Rebecca Stott

Rebecca Stott

Emeritus Professor

  • 2.35 Arts

Personal profile


Rebecca Stott is a novelist, award-winning non-fiction writer, radio broadcaster and academic who works across several different disciplines including history, archaeology, literature and history of science. She gave up her job at UEA in 2021 to go freelance as a writer, but retains an afilliation with UEA as Emeritus Professor. During her time at UEA (2007-21) she taught on both literature and creative writing modules and supervised PhD students writing historical novels.

After completing her literature BA, MA and PhD degrees at the School of English and Related Literature at York University, Stott taught literature full-time in the English departments of York, Leeds and Anglia Ruskin (Cambridge). She was appointed Professor of Literature in 2003. She came to UEA in 2007 to a chair of literature and creative writing after publishing the bestselling historical thriller Ghostwalk and designing and launching the MA in Creative Writing at Anglia Ruskin. She won the Costa Prize for Biography in 2017 for her memoir In the Days of Rain, was awarded an honorary doctorate by Anglia Ruskin in 2018 and appointed to the Royal Society of Literature in 2021.

Rebecca is a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a regular contributor to the BBC Radio Four flagship programme 'A Point of View'.

Key Research Interests

As an academic specialising in Victorian literature Rebecca Stott published several books of literary criticism and cultural history between 1990 and 2003, including a book called The Fabrication of the Victorian Femme Fatale, a collection of essays on Tennyson, a co-authored monograph on Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning and articles on Rider Haggard, Joseph Conrad, H.D., Virginia Woolf, Carlyle and aspects of Victorian science and Victorian poetry.

In 2003, she began to experiment with creative non-fiction and life writing, publishing several non-fiction books including a partial biography of Darwin called Darwin and the Barnacle, (Faber, 2003), a cultural history of the oyster, Oyster (Reaktion, 2003) and a 2,000-year history of the idea of evolution called Darwin’s Ghosts (Bloomsbury, 2012). 

In 2007, she published the bestselling novel Ghostwalk. Part historical thriller, part ghost story, set in both seventeenth-century and contemporary Cambridge, it weaves together fiction and non-fiction and explores scientific ideas from Issac Newton's work on optics and alchemy to contemporary ideas in neuroscience and quantum physics. It was published in the US (Random House) and the UK (Weidenfeld and Nicolson) and translated into 14 different languages including Chinese, Russian, Hebrew and Serbian. It reached the bestseller lists in Italy, America and China and was shortlisted for the Jelf Group First novel Award and the Author's Club First Novel Award. 

Her second historical novel, The Coral Thief (2010), grew out of the research she had begun on the history of evolutionary ideas for Darwin’s Ghosts. Part adventure story, part alternate history, The Coral Thief is set in Paris in 1815 just after the fall of Napoleon at Waterloo; it was serialized on Radio Four's Book at Bedtime in January 2010.

Stott's novelistic treatment of the long history of the idea of evolution, Darwin’s Ghosts: In Search of the First Evolutionists, was published by Bloomsbury in 2012 and Random House in America. Ten years in the making, it spans 2,200 years of world history, tracing the idea of evolution from Aristotle to Darwin, from the sea lagoons of ancient Lesbos to the market places of ninth-century Basra to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. 

Her family memoir about growing up in a fundamentalist Christian cult that banned books and damned all outsiders as Satan's people, In the Days of Rain, came out in June 2017, in the US, the UK and Australia. It was translated into German in 2019. It won the Costa Biography Prize in 2017.

Her third historical novel, Dark Earth, in which two sixth-century sisters on the run take refuge in the ruined and abandoned city of Londinium, after the collapse of the Roman occupation of Britain, will be published in June in the UK and in July in America. The research was funded by a Leverhulme research award. 

Areas of Expertise

Darwin; nineteenth-century literature; the novel; creative writing; Victorian poetry; the history of evolution; the history of science.

Teaching Interests

Although my teaching responsibilities at UEA varied, I usually taught Feminist Writing (third year undergraduate module), Novel History (Creative Writing MA module on historical fiction). I also supervised many students engaged on the Critical-Creative PhD programme, mainly students writing historical fiction or creative non-fiction, including life-writing or memoir.