Julia Ballam was born and grew up in London, attended South Hampstead high school, and in 1963 won a scholarship to study English at Oxford University. She married Peter Gold, gave birth to a son, and took a first-class degree. That marriage was unhappy and in 1969 she married Robin Briggs, an historian and fellow of All Souls College, with whom she had two more children. Julia Briggs held a longtime post as fellow of Hertford College, Oxford. In 1987 she published a biography of the children's writer and Fabian Society founder E. (Edith) Nesbit called A Woman of Passion, which contributed to the emerging study of children's literature, as did Children and Their Books: a Celebration of the Work of Iona and Peter Opie (1989), co-edited with Gillian Avery. She also studied the life of Virginia Woolf. Active in the Oxford English faculty, which she also chaired, Prof. Briggs lobbied successfully for more courses on women's writing. In 1995, she became professor of literature and women's studies at De Montfort University in Leicester. Prof. Briggs helped to inaugurate the British Shakespeare Association and was a supporter of the Virginia Woolf Society.