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Associate Professor in Cultural Evolution, University of Oxford

Dr Pieter Francois is an Associate Professor in Cultural Evolution and Deputy Director of the Centre for the Study of Social Cohesion, University of Oxford. At St Benet's Hall he is a Tutorial Fellow and Tutor for Graduates. He is the Founding Director of the Seshat: Global History Databank.

Dr Francois is a leading scholar in the field of Digital Humanities with a particular strength in designing large-scale collaborative projects. His research fits within two broad strands. A first strand focuses on novel ways to integrate the social sciences and the humanities. He is especially interested in fostering such a consilience between the disciplines of history, cultural evolution and the digital humanities. His Seshat project brings together historical and archaeological Big Data to study changes playing out over long timescales, usually millennia. He has worked and published on such fundamental changes in the evolution of social complexity, ritual and ritualistic behaviour, warfare, and levels of inequality.

A second strand of his research focuses on applying a digital humanities approach to the study of nineteenth century travel, migration and history of the book. In 2013 he won the international British Library Labs competition with his ‘Sample Generator for Digitized Texts’. He is currently working on nineteenth-century British travellers to the Continent and on nineteenth-century intercity migration within Ostend, Belgium. He is also a Member of the Management Committee of Cost Action ‘Distant Reading for European Literary History’.


  • –present
    Dean and Fellow in Anthropology of St. Benet’s Hall, University of Oxford