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Institute of Applied Data Science


Professor Ruth Ahnert

Ruth Ahnert

Professor of Literary History & Digital Humanities

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
School of English and Drama
+44 (0)20 7882 8571


Renaissance epistolary culture, Early modern surveillance and espionage, Computational methods, literary-historical study (especially quantitative network analysis)


Since January 2012 I have been collaborating with Sebastian Ahnert, a physicist at the University of Cambridge, using methods from the field of network science to examine the social and textual organization of letter collections. Following a pilot study on Protestant letter networks dating from the reign of Mary I (see Publications), we received funding to undertake a large-scale analysis of 130,000 letters held in the Tudor State Papers archive (accessed via State Papers Online). The book and accompanying online resource should be completed in 2019. We have now secured further AHRC funding to extend this work in collaboration with the Cultures of Knowledge team in Oxford to the State Papers 1603-1714. This work on early modern letters has fed into two further projects. The first is an analogue output: an edition Letters of the Marian Martyrs with Thomas Freeman (under contract with OUP). The second is a short book, The Network Turn, co-authored with Sebastian Ahnert,  Nicole Coleman (Stanford), and Scott Weingart (Carnegie Mellon) on the uses of network analysis in the humanities.

I am also PI on the project Living with Machines, which will bring together large-scale digital collections and data, advanced data science techniques, and fundamental historical questions to look at the social and cultural impact of mechanisation across the long nineteenth century. Based around the British Library’s extensive digitised newspaper collections, but also linking to a variety of other sources and formats, the project will both take a new look at the Industrial Revolution, and also engage with our own digital revolution through the use of computational methods in historical scholarship.


Publications of specific relevance to Applied Data Science


Ahnert R, Ahnert SE, Coleman CN and Weingart SB (2020). The Network Turn. 10.1017/9781108866804
Coll Ardanuy M, Nanni F, Beelen K, Hosseini K, Ahnert R, Lawrence J, McDonough K, Tolfo G, Wilson DCS and McGillivray B (2020). Living Machines: A study of atypical animacy. Proceedings of The 28th International Conference On Computational Linguistics  4534-4545. 10.18653/v1/2020.coling-main.400
Ahnert R (2020). The Network Turn: Changing Perspectives in the Humanities. Cambridge University Press 


Filgueira R, Coll Ardanuy M, Colavizza G, Hetherington J, Terras M, Jackson M, Roubickova A, Krause A, Ahnert R, Hauswedell T, Nyhan J, Beavan D and Hobson T (2019). Defoe: A spark-based toolbox for analysing digital historical textual data. 10.1109/eScience.2019.00033
AHNERT R and Ahnert S (2019). Metadata, surveillance, and the Tudor State. Oxford University Press (Oup)  History Workshop Journal  10.1093/hwj/dby033
Ahnert R (2019). Metadata, Surveillance and the Tudor State - Corrigendum. History Workshop Journal  vol. 89, 309-309. 10.1093/hwj/dbaa002


Ahnert R (2018). Rivkah Zim, The Consolations of Writing: Literary Strategies of Resistance from Boethius to Primo Levi. Comparative Critical Studies  vol. 15, (1) 122-125. 10.3366/ccs.2018.0265


Ahnert R (2017). Copland, Robert. The Encyclopedia of English Renaissance Literature  10.1002/9781118297353.wbeerlc029
Ahnert R (2017). Marshall, William. The Encyclopedia of English Renaissance Literature  10.1002/9781118297353.wbeerlm007


AHNERT R (2016). Maps Versus Networks. News Networks in Early Modern Europe , Editors: Raymond J and Moxham N. Brill 
AHNERT R (2016). The Opened Letter: Networking in the Early Modern British World. By Lindsay  O'Neill. University of Pennsylvania Press. 2014. 272pp. $47.50/£31.00. History  vol. 101, (345) 311-313. 10.1111/1468-229x.12226
Ahnert R (2016). Maps versus Networks. News Networks in Early Modern Europe  10.1163/9789004277199_006


