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School of Social and Political Science: Staff profiles


Paul Nugent

Paul Nugent
Professor Paul Nugent FRHS
Professor of Comparative African History (School of History, Classics and Archaeology) and Professor in African Studies (School of Social and Political Science), 2005-2017
Room 4.01, 4F1 18 Buccleuch Place Edinburgh UK EH8 9LN
+44 (0)131 650 3879
Research Interests
African borderlands, Wine history, Comparative African History, Taxation, African militaries and bureaucracies, Colonial/imperial history, Slavery and Slave Trade, Ghana politics and history, Trade and transport


BA Hons (Cape Town), MA (London), PhD (London), FRHistS


Professor of Comparative African History

Outline Biography

Paul is a graduate of the University of Cape Town (first degree and first postgraduate degree, 1980-83) and holder of a Masters and a doctorate from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. He held a temporary lectureship in Comparative Politics at the University of Keele in 1987/88, before taking up a Lectureship in African History at Edinburgh. He was promoted to Reader in 2003 and Professor in 2005. He was the Director of the Centre of African Studies for ten years and was formerly co-Director of the Edinburgh International Development Centre.

Paul was the President of AEGIS, the Centre-based African Studies association in Europe between 2008 and 2015, and as such has been intimately involved in the European African Studies scene. In 2014/15, Paul was a Fellow of the Stellenbosch Institute of Advanced Study (STIAS) working on a project on South African wine and global connectivity. Over 2015/16, he was a Member of the Institute of Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, working on a comparison of borders and state-making in Ghana and Uganda. He is the holder of the most prestigious European Research Council Advanced Grant (€2.5 million over 5 years) for a multi-regional comparative project entitled African Governance and Space: Transport Corridors, Border Towns and Port Cities in Transition (AFRIGOS). The project began in January 2016. See

Research Interests

Paul's current research interests lie, firstly, in the comparative history of West African borderlands. He is completing a monograph entitled Boundaries, Communities and State-Making in the Senegambia and the Trans-Volta: The Centrality of the Margins, c. 1750 to the Present (contracted to Cambridge University Press). The book deals simultaneously with colonial state creation and the construction of ideas of community. It is based on archival and field research in the Gambia, Senegal, Ghana and Togo. The study, which compares two Franco-British border zones deals with taxation and population control as factors that invested borders with varying levels of importance for the colonial states and their post-colonial successors. It also demonstrates how these impinged on structures of local administration, contraband, the shaping of land use practices and definitions of belonging . These varied significantly between the Senegambia and the trans-Volta regions. The AFRIGOS project represents a major new line of research which focuses on the governance effects of large-scale investments in infrastructure and the harmonization of Customs, Immigration and security across Africa. Apart from being the grantholder, Paul will carry out field research on the West African and East African case-studies. He will be working on this project with Wolfgang Zeller, Jose-Maria Munoz, Sidy Cissokho, Hugh Lamarque, Isabella Soi and a PhD student.

Paul is the initiator of the African Borderlands Research Network (ABORNE) which has been funded by the European Science Foundation for 5 years from 2009, and he chairs its steering committee. In a more applied role, Paul has served as a resource person for the African Union Border Programme (AUBP) and signed an MOU with the latter on behalf of ABORNE in April 2011. More recently, he has been involved in discussions with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on ways in which academic research might assist the latter's Cross-Border Cooperation agenda. This engagement with AUBP and ECOWAS has been supported by a Knowledge Exchange Grant from the College of Humanities and Social Science. 

Secondly, Paul has an ongoing interest in the history of post-colonial states and his Africa Since Independence entered its second edition in 2012. Paul is consulted from time to time by the policy community. He is engaged in ongoing research on electoral politics in Ghana, and served as a short-term election observer for the Carter Center in 2008. He also served on the latter's evaluation team which travelled to Ghana in 2012 and again in 2016 to assess the climate in the run-up to the polls.

