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Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya Paperback – December 27, 2005
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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
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.
Top Customer Reviews
I found that in parts of the book Elkins repeats herself however, which made for a few dry parts of the book.
This book deals with some very graphic material that Elkins does not hesitate to state repeatedly. If you read this book, be prepared to read of monstrous torture stories on men, women and children.
Overall, this was a fantastic book. I could hardly put it down.
Also, while I am for the most part in agreement with the views of the author and no fan of the British empire or its impact on colonial cultures, I must say Ms. Elkins is a bit over-the-top in her defense of the Mau Mau rebels and her indictment of their British overlords. It's rare in 2005 to see an author boldly defending the local African custom of female genital circumcision, or the blood oaths of the Mau Mau which required taking a life and ingesting parts of the human sacrifice.
On the whole, the book is an impressive first effort and a solid example of graduate-level research. I believe a more textured, nuanced approach to this material can be written, building on the first-hand accounts that Ms. Elkins has so comprehensively collected.
"Mau Mau: The Kenyan Emergency" by Peter Baxter is a very clean, very nice and respectable report on the official actions of the British governmental officials during the years 1950 - 1060. The detail of the official actions of the government are well laid out. The names and personalities of the Kenyan governors and others in power are nicely laid out. Peter Baxter was born in Kenya, now lives in the US, and writes extensively of African history, especially the wars of liberation 1950 - 1980.
But, reading this at the same time as reading "Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya" by Caroline Elkins, a Harvard Graduate Student, the difference in the sides of the story told is amazing. Baxter briefly mentions brutality and mental illness, and how the majority of the deaths were in his account black on black. Baxter mentions the pipeline of detainees and forced labor but does not delve into the horrors of these camps like Elkins does. Baxter makes brief reference to the racism and immorality of the white settlers. Elkins remarks on a Nairobi social club frequently visited by the settlers in which on entrance the members were obliged by their own rules to switch partners and rooms were provided for "entertainment." The screenings of all blacks in Nairobi for Mau Mau sympathy and aid, Operation Anvil, is mentioned in both books. Baxter merely states the men and many women were taken to detainee camps outside the city. Elkins talks of beatings, torture, castration, starvation, exposure to elements and other mistreatment of the blacks taken off the street on the merest whiff of evidence, suspicion, or retaliation that occurred in those detention camps.Read more ›
This outstanding book exposes those lies, showing how colonial government forces in Kenya killed between 200,000 and 300,000 people in the 1950s. Elkins details the government `campaign of terror, dehumanizing torture, and genocide' marked by detention without trial, forced labour, collective punishments, deprivation of medical care, systematic starvation and murders.
The colonial government stole the Kenyan people's land, starved them and then blamed them for not feeding their children properly. Using the same tactics as in South Africa and Malaya, the imperial forces torched the homes of a million Kenyans then forcibly resettled them into compounds behind barbed wire.
The people resisted and fought for their freedom. The judge at the nationalist leaders' trial, who got £20,000 for his verdict, admitted that it was a national liberation struggle when he denounced `this foul scheme of driving the Europeans from Kenya'.
The British government demonised all who opposed colonialism as `terrorists'. It detained without trial up to 320,000 people in punishment camps, where the official policy was systematic brutality, using sexual violence and humiliation. Guards were indoctrinated into a fascist mentality, describing and treating Africans as animals. The assistant police commissioner said that camp conditions were worse than he had experienced in Japanese POW camps.
Critics asked how many camps were run by British forces. How many people had been arrested and detained? On what charges? Were they made to work in the camps? If so, for how long and in what conditions?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The book is a deep read into the crisis of managing an empire with results that were beyond the pale. The Mau Mau crisis the west never understood because it was so hidden. Read morePublished 8 months ago by andy hanson
Wow, there is so much information in this book about a really difficult and sad time in the life of Africa. The author really did a ton of homework and research and interviews. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Devon
A very weighty tome; more than I bargained for. Good info; well researched. Just not an "accessible" book for the average reader.Published 10 months ago by Tom Halvorsen
Kenya in the "Emergency" of the Mau-Mau rebellion by the Kikuyu people filled the 1950s up to the early 1960s British decision to relinquish "colonial" control and... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Michael Putman
I grew up in Kenya in Kikuyu and I always heard stories from my grandmother and great grandmother how horrible the British were, but I was young and had no idea how bad it was for... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Pablo
Interesting and still trying to determine the accuracy of some of the more controversial claimsPublished 15 months ago by Mark Cooper
A compelling account of a forgotten past, one that tried to stay buried. It is sad, shocking, a little tedious, but well researched and written. Read morePublished 18 months ago by toolman