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Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya Paperback – December 27, 2005
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Forty years after Kenyan independence from Britain, the words "Mau Mau" still conjure images of crazed savages hacking up hapless white settlers with machetes. The British Colonial Office, struggling to preserve its far-flung empire of dependencies after World War II, spread hysteria about Kenya's Mau Mau independence movement by depicting its supporters among the Kikuyu people as irrational terrorists and monsters. Caroline Elkins, a historian at Harvard University, has done a masterful job setting the record straight in her epic investigation, Imperial Reckoning. After years of research in London and Kenya, including interviews with hundreds of Kenyans, settlers, and former British officials, Elkins has written the first book about the eight-year British war against the Mau Mau.
She concludes that the war, one of the bloodiest and most protracted decolonization struggles of the past century, was anything but the "civilizing mission" portrayed by British propagandists and settlers. Instead, Britain engaged in an amazingly brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing that seemed to border on outright genocide. While only 32 white settlers were killed by Mau Mau insurgents, Elkins reports that tens of thousands of Kenyans were slaughtered, perhaps up to 300,000. The British also interned the entire 1.5 million population of Kikuyu, the colony's largest ethnic group, in barbed-wire villages, forced-labour reserves where famine and disease ran rampant, and prison camps that Elkins describes as the Kenyan "Gulag." The Kikuyu were subjected to unimaginable torture, or "screening," as British officials called it, which included being whipped, beaten, sodomized, castrated, burned, and forced to eat feces and drink urine. British officials later destroyed almost all official records of the campaign. Elkins infuses her account with the riveting stories of individual Kikuyu detainees, settlers, British officials, and soldiers. This is a stunning narrative that finally sheds light on a misunderstood war for which no one has yet been held officially accountable. --Alex Roslin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
In a major historical study, Elkins, an assistant professor of history at Harvard, relates the gruesome, little-known story of the mass internment and murder of thousands of Kenyans at the hands of the British in the last years of imperial rule. Beginning with a trenchant account of British colonial enterprise in Kenya, Elkins charts white supremacy's impact on Kenya's largest ethnic group, the Kikuyu, and the radicalization of a Kikuyu faction sworn by tribal oath to extremism known as Mau Mau. Elkins recounts how in the late 1940s horrific Mau Mau murders of white settlers on their isolated farms led the British government to declare a state of emergency that lasted until 1960, legitimating a decade-long assault on the Kikuyu. First, the British blatantly rigged the trial of and imprisoned the moderate leader Jomo Kenyatta (later Kenya's first postindependence prime minister). Beginning in 1953, they deported or detained 1.4 million Kikuyu, who were systematically "screened," and in many cases tortured, to determine the extent of their Mau Mau sympathies. Having combed public archives in London and Kenya and conducted extensive interviews with both Kikuyu survivors and settlers, Elkins exposes the hypocrisy of Britain's supposed colonial "civilizing mission" and its subsequent coverups. A profoundly chilling portrait of the inherent racism and violence of "colonial logic," Elkins's account was also the subject of a 2002 BBC documentary entitled Kenya: White Terror. Her superbly written and impassioned book deserves the widest possible readership. B&w photos, maps.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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shows several degrees of misfunctioning during that period and this in kenya like in neighbouring parts of this continent
it means one step towards understanding for those who want to know what went on in those times and why it goes on under other authorities
There is no real excuse for denial of what took place in Kenya David Anderson's book is very well researched and documented but Caroline Elkins is much more emotional - I actually could not finish reading it.
Our national Leaders in the US, Britain and Kenya, in my experience get far too much by manipulating or ignoring history than by making policies that actually take history into account. Kenyatta and Koinange proved to be master Manipulators of Kenya's Mau Mau first using it then supressing it. I remember forest fighters coming out of hiding in a public gathering at Karatina stadium in 1965. Every 5 years here in Kenya the energy buried in those days gets excavated and funded and used to stir ethnic "values" so that one prevails over others.This is a sad legacy that Lead to the Post Election Violence of 2007-8 which led to over 1000 deaths and 600,000 internally displaced persons and had led to both Uhuru and Ruto being indited for Crimes against Humanity including Murder and Rape before they were elected as President and Deputy Pres less than 2 years ago.
Mau Mau in it's original form is long gone but it had been re-invinted as Mungiki fresh for every election cycle - my best Student ever studied Mungiki for his PhD at U of Chicago He now teaches Africana Studies and African religions at Lafayette College.In that sense I think there is a strong case to be made that we all still live in the long shadow s of the twilight of Empire. We were there when the lights went out for the colonial enterprise in Kenya. Of course there were many things that were and have been positive for Kenya that were forged during Kenya's short colonial period. The educational system that we served in and were part of was part of that. Let's not pretend that it was perfect or that the rest was somehow like that too.
I loved the book, It was very informative, poignant, detailed and graphic at times. The story line was however a little confusing because the author did not follow a chronological order, in addition there was a lot of repetition. Overall I give this book 2 thumbs up and recommend it to all Kenyans and anyone who loves history.
Africa that led to Apartied and the deaths of thousands of men, women and children. The ethnic cleansing carried out is comparable of that of Nazi Gernany during World War II. Reading this book leads to a better understanding of the current unrest, both political and economic chaos, destroying Africa today. This book provides a fascinating look at the brutality of genocide no matter where it happens in the world.
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The author is white---I know that shouldn't make a...Read more