Thirdly, since 2009, Paul has been engaged in researching a history of the Cape wine industry with the support of a Leverhulme Research Fellowship. The project entitled "Race, Taste and Power: The Cape Wine Industry" combines a history of (stalled) innovations in the industry with an analysis of the role of racialised discourses and practices in shaping wine consumption patterns and vice versa. The project spans the twentieth century. In 2012 and 2013, Paul wasa Fellow of the Stellenbosch Institute of Advanced Study (STIAS) to work on a project entitled "Wine, Temperance and South African Connectivity, c.1900 to the Present".

Paul was a member of the international advisory board advising the German Research Council Priority Programme on "Adaptation and Creativity in Africa: Technologies and Significations in the Production of Order and Disorder”. He has also served on research evaluation panels for the German DFG and the Volkswagen Foundation.He has  also been an advisor to a project financed by the National Research Fund of Luxembourg entitled "Informal Trade and Cross-Border Integration in West Africa (CROSSTRADE)". Closer to home, he has been a member of the Philip Leverhulme Prize Committee for History. Finally, Paul also served on the UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) panel for History in 2014. Paul was formerly an elected council member of the Royal African Society. 

Paul was the co-editor of the Journal of Modern African Studies (Cambridge University Press) from September 2012 until September 2017, alongside Leo Villalón. He has since oined the editorial board. He is also a member of the  boards of Afriche e Orienti, Revista Africana Studia, Africa Spectrum, Journal of Borderland Studies, Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana, Journal of African Peace and Security, and Africa Review. He was a founding co-editor of the African Borderlands book series published by Palgrave Macmillan.

Current Research Students

Paul has supervised 23 successful PhD projects and is currently supervising the following students :

Ivan Cuesta

Tom Cunningham

Henry Mitchell

Ellie Gambino

Sokhna Ndoye

Denis Galava


  • Postgraduate: Modern Africa (African Studies, core course)
  • Postgraduate: Slavery, Forced Labour and Identity in African History (History option)
  • Postgraduate: Gender and Imperialism (History option)
  • Undergraduate: Slavery, Community and the State in West Africa c.1700-1910 (History Option)
  • Undergraduate: Ghana: From Colonialism to Socialism (History Option)
  • Undergraduate: Ethnicity, Class and Power in Twentieth-Century Africa c.1880-1983 (History 4MA)
  • Undergraduate: Wine in Global History: Regulation, Consumption and Contention (History option)

Paul was previously external examiner for the History Tripos at the University of Cambridge. 



Boundaries, Communities and State-Making in the Senegambia and the Trans-Volta: The Centrality of the Margins, c. 1750 to the Present (Cambridge University Press, 2019).

'Africa's re-enchantment with big infrastructure: white elephants dancing in virtuous circles"', in Jon Schubert, Ulf Engel and Elisio Macamo (eds.), Extractive Industries and African States in the Twent-First Century (Routledge, 2018).

 Recent Publications 

Isabella Soi and Paul Nugent, 'Peripheral urbanism in Africa: border towns and twin towns in Africa', Journal of Borderlands Studies, 32:4, 2017, pp. 535-556, DOI: 10.1080/08865655.2016.1196601. To link to this article: 

'The future of states in Africa: prospects for the reordering of space and the remaking of bureaucracies' in "Multiple Futures - Africa, China, Europe", special issue of Comparativ 26, 2, 2016, pp.75-91.

A Decade of Ghana: Politics, Economy and Society, 2004-13 (with M. Amoah, K. Aning and N. Annan). Leiden: Brill, 2015

'Modernity, tradition and intoxication: comparative lessons from South Africa and West Africa",  in Phil Withington and Angela McShane (eds.), Cultures of IntoxicationPast and Present Supplement 9, 2014.

African independence and its others: decolonization and the margins', Nations and Nationalism 19, 3, July 2013, pp. 442-449.

"Haben nationen einen Magen? Essen, Trinken und vorgestellte Gemeinschaften in Afrika", in Thomas Bierschenk and Eva Spies (eds.), 50 Jahre Unabhängigkeit in Afrika: Kontinuitäten, Brüche, Perspektiven. Köln: Rüdiger Koppe Verlag, 2012.

