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Olga Witmer

Olga Witmer
Lucy Cavendish College
Lady Margaret Rd
Cambridge CB3 0BU


Olga Witmer is a historian of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Cape of Good Hope, of Germans in the Dutch empire and of Protestantism in the Dutch colonial world. She is more broadly interested in the Dutch empire 1600-1800, early modern German migration and the accommodation of religious difference in the early modern world.

Olga Witmer was born in Amsterdam. She studied History (BA) in Vienna and Global Studies (MA) in Leipzig and completed both degrees with distinction. She then taught German, English and history to secondary school pupils for several years and served as an intern at the Dutch Embassy in South Africa before coming to Cambridge to pursue a PhD.

Witmer’s doctoral research examines the assimilation of Germans at the Dutch Cape of Good Hope (1652-1806). She studies the Cape as a node with extensive ties to both Europe and the Indian Ocean world. Germans formed one group within the Cape’s ethnically diverse society but assimilated remarkably fast as a result of intermarriage and linguistic and religious integration. Witmer is also exploring comparative angles which contrast the Cape against other settlements in the Dutch empire and German communities in North America. She uses sources from South African, German, English and Dutch archives in a wide range of vernacular languages.

She also researches the interaction between the Reformed, Lutheran and Moravian communities and the Danish-Halle Mission in the Dutch empire.

Witmer’s research has been funded by numerous bodies in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria, such as the German Historical Institute London, the German History Society, the OeAD (Austrian Agency for International Mobility and Cooperation in Education, Science and Research) and the Prince Bernhard Culture Fund. She previously received full scholarships from the European Commission (Erasmus Mundus) and DAAD. She was awarded runner up in the 2019 Pollard Prize of the Institute of Historical Research (IHR) in London for the best paper given at an IHR seminar by a PhD candidate or postdoctoral researcher that year.

Witmer was a doctoral fellow at the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz from January to September 2019.

In her spare time, Witmer enjoys playing the violin and piano. She was a member of the Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands and the Pretoria Symphony Orchestra.

Research Supervision

Supervisor: Professor Saul Dubow


  • Economic, Social History
  • Global History
  • Early Modern History
  • International History
  • Imperial History

Key Publications

Olga Witmer, "Een 'zweite Heimat' in Amsterdam. Het Mahlerfeest van 1920 als 'tweede thuis' voor de Europese intelligentsia en Mahlercultuur" ["A 'zweite Heimat' in Amsterdam. The 1920 Mahler Festival as a 'second home' for the European intelligentsia and Mahler culture"], Skript Historisch Tijdschrift 36, no. 3 (2014): 148-157.