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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A One-sided View of History, Jan. 30 2008
By 
Ian Gordon Malcomson (Victoria, BC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya (Paperback)
Elkins is a very capable historian who endeavours to shed some light on the plight of the Mau Mau organization in Kenya as it experienced significant repression at the hands of the British in the 1950s. With the use of oral accounts provided by a number of its key members, Elkins pieces together a sad and tragic story of a terrorist movement that was both intentionally demonized, systematically villified, and unnecessarily persecuted out of existence. While some of her research is compelling, she has made the fatal mistake of looking at the white settlers and the colonial government as the terrorists and the Mau Mau as the unfortunate victims of genocide. If she spent a little more time, like Anderson did in "Histories of the Hanged", and set the stage for this conflict, the reader might have better idea as to why the Mau Mau rebelled in the first place. It was the fear of losing their squatter rights on white farms that enticed some of them to resort to violence. Many,who were normally peace loving people, were intimidated into taking the secret oath of allegiance to the Mau Mau cause. The rash of murders and assassinations in the early 50s caused the British governor in Nairobi to quickly enforce emergency rule and all its stringent effects. Conveniently forgetting this, Elkins portrays the British as schoolyard bullies and villains of the piece in their unscrupulous campaign to divide and conquer the Kikuyu tribe in the Rift Valley. According to her, the colonial adminstration missed out on a golden opportunity to negotiate a truce with the moderate Mau Mau Kenyatta. For Elkins, the whole sorry mess of seven years of civil unrest could have easily been avoided if the British had tempered their treatment of a poor defenceless people. All that heavy-handed use of torture, detention, and expropriation only led to a humiliation of a people who cause was just though its methods dubious. It is Elkins' belief that Britain was guilty of conducting an unofficial act of calculably and ruthlessly destroying the heart of Kenyan culture in order to support the claims of the white settlers and reward the loyalists for their support. Her motive for making this claim is that someone, as a white knight, has to stand up and tell the world of all the terrible atrocities the British visited on its subjects in the interests of the Empire. The only thing wrong about this book is that its reporting of the facts are skewed so as to create the impression that the British overreaction made a bad situation worse. Even Kenyatta, upon becoming president of Kenya in 1962, conceded that he would have done the same as the Brits in imposing martial law in an attempt to curb the growing mayhem.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A good representation of what happened in Kenya, May 3 2014
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Caroline Elkins did a thorough job in researching on the subject matter and that can be seen as you flip through the pages of the book. It is an easy read and rather captivating.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Imperial Reckoning, Aug. 6 2013
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M. Mabayeke (Toronto, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya (Paperback)
Still reading. So far, it paints an insightful picture of the situation on the ground at that time in history
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5.0 out of 5 stars What came before Jamhuri, Oct. 23 2010
This review is from: Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya (Paperback)
Caroline Elkins delivers what her title promises in this exhaustive, tightly argued account of the detention camp system set up by the British in 1950's Kenya to deal with a Mau Mau infected Kikuyu population. The allusion to the Soviet gulag in her title is purposefully provocative, and while Elkins never goes so far as to directly compare Kenya's detention camps with the Soviet system, the evidence of British atrocities that she presents in this book paint a darker picture of British responses to the Mau Mau Emergency than most previous analyses of the events in 1950's Kenya. The main force of her argument comes from the scores of personal interviews she conducted herself with survivors. The book is peppered with these accounts, and it is these repeated anecdotes of atrocities that add up like an incriminating pile of corpses to give the book its shocking force. While certainly not sympathetic to the colonial administration, and perhaps even biased against them, Elkins' work is fresh perspective on the Mau Mau Emergency and a must-read for anyone interested in British administration in Africa, the end of the empire in Kenya, or the rise of Kikuyu nationalism.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Dark Side of Empire, Sept. 12 2009
By 
Coach C (Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya (Paperback)
The British have up until recently been very proud of their imperial achievements. The only problem was that empire-building involved a certain amount of heavy-handed tactics, and like other imperialists like King Leopold, the French, and the Germans knew that sacrifices needed to be made for their "civilizing mission."

Like France's "dirty war" in French Algeria, or the British Malay, or the Belgian Congo, the British war against the Mau Mau movement turned savage very quickly. Many of the details that Elkins describe are too shocking to repeat, suffice to say that thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, suffered horrible deaths.

Overall, an important, if sordid, look into another regrettable chapter of British imperial historiography.
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Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya
Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya by Caroline Elkins (Paperback - Dec 27 2005)
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