'Who killed innovation in the Cape wine industry? The story of a stuck fermentation, c.1930-1986', in Jan-Bart Gewald, Andre Leliveld and Iva Pesa (eds.) Transforming Innovations in Africa: Explorative Studies on Appropriation in African Societies. Leiden: Brill, 2012.

Product DetailsAfrica Since Independence: A Comparative History (2nd edition). Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

2012. 'Border towns and cities in comparative perspective: barriers, flows and governance', in Thomas Wilson and Hastings Donnan (eds.) A Companion to Border Studies (Blackwell Companion to Anthropology). Oxford: Blackwell

A Companion to Border Studies

'Autour d'une livre: Neoliberal Frontiers: An Ethnography of Sovereignty in West Africa'(debate), Politique Africaine 123, October 2011, pp.137-41.

'The temperance movement and wine farmers at the Cape: collective action, racial discourse and legislative reform c.1890-1965', Journal of African History 52, 2011. 

'Bourdieu and De Certeau at the border post: trans-boundary communities, government officials and everyday life in West Africa', in Nikolaus Schareika, Eva Spies and Pierre-Yves Le Meur (eds.), Auf dem Boden der Tatsachen: Festschrift fur Thomas Bierschenk. Koln: Rudiger Koeppe Verlag, 2011.

co-edited with Hana Horakova and Peter Skalnik, Africa: Power and Powerlessness. Berlin: Lit Verlag, 2011.


'Do nations have stomachs? Food, drink and imagined community in Africa', Africa Spectrum 3, 2010.

'Nkrumah and Rawlings: political lives in parallel?', Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana 12, 2009-2010. 

'States and social contracts in Africa', New Left Review, 63, May-June, 2010.

 'The Historicity of Ethnicity: Mandinka/Jola and Ewe/Agotime identities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries', in Alexander Keese (ed.) Ethnicity and the Long-Term Perspective. Boston & Berne: Peter Lang, 2010.           

'Afrika', in Johannes Deissler (ed.) Handworterbuch der Antiken Sklaverei. Mainz: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2010. 

'The successful Ghana election of 2008: a convenient myth?', Journal of Modern African Studies 48 (1) 2010, 95-116 (with Heinz Jockers and Dick Kohnert).                                                             

paul photo 2

  co-edited with Ulf Engel. Respacing Africa. Leiden: Brill, 2010.



'Critical African Studies: a voluntarist manifesto', Critical African Studies, issue 1, 2009


co-edited with Francesca Locatelli, African Cities: Competing Claims on Urban Spaces. Leiden: Brill, 2009.


'Putting the history back into ethnicity: enslavement, religion and cultural brokerage in the construction of Mandinka/Jola and Ewe/Agotime identities in West Africa, c.1650-1930', Comparative Studies in Society and History 50 (4) (2008) 920-948.

'Not so much boom towns as trickle towns:  a comparison of  two West African border towns, Kpetoe (Ghana)  and Darsilami (the Gambia)', in Yomi Akinyeye (ed.), That They May Be One: African Boundaries and Regional Integration - Essays in Honour of Professor Anthony I. Asiwaju. Imeko: African Regional Institute, 2008. 

'Border anomalies: the role of local actors in shaping spaces along the Gambia-Senegal and Ghana-Togo borders' in Alice Bellagamaba and Georg Klute (eds.), Beside the State: Emergent Powers in Contemporary Africa. Cologne: Rudiger Koppe Verlag, 2008.

'Cyclical History in the Gambia/Casamance Borderland: Refuge, Settlement and Islam from c. 1880 to the Present', Journal of African History 48(2) (2007) 221-243.

'Migracion, fronteras y creacion del Estado: comparacion de los patrones del Africa Occidentale y del Sur", Nova Africa 20, 2007, 7-26.

'African studies in Britain', in David Dabydeen, John Gilmore and Cecily Jones (eds.), Oxford Companion to Black British History. Oxford University Press, 2007)



co-edited with Sara Dorman and Dan Hammett, Citizenship in Africa: Making Citizens, Creating Strangers (Brill, 2006).

