Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery Oral History Project



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Technological University Dublin


Andrew Dalby (born 1947 in Liverpool) is an English linguist, translator and historian and author of numerous articles and several books on a wide range of topics including food history, language, and Classical texts. Dalby studied Latin, French and Greek at the Bristol Grammar School and University of Cambridge. Here he also studied Romance languages and linguistics, earning a bachelor's degree in 1970. Dalby worked for fifteen years at Cambridge University Library, eventually specialising in Southern Asia. After his time at Cambridge, Dalby worked in London helping to start the library at Regent's College and on renovating another library at London House (Goodenough College). He also served as Honorary Librarian of the Institute of Linguists, for whose journal The Linguist he writes a regular column. He later did a part-time PhD at Birkbeck College, London in ancient history (in 1987–93), which improved his Latin and Greek. His Dictionary of Languages was published in 1998. Language in Danger, on the extinction of languages and the threatened monolingual future, followed in 2002.

Meanwhile, he began to work on food history and contributed to Alan Davidson's journal Petits Propos Culinaires; He was eventually one of Davidson's informal helpers on the Oxford Companion to Food. Dalby's first food history book, Siren Feasts, appeared in 1995 and won a Runciman Award; it is also well known in Greece, where it was translated as Seireneia Deipna. At the same time he was working with Sally Grainger on The Classical Cookbook, the first historical cookbook to look beyond Apicius to other ancient Greek and Roman sources in which recipes are found. Dangerous Tastes, on the history of spices, was the Guild of Food Writers Food Book of the Year for 2001. He lives in France with his wife. He has two daughters and his latest book is co-written with his daughter Rachel, who lives in Greece, and is published by Reaktion Books.

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Arts and Humanities

Interview with Andrew Dalby