Henriette van der Blom


Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I welcome proposals for supervision in any aspect of Roman History, especially political life in the Roman republic or any aspect of Roman/Latin oratory and rhetoric.

I have supervised PhD students working on an anonymous rhetorical work from the Roman republican period, the Rhetorica ad Herennium, on ‘Roman’ speeches in the work of the Greek historian Dio Cassius, on popular power in the late Roman Republic, on communicative failure in Latin epic, on Sallust's Cicero compared with Luke's St Paul, and on Cicero's De Senectute. I have also supervised a number of Master’s students (MA and MRes) on a range of Roman history topics.

I currently supervise the following PhD and research students:

Ashley Chhibber, ‘Heroism and the Failure to Communicate in the epics of Rome (Aeneid, Bellum Civile and Punica)’ (supervising with Professor Helen Lovatt, University of Nottingham)

Tim Morrison, ‘A study of Cicero’s De senectute’ (supervising with Dr Elena Theodorakopoulos)

Erich Pracht, as part of the Epistolary Visions of Transformational Leadership research project (supervising with Professor Eve-Marie Becker, University of Münster, Germany)

Tim Elliott, 'People, Power, and Politics: Populism and the Roman Republic (82-27 BC)' (supervising with Dr Mark Wenman, Politics)

Tyler Broome, 'Informal Diplomacy in Ancient Rome: An Analysis of Negotiation in Cicero's Letters' (supervising with Dr Asaf Siniver, Politics)


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Personal profile


I have been fortunate to experience a number of great universities and academic institutions such as the University of Copenhagen (where I was an undergraduate and graduate student in the then Department of History and Department of Latin and Greek), Brasenose College, Oxford (as a Master’s and doctoral student), Merton College and St John’s College, Oxford (as Lecturer in Ancient History), Wolfson College, Oxford (as Research Fellow), and the University of Glasgow (as Research Fellow and then Lecturer in Classics). I have been at the University of Birmingham since September 2016.

Research interests

I specialise in the political life and oratorical culture of the Roman republic and early Empire, especially the history of the late Roman republic, patterns of political careers, all aspects of Cicero, oratory and rhetoric, the reception of republican orators and oratory, fragmentary evidence, exempla and cultural memory.

My first book, Cicero’s Role Models, explores Cicero’s rhetorical and political strategy as a newcomer in Roman republican politics. It argues that Cicero advertised himself as follower of chosen models of behaviour from the past – his role models or exempla – in order to promote his public persona and political influence.

My second book, Oratory and Political Career in the Late Roman Republic, investigates the relationship between oratory and political career in the Roman republic. Through close study of speech fragments and testimonies, I analyse how far the oratorical profile and performances of politicians such as Pompey, Caesar, Cato the Younger and others define and restrict their political actions and agendas, and, ultimately, their political influence and careers. In relation to this project, I co-organised an international conference on Oratory and Political Career in the Roman Republic (Oxford, 2010) from which an edited volume appeared: C. Steel & H. van der Blom (eds) (2013), Community and Communication: Oratory and Politics in Republican Rome, Oxford University Press.

I am planning a new book on the reception of Roman republican orators and oratory in the Roman imperial period.

I am the founding director of the Network for Oratory and Politics (NOP), an interdisciplinary research network on the relationship between oratory and politics. The aim of the Network for Oratory and Politics is to facilitate research into and discussion of political oratory across historical periods and regions in order to broaden up the study of political speech and reach out to non-academic communities. It does so by connecting academics with political practitioners of public speech such as politicians, speech writers and the general public in an exchange of knowledge and ideas. The Network has received funding from The Royal Society of Edinburgh and the AHRC. For more information, visit the website for Network for Oratory and Politics

Another research project, funded by the AHRC (2017-19) and entitled The Crisis of Rhetoric, has taken the ideas of the Network for Oratory and Politics further: I led a project group of political scientists, linguists, historians, classicists and rhetoricians to analyse what is going wrong in current British political communication. We involved politicians, speech writers, civil servants and political journalists in our research to remedy the faulty communication. 

I am co-investigator on an international and interdisciplinary research project into the leadership through letters by Cicero, St Paul and Seneca, funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark, entitled Epistolary Visions of Transformational Leadership and running 2018-22.

Together with Professor Harvey Yunis, I co-edit the first volume of a new Cambridge History of Rhetoric (5 vols, edited by P. Mack and R. Copeland) which focuses on the ancient world from the third millennium BC to AD 350.

I am a member of the editorial and advisory boards of the Fragments of the Roman Republican Orators project (University of Glasgow) which will provide a new edition with commentary and translation of the fragments of the non-Ciceronian Roman orators of the republican period. Alongside this edition, I co-edited with Professor Catherine Steel and Dr Christa Grey a conference volume entitled Institutions and Ideology in Republican Rome: speech, audience and decision (Cambridge University Press, 2018). For more information, visit the website for the Fragments of the Roman Republican Orators.

I sit on the editorial boards of the journals Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte and Journal of Roman Studies, as well as on three book series. I also sit on the Council for the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, and have previously served on the Council for the Classical Association (UK).


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