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0805076530 Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story Of Britain's Gulag in Kenya by Caroline Elkins. New York. 2005. Henry Holt. 477 pages. Jacket photograph - PopperfotolRetrofile.com. Jacket design by John Candell. 0805076530.

 

Until fairly recently this story of the brutality exacted on the Kenyan population, particularly the Kikuyus, by the colonial Kenyan government with the knowledge and approval of the British Foreign Office was not common knowledge. Caroline Elkins' book corrects this historical neglect and puts the resistance of the Kenyan people in in its proper context.

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   For decades Western imperialists have waged wars and destroyed local populations in the name of civilization and democracy. From 1952 to 1960, after a violent uprising by native Kenyans, the British detained and brutalized hundreds of thousands of Kikuyu - the colony's largest ethnic group - who had demanded their independence. In the eyes of the British colonizers, the men and women who fought in the insurgency - Mau Mau as it was then called - weren't freedom fighters but rather savages of the lowest order. The British felt justified, in the name of civilization, in crushing those who challenged colonial rule, even if it meant violating their basic human rights. Later, to cover up this stain on its past, the British government ordered all documentation relating to detention and torture during its last days of rule in Kenya destroyed. In a groundbreaking debut, Harvard historian Caroline Elkins has recovered the lost history of the last days of British colonialism in Kenya. In a compelling narrative that draws upon nearly a decade of painstaking research - including hundreds of interviews with Kikuyu detention camp survivors and their captors - Elkins reveals for the first time what Britain so desperately tried to hide. In the aftermath of World War II and the triumph of liberal democracy over fascism, the British detained nearly the entire Kikuyu population - some one and a half million people - for more than eight years. Inside detention camps and barbed-wire villages, the Kikuyu lived in a world of fear, hunger, and death. Their only hope for survival was a full denunciation of their anti-British beliefs. IMPERIAL RECKONING is history of the highest order: meticulously researched, brilliantly written, and powerfully dramatic. An unforgettable act of historical re-creation, it is also a disturbing reminder of the brutal imperial precedents that continue to inform Western nations in their drive to democratize the world. 'IMPERIAL RECKONINGS is an incredible piece of historical sleuthing. The author has reconstructed the story that British officialdom almost succeeded in suppressing. Her sources are the Mau Mau fighters and sympathizers whom the British detained in concentration camps during the 1950s. Her interviews with the survivors of this British 'gulag' are a labor of love and courage - impressive in their frankness and deep emotional content as well as properly balanced between men and women, colonial officials, and Mau Mau detainees. Caroline Elkins tells a story that would never have made it into the historical record had she not persevered and collected information from the last generation of Mau Mau detainees alive to bear witness to what happened. ' - ROBERT TIGNOR, Rosengarten Professor Of Modern And Contemporary History, Princeton University. 'Caroline Eikins has written an important book that can change our understanding not just of Africa but of ourselves. Through exhaustive research in neglected colonial archives and intrepid reporting among long-forgotten Kikuyu elders in Kenya's Rift Valley, Eikins has documented not just the true scale of a huge and harrowing crime--Britain's ruthless suppression of the Mau Mau rebellion - but also the equally shocking concealment of that crime and the inversion of historical memory. ' - BULL BERKELEY, Author Of THE GRAVES ARE NOR YET FULL: RACE, TRIBE AND POWER IN THE HEART OF AFRICA.

 

 

 

Elkins Caroline CAROLINE ELKINS is an assistant professor of history at Harvard University. Her research in various aspects of the late colonial period in Africa has won numerous awards, including the Fulbright and Andrew W. Mellon fellowships, as well as a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She and her work were the subjects of a BBC documentary entitled Kenya: White Terror. This is her first book.



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