Brief History
Mombasa had long been known to Europeans, the Portugese had used it as a trading base for many years. The Sultan of Zanzibar extended his rule over the East African mainland throughout the nineteenth century. The African tribes in East Africa resented this Arab rule but could do little to resist it. The Arab control was tied up very much with the ivory and slave trades.

It was this attachment to slavery that brought the area to the attention of the British public. David Livingstone used Zanzibar as a starting point for his explorations of the interior. He was to be joined by explorers interested in discovering the source of the Nile. They would send reports back to Britain publicising the evils of the East African slave trade. These would allow powerful lobbies back in Britain to put pressure on the Sultan of Zanzibar to banish slavery in his lands which he reluctantly agreed to in 1873. Technically, this ban included the East African coast although the policing of this ban was difficult to say the least.

The British were generally content with their informal control over the area through their influence over the Sultan of Zanzibar. However, in the 1880s they were to find that their influence under the area would be severely challenged by the Germans. In November 1884 three deck passengers disguised as mechanics arrived in East Africa. This trio was armed with German flags and blank treaty documents. They quietly set about getting local African tribal leaders to agree to the Kaiser being their overlord rather than the Sultan of Zanzibar. These leaders probably assumed that an overlord further away would be less onerous than one on their doorsteps. They would be wrong on this calculation.

Peters kept his secret well. He carried his documents to Berlin where a conference was discussing colonial spheres of influence. Not even Bismarck had been aware of these developments. The Kaiser eagerly granted Peters an incorporated German East Africa Company covering the lands of his treaties - From Tanganyika up to Witu. This new colony would be called Tanganyika. It's creation would shock the British in East Africa into action.

The British set up their own British East Africa Company in reaction to the German one. Pressure was put on the Sultan of Zanzibar to hand over control of his remaining East African lands to this British Company under William MacKinnon. A temporary agreement with the Germans to respect each others' spheres of influence was agreed in 1886 and a more comprehensive agreement was signed in 1890 which basically gave Britain primacy over Zanzibar and a line stretching from the island of Pemba to Lake Victoria and then the Nile watershed whilst Germany was free to create its colony of Tanganyika between Lakes Victoria and Tanganyika.

The Company found that the administration of the colony was far more expensive than they had anticipated. There was some resistance to the British moving into the area, notably when the Kikuyu destroyed Fort Lugard. The Company also had little in the way of income. The area had been ravaged by intensive slave raiding and trading and there was little obvious income available to the company. By 1895 it was clear that the British East Africa Company could not continue as a viable concern and so sold its lands and buildings to the British Government.

With more resources at its disposal, the British government could finance a railway with a view to opening up the highlands to white settlement. The highlands combined a pleasant climate with good quality land. It was thought that the area would be suitable for a variety of cash crops. The railway was completed by 1906 by which time, white settlers had discovered that tea, coffee and tobacco could be grown in the highlands. However the new farms and plantations would prove to be harder to turn into profitable enterprises than at first realised as diseases and exhaustion of soils took their toll.

British Empire and Africa
On Safari in the 1890s
The settlers were partly allowed in 1907 a voice in government through the allocation of some of the seats on the Legislative Council. However, the governor still had the right to appoint the majority of the seats on the Council.

Kenya was to become an active theatre of war during World War One as the German Tanganyika commander Paul von Lettow Vorbeck fought a highly effective guerilla campaign throughout Eastern and Central Africa for the entire duration of the war. Many settlers and Africans would be called up to help fight this German force which was to prove to be a serious drain on resources.

After the war there were further calls by the British white settler community to convert Kenya into a Crown Colony with more rights for the settlers. The British government was keen to reduce its expenditures at the end of the First World War and so granted this right in 1920. However, it was made clear by the British Government that "Kenya is an African territory and the African natives must be paramount". The British therefore resisted turning Kenya into a full self-governing colony. It also limited white settlement to the highlands. having said this, it still gave the lion's share of representation to the white settlers. In fact, the black Africans did not get any representation at all until 1944.

