Emma was raised in Hertfordshire and studied History at QMW, London University where she was awarded the Draper Prize for her finals results. After an MA at UCL, she moved to Trinity College, Cambridge to study for a PhD under the supervision of Gareth Stedman Jones. In 2000 she was awarded the Thirlwall Prize and Seeley Medal, awarded annually for the best history dissertation at Cambridge University. After a British Academy postdoctoral fellowship at Sidney Sussex, Cambridge and a visiting fellowship at l’université de Paris VIII, and a Gilder-Lehrman Senior Fellowship in New York, she joined the University of East Anglia in 2005, where she is now a professor of Modern British History.
Emma teaches courses on the social and cultural history of Victorian Britain and is active within the wider historical community. She is currently the editor of Historical Journal and has previously been the editor of the journals History, and Cultural and Social History. From 2010 to 2016 she was a council member of the Royal Historical Society, serving first as their Honorary Director of Communications until 2010 and as their Literary Director between 2012 and 2016. She sits on the board of two publishing ventures – New Historical Perspectives (a monograph series sponsored by the Royal Historical Society and the Institute of Historical Research); and the popular history magazine, History Today.
She lives in Norwich with her partner, David Milne, and two children, Benedict and Anna.