Ashley Sanders

A photo of Ashley Sanders
E-mail: Office: Royce 334B (Germanic Studies Lounge)

Ashley Sanders (she/they) is a comparative colonial historian who also holds a BS in Mathematics and Ph.D. in History. She is currently Vice Chair of Digital Humanities at UCLA. Her research brings together traditional primary source analysis and computational methods to uncover the stories, voices, and experiences of those marginalized in the past and present. Her first project, “Between Two Fires: The Origins of Settler Colonialism in the United States and French Algeria,” explores the ways in which French politicians and military leaders borrowed rhetoric and policies from the American context to bolster their colonial endeavor in Algeria. Her second historical project, “Imperial Margins: Ethnicity, Gender, and Kinship in Ottoman-Algeria, 1518-1837,” is the first study to examine the inner workings of Algerian society and politics from its incorporation into the Ottoman Empire through its transition to French governance through the lenses of gender, ethnicity and religion. Recent publications include “Using Network Analysis to Uncover Women’s Roles in Early Modern Ottoman Algeria” in Current Research in Digital History (Fall 2020), and “Building a DIY Community of Practice” in the latest book in the Debates in DH series: People, Practice, Power: Digital Humanities Outside the Center (December 2021).

Her first Digital Humanities book project, entitled Visualizing History’s Fragments: New Findings in Ottoman History through Digital Humanities Research Methods, is now available!

She currently offers courses on applied statistics for humanistic research, natural language processing, social media data analytics, computational research capstones, and a project-based introductory DH course.


My first book, Visualizing History’s Fragments (Palgrave, Spring 2024), is both a monograph on the socio-political world of Ottoman Algeria and a guidebook on the digital research methods employed to develop my arguments. It highlights how computational research methods may be employed to reveal the experiences of people who have repeatedly been consigned to the margins of history, particularly women, Jewish people in North Africa, and provincial governors. The few extant fragments of information for the historical case study emerge from European and American travel accounts, consular records, nineteenth-century French scholarship, as well as French and Algerian chronicles of the governors of Constantine, Algeria. Each chapter braids together the historical argument with a methodological guide that includes embedded video tutorials and practice exercises. Although it is rooted in my own historical research, the approaches presented in this study have applications far beyond Mediterranean history. More broadly, these methods will be of useful to students and scholars interested in identifying and studying relational data, demographics, politics, discourse, authorial bias, and social networks of both known, as well as unnamed, actors.

Imperial Margins is the first study to explore the inner workings of Algerian society and politics from its incorporation into the Ottoman Empire through its transition to French governance. It examines how Algerian women, provincial governors, and Jewish residents shaped Algerian politics, diplomacy, and international commerce within the framework of an entangled Mediterranean between 1666 and 1837. Diplomatic correspondence, consular memoirs, records of the French Compagnie d’Afrique, travel accounts, and Ottoman records reveal, for example, that both women and Jewish actors played key roles as diplomatic and commercial intermediaries on both sides of the Mediterranean in diplomatic gift exchanges, gatekeepers for the governor’s regard, translators, and financiers. Chapter one, “Ottoman Sovereignty and European Entanglements,” and chapter two, “Pathways to Power: Ethnicity and Kinship in Ottoman Algeria, 1518 – 1837,” examine provincial governors’ journeys from their origins as Turkish volunteers, conscripted Christian subjects, or former slaves to their eventual nomination to the highest offices within the Ottoman Regency. Chapter three, “Silent No More: The Roles of Algerian Women in Provincial Ottoman Governance” argues that as brides, communicators, military leaders, and political advisers, North African women were essential links connecting Algeria to the Ottoman Empire. The fourth chapter, “Pawns & Protectors: Women and Children in Early Modern Mediterranean Commerce and Diplomacy,” reveals how political wives impeded or advanced international relations between Algeria, the Ottoman Empire, and Europe. The final chapter explores notions of identity, kinship, and indigeneity during the transition from Ottoman to French sovereignty through the lives and writings of Yusuf, a “Renegade” Jew from Livorno, and Hadj Ahmed Bey, the mixed-ethnicity last governor of Constantine.

My third book project, American Exports: The Legacy of American Colonialism in the Conquest of French Algeria, examines the role that the United States as a model settler colony played in the development and legitimation of French colonial policy during its violent invasion and colonization of Algeria between 1830 and 1840. Despite French politicians’ vocal disapproval of brutal American tactics against Native Americans, French military officers deployed and justified practices at least as harsh in Algeria to “exterminate” (in their words) the local population to make way for European settlers, citing the United States as their model. Through networks of communication and physical travel to the United States, French statesmen carefully examined the colonial system in the United States and applied lessons they found there to policies and practices in Algeria. In military reports, memoirs, Parliamentary discourse, and the press, French writers often grafted either the means or effects of the American colonial “model” onto their own racist views of Algerians or, less frequently, in defense of them. Questions about legitimate uses of force remained hotly contested throughout the first decade of colonial conquest when the United States appeared in French documents and Parliamentary debate as both a model of, or the antithesis to, French colonial objectives. In both cases, the United States served as a benchmark by which French statesmen judged their “progress” in colonial Algeria. Through an examination of French discourses and military actions, we discover how notions of American imperialism bolstered the brutal conquest of Algeria. By 1871, nearly one in three Algerians had died as a result. The French came far closer to their stated desire to exterminate the local inhabitants than most people in metropolitan France realized.


  • Ashley Sanders, et. al., “Building a DIY Community of Practice,” in Debates in DH: Institutions, Infrastructure at the Interstices, eds. Angel David Nieves, et. al. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, December 2021.
  • Ashley Sanders, “Silent No More: Women as Significant Political Intermediaries in Ottoman Algeria.” Current Research in Digital History, 3 (2020).
  • Joan K. Lippincott, Quinn Dombrowski, Ashley Sanders, et. al., “Building Capacity for Digital Humanities: A Framework for Institutional Planning,” EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research/Coalition for Networked Information (May 30, 2017). Available at:
  • Ashley Sanders, et. al., “Librarians Doing DH: A Team and Project-Based Approach to Digital Humanities in the Library,” Collaborative Librarianship: 9, no. 2, Article 6 (2017). Available at:
  • Ashley Wiersma, “A Study of the Teaching Methods of High School History Teachers,” The Social Studies 99, no. 3 (2008): 111-116.


Between Two Fires: The Origins of Settler Colonialism in the United States and French Algeria