The 1930s were to prove to be a difficult time for the colony as the world wide depression hit commodity prices across the board. The white community was hit particularly hard as the African producers very often grew more appropriate local crops for the local markets. There was to be growing economic and political tension between these groups even after the depression finally ended and the world moved into yet another World War.

Fort Wajir
Fort Wajir
Nationalist and independence movements were full of anticipation at the end of World War Two. The sudden granting of independence to India in 1947 motivated subject peoples across the empire and made them hopeful that they would receive this right in the near future also. The British government was generally content to hand over independence to viable political units although they were wary of being left holding the uneconomic colonies at the end of this process. They therefore proposed the creation of large federated political units. They created the British East Africa Federation in the 1950s combining Kenya with Tanganyika and Uganda. However before the ink had even dried on this deal, Kenya was to suffer from one of the deadliest insurgency rebellions of the Post-War period. This Mau Mau rebellion would effectively wreck the federation as regular British army forces had to be called in to quell the situation.

The Mau Mau rebellion was a result of the tension between the white settlers and the African Kikuyu tribe in particular. Most of the other African tribes stayed neutral and quiet throughout the emergency. It should be noted that the Kikuyu had historically been based around the highland areas that had been reserved for the white settlers. It is therefore not surprising that they felt more marginalised and bitter towards the white settlers than the other African tribes would. Their economic plight was to be joined with powerful religious forces to convince many Kikuyu of the rightness of their cause and that they had little to fear from British retribution.

The choosing of isolated farms and the killing of family members including women and children shocked the white settler community to its core. The insurgents also targetted those Kikuyu who worked for the British in an official capacity. The murders made dramatic headlines back in Britain and spurred the authorities to action. This rebellion occurred during the premiership of Winston Churchill who still felt a powerful connection to the concept of Empire. His administration was determined to make a stand and defend what he regarded as the lawful government of the colony.

Turkana Troops
Turkana Tribal Policemen
The British brought in 20,000 extra soldiers to try and quell the situation. They made extensive use of intelligence and turn coats to infiltrate the Mau Mau groups. It was fortunate for the authorities that the rebellion was confined to the one ethnic group. This allowed the authorities to gain intelligence and support from the other groups and it also allowed them to target the Kikuyu for relocation. Mombasa and Nairobi were virtually emptied of Kikuyu as they were forcibly moved to giant reserves. This unsubtle approach undoubtedly removed far more innocent than guilty parties, but the sheer size and efficiency of the operation saw the Mau Mau organisation fall apart as it was moved along with the population to these reserves. Over a million Kikuyu were relocated. A series of political carrots was also offered by the British to entice the more moderate Mau Mau to cease fighting. Africans were given permission to grow coffee for the first time, more land was allocated to them and their representation at the government level was to be increased.

This variety of tactics was to see the threat be effectively removed by 1957 although the emergency powers stayed in place until 1960. Despite the victory of the British forces, the sheer cost involved help convince the British government of speeding up demands for independence. In 1960, the British accepted the principle of one person one vote. This would effectively end the privileged political position of the white settlers for good. By 1963, a black majority government was elected for the first time. It declared independence on December 12th 1963.

Imperial Flag
map of Kenya
1895 Map of Africa
1897 Map of Kenya
1897 Map of Kenya
1920 Map of Kenya
1925 Map of Kenya
1926 Map of Kenya
Map of South-Western Kenya and Lake Victoria, 1948
1955 Map of Nairobi Region
1956 Map of Marsabit Region
1962 Map of Mombasa Region
Historical kenya
Images of Kenya
National Archive Kenya Images
Historical kenya
Pre-1963 Anthem of Kenya
Thanks to Michael Jamieson Bristow
1889 - 1963
Mau Mau BBC Witness program on the Mau Mau Revolt
Flame Trees of Thika
Something of Value
Out of Africa
White Mischief
Heat of the Sun
Goan Contribution to the Civil Service
Rosendo P. Abreo gives a brief overview to how the Portuguese colony of Goa ended up contributing so much to the British Empire in East Africa in particular up until 1963.

The Ramblings of a Wicked Colonialist
Justin Trevor Moon gives an - at times witty but also brutally honest - account of spending time in Trinidad training to be a Colonial Agricultural Officer and then putting that expertise into operation on the coast of Kenya in the 1930s.

