Jennifer Sessions

Associate Professor of History
Affiliated Faculty, Department of French

Nau 354
Office Hours: TR, 11:00AM-1:00PM; Students should schedule meetings at

Field & Specialties

Modern France and French empire, Modern Europe, Algeria and North Africa, comparative empires, cultural history, visual and material cultures


Jennifer Sessions earned her Ph.D. in history at the University of Pennsylvania and her bachelor’s degree in history and literature from Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges.


Jennifer Sessions is Associate Professor of History. She is a historian of modern France and its colonial empire, with an emphasis on French relations with North Africa, particularly Algeria, and interests in comparative empires, settler colonialism, and cultural history. The French Colonial Historical Society awarded Sessions the Philip and Mary Alice Boucher Prize for her first book, By Sword and Plow: France and the Conquest of Algeria (Cornell University Press, 2011). She is currently working on two projects about French settler colonialism in Algeria: a microhistory of a 1901 revolt by Muslim Algerian colonial subjects in the colonial village of Margueritte and a study of the French equestrian statue that stood in the center of Algiers from 1845 to the end of the colonial period.

Sessions’s research has been supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, and she has held fellowships at the John W. Kluge Center for Scholars and the Institut d’Etudes Avancées de Paris. She served as president of the French Colonial Historical Society from 2016 to 2018. Before joining the faculty at UVA in 2018, Sessions taught at the University of Iowa.


Click HERE to make an in-person or Zoom appointment with Professor Sessions


By Sword and Plow: France and the Conquest of Algeria. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011. (Mary Alice and Philip Boucher Prize, French Colonial Historical Society)


Editor, with Claire Eldridge, "French Colonial Histories from Below," a special issue of French History 23, no. 4 (2018).

Editor, with Naomi Andrews, “The Politics of Empire in Postrevolutionary France,” a special issue of French Culture, Politics, and Society 33, no. 1 (2015).


"A Delocalized Colonial Archive: Finding Algeria in French Court Records," Quaderni Storici 167, no. 2 (2021)

Horace Vernet’s Tête Arabe: The Artist as Colonial Collector," Monde(s), special issue “Tristes trophées. Objets et restes humains dans les conquêtes coloniales au XIXe siècle,” no 17 (2020). (Honorable mention, French Colonial Historical Society Article Prize, 2020.)

“Resistance: Choices in Empire, 1780-1920.” In A Cultural History of Western Empires, vol. 5, A Cultural History of Western Empires in the Age of Empire (1780-1920), Kirsten McKenzie, ed.. London: Bloomsbury, 2018.

“Repatriating the Duc d’Orleans: The Entangled Politics of Postcolonial Commemoration,” in Algeria Revisited: History, Culture, Identity, Rabah Aissaoui and Claire Eldridge eds.. London: Bloomsbury, 2017, pp. 193-211.

 “Débattre la licitation comme stratégie d’acquisition des terres à la fin du XIXe siècle.” In Propriété et société en Algérie contemporaine. Quelles approches? Ed. Didier Guignard and Isabelle Grangaud. Aix-en-Provence: IREMAM, 2017.

 “Colonizing Revolutionary Politics: Algeria and the French Revolution of 1848.” French Politics, Culture, and Society 33, no. 1 (2015): 75-100.

With Ruth Ginio. “French Colonial Rule.” Oxford Bibliographies: African Studies. Ed. Thomas Spear. Oxford University Press, 2015.

 “Le départ des colons avant la IIIe République: peupler et mettre en valeur l’Algérie.” In L’Histoire de l’Algérie à la période coloniale, 1830-1962. Ed. Abderrahmane Bouchene, Jean-Pierre Peyroulou, Ouarda Tengour and Sylvie Thénault. Paris: La Découverte, 2012, pp. 64-69.

 “Le paradoxe des émigrants indésirables pendant la monarchie de Juillet, ou les origines de l’émigration assistée vers l’Algérie.” Revue du XIXe siècle, no. 41, special issue on Algeria in the conquest period (2010): 63-80.

“‘Unfortunate Necessities’: Violence and Civilization in the Conquest of Algeria.” In France and Its Spaces of War: Experience, Memory, Image. Ed. Patricia Lorcin and Daniel Brewer. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, pp. 29-44.

Ambiguous Glory: The Algerian Conquest and the Politics of Colonial Commemoration in Post-Revolutionary France.” Outre-Mers, revue d’histoire 94, no. 350-351 (2006): 91-102.

L’Algérie devenue française: The Naturalization of Non-French Colonists in French Algeria, 1830-1849.” Proceedings of the Western Society for French History, 30 (2002): 165-177.

Courses Taught

I teach courses in European and French history that emphasize questions of empire and migration, culture and politics, and history and memory. In the past few years, I have offered:

Fall 2022

HIEU 2122, France in the Twentieth Century, 1870-Present

Spring 2022

HIEU 2072, Modern Europe & the World

HIEU 5585/8585-FREN 5585/8585, Thinking France in the World (with Prof. Janet Horne, French)

Fall 2021

HIEU 2121, France in the Age of Revolutions, 1789-1871

HIEU 3501, History Workshop: Crime, Scandal, & Politics in Fin-de-Siècle Europe

Fall 2020-Spring 2021

DEM 7000 & 70001, Democracy Initiative Graduate Seminar: Democracy, War, & Violence (with Prof. Murad Idris, Politics)

Spring 2020

HIEU 1502, Immigration, Race, and Islam in Paris (Introductory Seminar in Post-1700 European History)

HIEU 2702, Modern Europe in the World

Fall 2019

HIEU 3000, Modern European Imperialism

HIEU 4502, Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century (Seminar in Post-1700 European History)

Spring 2019

HIEU 2559, France in the Twentieth Century, 1871-present

HIEU 4502, France and Algeria, from Piracy to Terrorism

Fall 2018

HIEU 2559, France in the Age of Revolution, 1789-1871

Media Appearances

Séries Noires à la Une Podcast, Retronews/BnF, "Algérie coloniale, 1901, la révolte de Margueritte," June 2021.

Paroles d'histoire Podcast, "Statues contestées," July 2020, episodes 1 and 4.

Ottoman History Podcast, “France & Algeria: Origins and Legacies,” episode 409, April 2019.

New Books in History Podcast, By Sword and Plow: France and the Conquest of Algeria, December 2013.