Ellen Hinsey was born in 1960 in Boston, Massachusetts. For the last two decades she has lived in Europe. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Tufts University and a graduate degree from Université de Paris VII. She has taught at the French graduate school the Ecole Polytechnique and currently teaches at Skidmore College's Paris program. She is the international correspondent for The New England Review.
Hinsey's work is concerned with history, ethics and democracy. Her first-hand accounts and analyses of the impact of the 2012 Russian presidential elections, the 2010 Polish presidential plane crash, Hungarian politics, Václav Havel's ethical legacy and post-1989 German reconstruction have been published in The New England Review. A selection of these essays are included in her book Mastering the Past: Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe and the Rise of Illiberalism (Telos Press, 2017). Her current work addresses global authoritarianism.
Hinsey's first book, Cities of Memory, draws on her experiences at the Berlin Wall on the weekend of November 9, 1989, as well as in Prague during the Velvet Revolution. The book received the Yale Series Award and was published by Yale University Press in 1996. Her second book, The White Fire of Time (Wesleyan University Press, 2002 / Bloodaxe Books, 2003), written after a family tragedy, is an exploration of ethics and renewal.