 'Banknotes and symbolic capital: Ghana's elections under the Fourth Republic', in M. Basedau, G. Erdmann and A. Mehler (eds.), Votes, Money and Violence: Political Parties and Elections in Sub-Saharan Africa (Nordic Africa Institute, 2006). 

'Les élections Ghanéens de 2004: anatomie d'un systeme bipartite', Politique Africaine 97 (2005)

‘Borderland identities in comparative perspective: chieftaincy, religion and belonging along the Ghana-Togo and Senegal-Gambia borders’, in Per Hernaes (ed.), The Role of Tradition and Modernity in African Political Cultures and Urban Conflicts: The Case of Ghana in Comparative Perspective. Trondheim University of Science and Technology, 2005.

'A regional melting-pot: the Ewe and their neighbours in the Ghana-Togo borderlands’, in Benjamin Lawrance et al. (eds.), The Ewes of Togo and Benin. Accra: Woeli, 2004.


Africa Since Independence: A Comparative History. Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.



Smugglers, Secessionists and Loyal Citizens of the Ghana-Togo Frontier: The Lie of the Borderlands Since 1914 . James Currey, Ohio University Press and Sub-Saharan Publishers, 2003. 

 Co-editor (with Barbara Trudell, Kenneth King and Simon McGrath) of Africa's Young Majority: Victims, Meanings, Actors (Centre of African Studies, Edinburgh University, 2002).

'Winners, losers and also rans: money, moral authority and voting patterns in the Ghana 2000 election’, African Affairs 100, 4000 (July 2001).

'The things that money can buy: chieftaincy, the media and the 1996 elections in Hohoe-North constituency’, Ghana Studies, 4 (2001).

Co-editor (with Carola Lentz) of Ethnicity in Ghana: The Limits of Invention. Macmillan & St Martin's Press, 2000.


(with Carola Lentz), 'Ethnicity in Ghana: a comparative perspective', in Carola Lentz and Paul Nugent (eds.), Ethnicity in Ghana: The Limits of Invention. Macmillan & St. Martin's Press, 2000.

 ‘“A few lesser peoples”: The Central Togo minorities and their Ewe neighbours’, in Carola Lentz and Paul Nugent (eds.), Ethnicity in Ghana: The Limits of Invention. Macmillan & St. Martin's Press, 2000.

  ‘Résonances du passé dans les élections de 1992 et 1996’, in Comi M. Toulabor (ed.), Le Ghana de J.J. Rawlings: restauration de l'état et renaissance du politique. Paris: Karthala, 2000.

‘The art of dissimulation: smugglers, informers and the preventive service along the Ghana-Togo frontier, 1920-1939’, in C. Dubois, M. Michel and P. Soumille (eds.), Frontières plurielles, frontières conflictuelles en Afrique subsaharienne. Paris: l'Harmattan, 2000).

 African Boundaries: Barriers, Conduits and Opportunities (co-edited with A.I. Asiwaju), African Boundaries: Barriers, Conduits and Opportunities. London and New York: Frances Pinter, 1996.

 Big Men, Small Boys and Politics in Ghana: Power, Ideology and the Burden of History, 1982-1994 Big Men, Small Boys and Politics in Ghana: Power, Ideology and the Burden of History, 1982-1994. London and New York: Frances Pinter, 1996. 

And Also...

He also has a blog on wine and borders: 

For an interesting discovery of the link between wine and jazz, see: 


(Me and Boland Coetzee)

Topics interested in supervising

I am interested in supervising topics related to borderlands (the history of African borders and contemporary border dynamics); regional integration; consumption more broadly and alcohol quite specifically; African politics (especially West Africa); African cities and on popular culture. I am also happy enough to supervise students in the area of imperial and colonial history with specific reference to Africa. Topics of a comparative nature are especially welcome.

If you are interested in being supervised by Paul Nugent, please see the links below for more information:

PhD In African Studies