and the Media’, Foundation for Endangered Languages International Conference, Agadir, Morocco. Presented published paper on ‘European Minorities and the Media’, 2001.

I have been a professional keynote speaker for over 200 institutions including the Royal Geographical Society, Royal Scottish Geographical Society, National Trust, Women’s Institutes, Literary and Philosophical Societies, travel groups, photographic clubs, Rotary, Probus, luncheon clubs, bookshops, charities, universities and schools. Audiences range from village halls to 1500 people, 1990-2019. I have given readings and presentations about my writing at numerous literary festivals, including Dartington, Cheltenham, Bath, Edinburgh, Oxford, Hay, Guildford and others, 1990-2019. 

Television and radio

  • Writer and presenter: Dancing with the Dead, TV documentary (Warner Sisters/Granada UK/Boston WNET 1991). ‘A marvellous voyage of discovery’ (Daily Mail.)  
  • Eat, Pray, Write a Memoir. Researched and contributed to R4 documentary about life-writing, presented by Ian Macmillan, 2013.  
  • Contributor on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row, Woman’s Hour, Midweek, Excess Baggage, L’Esprit de France;  
    BBC World Service’s Meridian, Good Books, Outlook, Reading Notes, Assignment; BBC Radio 2, Capital, London Radio, BBC Radio Bristol, and widespread other local radio stations 1986-2008.
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