Professor Nigel Penn

Nigel-PennProfessor 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.




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.

Current research projects:

Nigel is currently working on a book of essays on crime and culture in the colonial Cape between 1700 and 1820. He is also researching the history of the Cape convict labour system and planning a book on the history of the Khoikhoi. He is part of a research team (that includes Professors Philip Dwyer and Lyndall Ryan from the University of Newcastle, Australia and Professor Barbara Mann from University of Toledo, Ohio) working on a project funded by the Australian Research Council on the role of massacre in the colonial world between 1780 and 1820.

Areas of postgraduate supervision:

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

Office hours:

Monday to Friday, 09:00 – 13:00.
Please email for alternative appointment times.

Contact details:

Office: Beattie 232, Upper Campus, UCT
Phone: 021 650 2954