Ophelia Field was born to American parents in Australia in 1971. She attended schools in Queensland and Sydney, before she and her mother emigrated to Britain.
Ophelia read English at Christ Church, Oxford, graduating with a double first, and gained a Masters in Development Studies at the London School of Economics, with distinction. She won the national T.E. Utley Prize in 1994.
In 2000, Ophelia started to research THE FAVOURITE, a historical biography of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough (1660-1744), which was originally published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton and in the US by St Martin’s Press. A revised edition of this book was published in November 2018 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
In 2003, Ophelia received the inaugural Elizabeth Longford Grant for the writing of historical biography, and was commissioned by HarperCollins to start work on her second book, THE KIT-CAT CLUB, published in 2008. This is a group biography, again set in the early 18th century, and was selected as one of The Financial Times' History Books of the Year.
Ophelia has written for The Sunday Telegraph, The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement, The Literary Review and others. She has taught 'Writing Biography' to MA students at the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters (UCL) and a course on 'The Art of the Essay' at The Idler Academy. She compiled an online Essay Library of 100 important English essays for Notting Hill Editions, and has contributed an article to a forthcoming OUP book on THE LITERARY ESSAY.
Ophelia is currently working on a book about the characters who surrounded King James I after 1614, and on a collection of semi-personal essays. She teaches MA Biography at the University of Buckingham, directed by Prof. Jane Ridley.
Ophelia lives in London, with her partner and children.
Before university, Ophelia worked as a volunteer with Save the Children in a Vietnamese refugee camp in Hong Kong. This experience was the beginning of a lifelong interest in refugee and human rights issues.
Ophelia subsequently embarked on a career as a policy analyst and advocate in the refugee and human rights field, working at the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) until 1998, then as a human rights consultant to a wide range of organisations, including Human Rights Watch (where she was twice Acting Director of Refugee Policy), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and the New York Immigration Coalition.
Between 2006-08, Ophelia was Director of the Writers in Prison Programme of English PEN, the international writers’ association that campaigns for persecuted and imprisoned writers around the world.
Since 2010, she has developed expertise in the field of Special Educational Needs and disability rights, including as an Independent Supporter with KIDS, the national disabled children's charity.
In 2018, Ophelia worked as the Interim Director of Rights Watch UK, an organisation promoting justice and accountability in relation to national security and armed conflict. In 2017-19 she has also been a consultant to the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights in Vienna, working on how to better communicate the value of human rights to the general public, and in July 2019 she reported to the European Programme on Integration and Migration (EPIM), a consortium of major foundations, on the narrative tactics currently used by refugee and migrant advocacy organisations when they communicate with the public.