Born in Los Angeles and brought up on her family’s apple farm in California, Polly Ha began her education in the performing arts. She studied dance with New York City Ballet and Alvin Ailey dancers and was accepted to Aspen Ballet School’s summer program for young dancers before discovering her passion for history.
In 2002 Polly graduated from Yale University with honors and distinction in history, winning the Winifred Sturley Prize. She was selected from her class as Paul Mellon Fellow at Clare College, University of Cambridge, where she completed her PhD and was jointly awarded Cambridge University’s Prince Consort and Thirwall Prize and the Seeley Medal.
Ranging from religious conspiracies and neoclassical views of liberty to poor illiterate women, her intellectual diversity comes from studying with the world’s leading religious, political and social historians in her field. To date her work has been awarded nearly $1 million in funding from The British Academy, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and The Arts and Humanities Research Council.
She is currently an Associate Professor/Reader in History at the University of East Anglia, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a Life Member of Clare Hall, an Institute for Advanced Studies in Cambridge. Polly has taught at the Universities of Cambridge and Southern California and held Research Fellowships at The British Academy, Cambridge, The American Antiquarian Society, and The Huntington Library. She has also been a core member of global research teams on freedom including the Balzan ‘Freedom and the Construction of Europe’ group in Florence, the Georg-August-Universitat Gottingen’s ‘Religious Toleration in the Modern World’ and the ‘Independence, Freedom and Religion’ group as Director at Monticello.
She became a British citizen in 2013 and lives in Cambridge with her husband and two daughters.