School of Social and Political Science

Professor Paul Nugent

Job Title

Professor of Comparative African History (History, Classics and Archaeology)

Paul Nugent's photo

Room number

4.01, 4F1

Building (Address)


Street (Address)

Buccleuch Place

City (Address)


Country (Address)

United Kingdom

Post code (Address)




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


Professor of Comparative African History

Visiting Professor, University of Johannesburg

Google scholar page:

Research Gate:

Outline Biography

I am 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. I 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. I was promoted to Reader in 2003 and Professor in 2005. I was the Director of the Centre of African Studies for ten years and was formerly co-Director of the Edinburgh International Development Centre.

Externally, I was the President of AEGIS, the Centre-based African Studies association in Europe between 2008 and 2015, As such, I have been intimately involved in the European African Studies scene. In 2014/15, I 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, I was privileged to be a Member of the Institute of Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, working on a comparison of borders and state-making in Ghana and Uganda.

I am 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 and ends in June 2022, following a COVID extension. See

I am also the PI for a collaborative project funded by the British Academy, on  Border Festivals, Dvided Communities and Practical Governance in West Africa. This is a collaboration with colleagues in Edinburgh (Jose-Maria Muñoz), the University of Ghana (Samuel Ntewusu Aniegye and Edem Adotey), l'Université de Lomé (Kokou Azamede), the University of Cagliari (Isabella Soi) and George Washington University (Elaine Peña).


  • Postgraduate: Consumption in Africa: History, Personhood and Identity
  • Postgraduate: Modern Africa (African Studies, core course - not running)
  • Postgraduate: Slavery, Forced Labour and Identity in African History (History option - not running)
  • Postgraduate: Gender and Imperialism (History option - not running)
  • 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) - running 2020/21

I was previously external examiner for the History Tripos at the University of Cambridge and for the Masters in African Studies in Oxford.



'Lomé and Aflao: ambivalent affinity at the Ghana-Togo border', in J. Garrard and E. Mikhailova (eds.), Twin Cities: Borders, Urban Communities and Relationships Over Time (Routledge)

"Making borders, closing frontiers and identifying smuggling: comparative histories", in Max Gallien and Florian Weigand (eds.),The Routledge Handbook of Smuggling

Race, Taste and the Grape in South Africa: The Cape Wine Industry in a Global Context (CUP, 2022).

with Hugh Lamarque (eds.),  Transport Corridors in Africa (James Currey, 2022)

Under Review

'Turning water into wine: the curious history of terroir in South Africa' (journal article)

'When is a corridor just a road? Understanding thwarted ambitions along the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor' (book chapter)

Recent Publications 

(31 August 2021). 'Nationalism and decolonization in the Gold Coast' (book chapter),  Oxford Research Encyclopaedia of African History,

(with Falisse J-B, Macdonald R, Molony T), 'Why have so many African leaders died of COVID-19?' BMJ Global Health. 2021 May 17;6(5):1-6. e005587.

(with) Gildfred Asiamah, Thomas Molony and Edem Selormey,  COVID-19 and Ghana's 202 Elections (March 2021),…

(with Isabella Soi), 'One-Stop Border Posts in East Africa: state encounters of the fourth kind,  Journal of Eastern African Studies, published online 26 May 2020,

'Symmetry and affinity: comparing borders and boundary-making processes in Africa', in Didier Fassin (ed.),  Deepening Divides: How Territorial Borders and Social Boundaries Delineate Our World. Pluto, 2020.

'Seeing the trees for the wood: the environmental and human consequences of partition in the Senegambian borderlands', in Werner Zips and Manuela Zips-Maritsch (ed.),  The Economy of Conservation: Livings Museums and Community-Based Development in African Borderlands (Lit Verlag, 2019).

Boundaries, Communities and State-Making in West Africa: The Centrality of the Margins book coverBoundaries, Communities and State-Making in West Africa: The Centrality of the Margins (Cambridge University Press, June 2019), ISBN: 978-1107622500 (hbk), 978-1107622500 (pbk)

'Lomé and Aflao: a special relationship', in Sahel and West Africa Club & OECD  Population and Morphology of Border Cities (Paris: OECD Publishing, 2019), pp.54-55

'Border Politics', in  Oxford Encyclopedia of African Politics. Oxford University Press (2019), doi:

'Border studies: temporality, space and scale', in Matthias Middell (eds.)  Handbook of Transregional Studies, Routledge History Handbooks (Routledge, 2018), ISBN 9781138718364

'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 Changing State Dynamics in Africa: Beyond the Resource Curse (Routledge, 2018),

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: 

'Afrika', in H. Heinen et al. (eds.)  Handwörterbuch der Antiken Sklaverei.  Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2017, pp. 58-60.

