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Institute of Applied Data Science


Professor Ruth Ahnert

Ruth Ahnert

Professor of Literary History & Digital Humanities

Department 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


Ardanuy MC, 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. Corr  vol. abs/2005.11140,


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 (2016). Maps Versus Networks. News Networks in Early Modern Europe , Editors: Raymond J and Moxham N. Brill 


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 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. Oxford University Press (Oup)  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). ‘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)