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 colonialism and information.

Born and raised in Paris, I first came to the UK to study at Cambridge in 2007. Since then, I have spent time at Columbia University, the LSE, and the Institut Français du Proche-Orient in Beirut, and conducted my doctoral studies at All Souls College, Oxford, before returning to Cambridge to join the History Faculty. In 2021-2024 I will be Pro Futura Scientia fellow at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Studies in Uppsala and CRASSH in Cambridge.

Aside from my research and teaching activities, I regularly comment on French and North African news for radio and online media.

My research looks at the metropole and the colony together to develop new historical narratives. I have been particularly concerned with the following question: how do we share information and how does this affect our worldviews? My first book, Electric News in Colonial Algeria, looks at the transformation of news circulation in Algeria under French rule. I show 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, and this has led me to broader questions on the nature of news.

I am currently working on two new projects. The first is a microhistory of an Algerian man in the 19th century who carefully manipulated information to generate a huge public scandal in France, West Africa, and Tunisia. The second project takes my research forward in time into the 1960s and 1970s, looking at the relationship between rumour and race in Fifth Republic France.
For undergraduates, I teach the Themes and Sources Option 'Fighting for Algeria, Fighting for France' using French primary sources. I convene Paper 18 (20th century European history) and lecture in 19th century European history (Paper 17) and 20th century World History (Paper 23)

At the MPhil level, I teach an option on 'The Modern Mediterranean' for the Modern European and World History MPhils.
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 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



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

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

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).