Frontiers of colonial genocide?

School of Humanities and Social Science

Frontiers of colonial genocide? The Northern Cape and Australian settler/hunter-gatherer frontiers compared

Nigel Penn

Friday, 11 September
10am to 11am
(with morning tea/coffee afterwards)

Cultural Collections Reading Room (near the Information Common), Level 2, Auchmuty Library, Callaghan Campus

This paper will compare the frontiers of colonial expansion, which advanced at the expense of hunter-gatherer societies, in the Cape and in Australia during the 18th and 19th centuries. These frontiers were marked by very high levels of violence and fought with an almost genocidal intention on the part of the frontier settlers. The paper will seek to explain the ferocity of the fighting and ask which conditions were similar, and which were different in the respective colonies. It will discuss the role of government policy on these frontiers and seek to explain why humanitarian initiatives, particularly during the periods when both countries were under British control, failed to halt the violence. Finally, the paper will ask why it was that the Aborigines survived in Australia whereas the Cape San (the/Xam) did not, and whether it is appropriate to use the concept of genocide in discussing these events.

Associate Professor Nigel Penn teaches South African History in the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Cape Town. He is the author of numerous books, including Rogues, Rebels and Runaways: Eighteenth-Century Cape Characters (D. Philip, 1999); and The Forgotten Frontier: Colonists and Khoisan on the Cape’s Northern Frontier in the 18th Century (Ohio University Press, 2006). His current research on convict labour in the Cape Colony draws on connections with Australian history.

Staff, students and members of the public are welcome

Enquiries to:    Michael Ondaatje (

One thought on “Frontiers of colonial genocide?

  1. Pingback: History Seminar Series, Semester 2, 2009 « UoN Cultural Collections

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