Hamlin H, Temperley N, White M, Simpson J, Rossiter W, King'oo C, Serjeantson D, Osherow M, Quitslund B and Ahnert R#27406# (2015). Re-forming the Psalms in Tudor England., Editors: AHNERT R. Wiley Blackwell 
Ahnert R and Ahnert SE (2015). Protestant letter networks in the reign of Mary I: A quantitative approach. Elh - English Literary History  vol. 82, (1) 1-33. 10.1353/elh.2015.0000
Ahnert R (2015). The psalms and the English Reformation. Renaissance Studies  vol. 29, (4) 493-508. 10.1111/rest.12158


Ahnert R (2014). Book Review: The English Martyr: From Reformation to Revolution. Irish Theological Quarterly  vol. 79, (1) 83-85. 10.1177/0021140013508862
Ahnert R and Ahnert SE (2014). A Community Under Attack: Protestant Letter Networks in the Reign of Mary I. Leonardo  vol. 47, (3) 10.1162/LEON_a_00778


AHNERT R (2013). Imitating Inquisition: Dialectical Bias in Protestant Prison Writings. The Culture of Inquisition in Medieval England , Editors: Flannery M and Walter K. Boydell and Brewer 
AHNERT R (2013). Inscribed in Memory: The Prison Poems of Sir Thomas Wyatt. Henry Viii and The Court: Art, Politics and Performance , Editors: Betteridge T and Lipscomb S. Ashgate 
AHNERT R (2013). The Rise of Prison Literature in the Sixteenth Century. Cambridge University Press  10.1017/CBO9781139628846


Ahnert R (2012). The Book of Common Prayer: The Texts of 1549, 1559, and 1662. The Cambridge Quarterly  vol. 41, (3) 383-389. 10.1093/camqtly/bfs024
AHNERT R (2012). Drama King: The Portrayal of Henry VIII in Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons. Henry Viii and History , Editors: Betteridge T and Freeman TS. Ashgate 
AHNERT R (2012). The Prison in Early Modern Drama. Wiley-Blackwell  Literature Compass  vol. 9, (1) 34-47. 10.1111/j.1741-4113.2011.00860.x


Ahnert R (2011). Henry VIII and his Afterlives: Literature, Politics and Art. Cambridge Quart  vol. 40, (3) 271-277. 10.1093/camqtly/bfr017
AHNERT R (2011). ‘The King and the Codpiece’, review of Henry VIII and His Afterlives: Literature, Politics and Art, ed.Mark Rankin, Christopher Highley, and John N. King (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009). Project Muse  The Cambridge Quarterly  vol. 40, (3) 271-277.
AHNERT R (2011). Ashgate Critical Essays on Women Writers, vol. 1: Early Tudor Writers edited by Elaine V. Beilin Rape and the Rise of the Author: Gendering Intention in Early Modern England by Amy Greenstadt. Wiley-Blackwell  Gender & History  vol. 23, (1) 187-189. 10.1111/j.1468-0424.2010.01631_5.x


Ahnert R (2009). Writing in the Tower of London during the Reformation, ca. 1530-1558., Editors: Sheils WJ and Sherman W. University of California Press  Huntington Library Quarterly  vol. 72, (2) 168-192. 10.1525/hlq.2009.72.2.168


Grants of specific relevance to Applied Data Science
Living with Machines
Ahnert R
£9,200,000 Arts and Humanities Research Council (01-09-2018 - 31-03-2023)
Networking Archives: Assembling and analysing a meta-archive of correspondence, 1509-1714
Ahnert R
Arts and Humanities Research Council (01-10-2018 - 31-08-2021)

Tudor Networks of Power, 1509-1603
Ahnert R
£144,807 Arts and Humanities Research Council (01-01-2015 - 29-09-2018)
Tudor Networks of Power
Ahnert R
USD70,000 Stanford Humanities Center, Stanford University (01-09-2015 - 14-07-2016)