Professor Nigel Penn has a PhD from the University of Cape Town. He has written about the impact of colonialism on the Khoisan societies of southern Africa and on the nature of early colonial society in both the Dutch and British periods.

Nigel has been awarded the UCT Book Award three times and won a Choice Award from the American Library Association in 2007. He is interested in using the techniques of microhistory and cultural history to illuminate the contacts that occurred between different societies and individuals in the colonial context of southern Africa and Australia.

Nigel’s current NRF rating is B1.

Research Interests and Areas of Supervision

  • The Cape north-western frontier in the eighteenth century
  • Khoisan history
  • Dutch colonial history

Select publications:


  • The Cambridge History of Violence, Vol. 4. (Cambridge, 2019) co-edited with Louise Edwards and Jay Winter.
  • Science, Africa and Europe: Processing Information and Creating Knowledge (Routledge, 2019) co-edited with Martin Lengwiler and Patrick Harries.
  • Murderers, Miscreants and Mutineers: Early Colonial Cape Lives (Jacana, 2015).
  • Written Culture in a Colonial Context: Africa and the Americas, 1500-1900 (Cape Town: UCT Press, 2011 and Leiden: Brill, 2012) co-edited with Adrien Delmas.
  • The Forgotten Frontier: Colonist and Khoisan on the Cape’s Northern Frontier in the Eighteenth Century (Cape Town: Double Storey Books and Athens, OH: University of Ohio Press, 2005).
  • Rogues, Rebels and Runaways: Eighteenth Century Cape Characters (Cape Town: David Philip and Hilversum: Verloren Publishers, 1999. Reprinted 2003),195 pp.
  • Britain at the Cape, 1795-1803 (Johannesburg: Brenthurst Press, 1992) co-edited with Maurice Boucher.

Journal Articles and Chapters in Books:

  • “The British and the ‘Bushmen’: British Policy and the Massacre and Enslavement of the Cape San, 1795-1828”, Journal of Genocide Studies,(2012)
  • “Soldiers and Cape Town Society”, in Nigel Worden (ed.), Cape Town between East and West: Social Identities in a Dutch Colonial Town (Cape Town: Jacana, 2012), pp. 176-193.
  •  “Written Culture and the Cape Khoikhoi: From Travel Writing to Kolb’s ‘Full Description’”, in Adrien Delmas and Nigel Penn (eds.), Written Culture in a Colonial Context: Africa and the Americas, 1500-1900 (Cape Town: UCT Press, 2011 and Leiden: Brill, 2012), pp. 166-188.
  • “‘Close and Merciful Watchfulness’: John Montagu’s Convict System in the Mid-Nineteenth Century Cape Colony”, Cultural and Social History, 5: 4 (2008), pp. 465-480.