'Alcohol in Africa' web dossier:

'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: Kontinuit ä ten, 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.

Africa Since Independence book coverAfrica Since Independence: A Comparative History (2nd edition). Palgrave Macmillan, 2012 [3rd edition, planned for 2019]

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

'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).

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

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





African Cities book coverco-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)

Citizenship in Africa: Making Citizens, Creating Strangers book coverco-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 book coverAfrica 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 book coverSmugglers, 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.

Ethnicity in Ghana: The Limits of Invention book cover(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. London and New York: Frances Pinter, 1996. 

And Also...

I also maintain a blog on wine and borders:

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

Research interests

Research interests

African borderlands, Wine history, Comparative African History, African militaries and bureaucracies, Colonial/imperial history, Slavery and Slave Trade, Ghana politics and history, Trade and transport, Customs and Taxation, Africa and Global Temperance

My current research interests lie, firstly, in the comparative history of West African borderlands. I have just completed a (very large!) monograph entitled Boundaries, Communities and State-Making in West Africa: The Centrality of the Margins which  will be published simultaneously in paperback and hardback by Cambridge University Press in July 2019. The book deals simultaneously with colonial state creation and the construction of ideas of community in the Senegambia and the trans-Volta. It is based on archival and field research in the Gambia, Senegal, Ghana, Togo, France and the UK. 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, I will carry out field research on the West African and East African case-studies. I am pleased to have worked on this project with Wolfgang Zeller, Jose-Maria Muñoz, Sidy Cissokho, Hugh Lamarque, Tim Zajontz, Isabella Soi (University of Cagliari) and Ellie Gambino (the PhD student for the project, completed 2021).

I was the initiator of the African Borderlands Research Network (ABORNE) which was funded by the European Science Foundation between 2009-2014, and I still chair its steering committee. In a more applied role, I have 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. I have 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 was previously supported by a Knowledge Exchange Grant from the College of Humanities and Social Science. In 2021, I joined the Africa-Europe Strategic Taskforce, as a member of the group dealing with transport and connectivity, which is convened by the Africa Europe Foundation with the backing of the EU and the AU.

Secondly, I have an ongoing interest in the history of post-colonial states, and Africa Since Independence entered its second edition in 2012. I am consulted from time to time by the policy community. I am engaged in ongoing research on electoral politics in Ghana, and served as a short-term election observer for the Carter Center in 2008. I 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, I have 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, I was a 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".

For a contribution to the debate about the ban on alcohol sales and exports under COVID lockdown, listen to the 'Money Show' on South African Radio 702:

With effect from September 2018, I will serve as a member of the advisory board of the newly-established Merian Institute for Advanced Studies Africa (MIASA) located at the University of Ghana. I previously served as 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”. I have 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)". I am currently a member of the external advisory board for the Global South Studies Centre (GSSC) in Koln. And from the end of 2018, I will serve on the advistory board for a project funded by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs entitled "Domestic Security Implications of UN Peacekeeping (D-SIP)".

I have also served on research evaluation panels for the German DFG and the Volkswagen Foundation. In 2017, I was a member of the DFG (German Research Council) panel evaluating Clusters of Excellence bids. Closer to home, I have participated as a member of the Philip Leverhulme Prize Committee for History. Finally, I was member of the UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) panel for History in 2014 and will serve again in this capacity in 2021. Formerly, I was an elected council member of the Royal African Society.

I was the co-editor of the Journal of Modern African Studies (Cambridge University Press) from September 2012 until September 2017, alongside Leo Villalón. I have since joined the editorial board of JMAS. I am also a member of the  boards of Afriche e Orienti, Revista Africana Studia, Africa SpectrumJournal of Borderlands Studies, Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana, Journal of African Peace and Security, Africa (Roma), and Africa Review. I was a founding co-editor of the African Borderlands book series published by Palgrave Macmillan.

Current Research Students

I have supervised 28 successful PhD projects and am currently supervising the following students :

Ellie Gambino

Sokhna Ndoye

Denis Galava

Suvi Lensu

Keskine Owusu Poku

Francesco Longo

Danse de Bondt (EDOLAD/Tilburg University)

Millie Morgan [HCA]

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: