Davidson went to Manchester Grammar School and then Oxford University where he obtained a degree in classics. He followed this with an MA at Columbia University in New York. He had hoped to take up dance choreography but realised that he would not be able to afford to do it properly.
He returned to Oxford University and continued with his work in classics at Wadham College. He took a scholarship at St Hugh's, and then became a junior research fellow at Trinity College.
In 1996 he was appointed to a lectureship at Warwick University. In 1999 he moved to Birkbeck College in London, where he became anniversary reader in ancient history.
His first book, Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens, is a re-write of his DPhil thesis.
James Davidson works on Greek social and cultural history and historiography. He has written articles on Polybius, Greek public bars and Dido and child-sacrifice and is a regular contributor to "The London Review of Books", "The Guardian", "The Daily Telegraph" and "The Sunday Times".
In 2008 he published The Greeks and Greek Love for Weidenfeld and is currently working on a translation of some Attic speeches for Penguin Classics.
He served on the Council for the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies from 2001 to 2004, and has been a member of the Classical Association Journals Board since 2000.