Dr Arthur Asseraf

Associate Professor in the History of France and the Francophone World
Fellow, Pembroke College
Arthur Asseraf

On research leave 2021-2024

I am a historian of modern France, North Africa, and the Mediterranean, with particular interests in the history of media, colonialism, and race.

Born and raised in Paris, I first came to the UK to study at Cambridge. Since then, I have spent time studying in the USA, UK, and Lebanon, before returning to Cambridge to join the History Faculty in 2017. I have also held visiting positions in France, and in 2023-2024 I am Pro Futura Scientia fellow at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Studies in Uppsala.

Aside from my research and teaching activities, I write and contribute to media in a variety of formats on contemporary issues in North Africa, France, and on the history of colonialism more broadly.

My research looks at Europe and North Africa together to develop new narratives. My first book, Electric News in Colonial Algeria, looked at the transformation of news circulation in Algeria under French rule. I showed how the intensification of media produced a colonial society that was more divided rather than more connected by drawing on a wide range of forms of news from songs and manuscripts to newspapers and radio, in French, Arabic, Spanish, and other languages. I suggest that this particular colonial society can help us rethink the role of media more widely. I pursued this investigation in a second book in French, Le désinformateur, which tracked one Algerian man who worked as an explorer and professional fake news producer, to think about what the world of 19th century news might have to teach our own.
I have also been interested more broadly in the global history of French colonialism and its effects in the present. I am one of the five coordinators of Colonisations: notre histoire, a project that brought together over 250 authors from around the world to present the best research on colonialism to a wider audience.

I am currently working on two projects. The first focuses on how people talked about race in France in the 1960s and 1970s in the years after decolonization. The second is a history of how radio technology changed space in the Mediterranean in the 20th century.
I am on research leave for the years 2021-2024. During this time, I am unable to supervise MPhil students. I welcome inquiries from prospective doctoral students interested in the history of the Maghrib, modern France, and the French Empire, especially projects concerned with the history of media and/or colonialism and race.


Tags & Themes


Pembroke College, Cambridge CB2 1RF



Colonisations: notre histoire (Seuil, 2023) (co-coordinator)

Le désinformateur, sur les traces de Messaoud Djebari, (Fayard, 2022)

Electric News in Colonial Algeria, (Oxford University Press, 2019), winner of the Middle East Studies Book Prize

Articles and chapters

‘Mass Media and the Colonial Informant: Messaoud Djebari and the French Empire, 1880-1901’, Past & Present, February 2022, 161-192

‘La mer immédiate: nouvelles, télégraphe et impérialisme en Méditerranée, 1798-1882’, Monde(s), 16/2, November 2019.

'"A New Israel": Colonial Comparisons and the Algerian Partition that Never Happened', French Historical Studies, 41:1, 2018.

'Making their own internationalism: Algerian Media and a few others the League of Nations Ignored, 1919-1943' in Tworek, Brendebach and Herzer (eds.) Exorbitant Expectations: International Organizations and the Media in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, (Routledge, 2018)

'Weapons of Mass Representation: Algerians in the French Parliament 1958-1962', in Eldridge and Aissaoui (eds.) Algeria Revisited: History, Culture and Identity (Bloomsbury, 2017).