I was born in South Africa and completed my first degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban. I then received a Japanese Government (Monbukagakushō) fellowship which enabled me first to study as a research student and later to complete my MA in East Asian History at Niigata University in Japan. My thesis, Taiwan shokuminchi shoki ni tōchi seisaku ni okeru Eikoku no eikyō (British Influence on Japanese colonial policy in Taiwan), focused on colonial Taiwan and was submitted in 2002. In that year I moved to Columbia where I completed my PhD under the supervision of, first, Professor Henry Smith and, later, Professor David Lurie. The thesis focused on the relationship between the Dutch East India Company and the Tokugawa shogun and was later republished as a (much revised) book in 2014 by Columbia University Press. I have taught at Monash since 2008.