Sunday, July 20, 2008

Britain's Mau Mau

Kenya was always Britain’s most troublesome African colony because it was neither one thing nor the other.

It was not on the Atlantic west coast, with a wholly African population, nor in the south, where white settlers dominated. It was betwixt and between. British policy vacillated accordingly. Kenya’s historiography has been similarly stormy. Its controversies are important, not only for what they reveal about Kenya, but also for the light they shed on wider debates about imperialism and colonialism, especially settler colonialism, and the nature of African interaction with it. As to the last, historians used to frame their arguments in simple terms of resistance and collaboration. They have long conceived of a more complex dialogue. That historiographical transition informs the present argument, in which three controversies are examined in the light of colonial Kenya’s seven ages of ambiguity.

Read here from John Lonsdale on the history of colonial Kenya.