Passage from Mwanza to Kisumu
J. D. Kelsall gives an account of the time that his Lake Victoria Fisheries Service Motor fishing vessel was forced to become an ad hoc sailing ship in order to complete its journey from Tanganyika to Kenya.

It's a Dog's Life
Duncan D McCormack explains how, as a New Zealander working for the Colonial Service, he and his family were reluctant to be parted with their beloved pet dog. He goes on to explain the complexities of moving his dog to and from Kenya.

Call of the Road - an Elegy
Kuldip Rai Moman fondly remembers being on safari in a Post Office Savings Van during World War Two in the wilds of Kenya attempting to raise money for the British war effort.

Season of Green Leaves
Kuldip Rai Moman gives a brief overview of his work and responsibilities as an Asian working in the East African Posts Department and how much of Africa he was able to experience as a result.

Which Colony?
W. L. Barton recalls the time he came into contact with Alan Lennox-Boyd, the Colonial Secretary, in Kenya and was surprised to find that Lord Boyd still remembered who he was 14 years later when they met again at The London School fo Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Four Inches at Waa
A. B. Mason tells the story of how you could be enjoying an idyllic Kenyan beach in full glorious sunshine one day, and be literally swimming in flood water the next!

All In A Day At Lake Baringo
Elsie Maciel recounts the time when a simple family picnic in the wilds of Kenya could become quite a magical experience.

Wote Timamu, Effendi
Ian D. St.G. Lindsay affectionately recalls the professionalism and loyalty of his Tribal Police Sergeant in Kenya. Suleimani bin Abu Abdulla was an innovative and highly respected policeman and the kind of person that a young British District Officer could rely on implicitly.

"Uncle" Gerald Reece of Kenya's N.F.D.
Mervyn Maciel gives a thumbnail biography to an inspirational and influential character who spent much of his career in the Northern deserts of Kenya and whose reputation was renowned far beyond those who met him.

Coping Without a Resident Doctor in Kenya's Northern Frontier
Elsie Maciel relays the difficulties and hardships of being so isolated from the best doctors and hospitals whilst living and working in Kenya in the 1950s and 1960s. Although help could be found in the unlikely guise of a one-armed pilot!

The Life And Times Of An Indomitable Goan Lady Mrs. Mascarenhas Of Kisii
Mervyn Maciel gives a fascinating biographical overview of a resourceful East Asian lady who showed remarkable entrepreneurial flair in Kenya. In many ways, Mrs. Mascarenhas' story shines a light on how new opportunities were granted and seized in the British Empire and how determined, thrifty and hard working people could carve out a successful business for themselves in even the most unlikely of locations.

Honeymoon in the Wilds
Elsie Maciel recalls the magical experience of her wedding and honeymoon in East Africa in 1952.

Mapping Kenya before Independence
Duncan McCormack explains the lengths that the British administration went to create accurate maps of all of Kenya even in the midst of the Mau Mau Emergency.

To Lodwar I'm posted
Mervyn Maciel explains what it was like as a Goan to be posted to the 'Closed District' of Lodwar in the North West of Kenya and about his admiration for the Turkana tribesmen of the region.

With The Pastoralists Of Kenya's Northern Desert Once More
Mervyn Maciel explains the tribes he would encounter and their customs whilst on safari in the Northern Deserts of Kenya.

Memoirs of a Frontier Man
Mervyn Maciel gives a fascinating insight into the contributions of the Goan community in the Administration of Kenya through his own experiences.

Kenyan Independence
Jim Herlihy, who was in Special Branch in the colony, looks at the events leading up to Kenyan Independence.

A Kenya Journey
B.W. Thompson remembers a journey taken along the Mombasa to Nairobi road in 1952 which illustrated the best and worst of undertaking road trips in colonial Kenya.

Lamu Town
Peter Lloyd explains what it was like to be sent to this ancient Arab trading town (and now a UNESCO World Heritage Centre) on the East Coast of Africa as a young District Commissioner in the 1950s.

Rain Stimulation in East Africa
B.W. Thompson explains how as a meteorologist in East Africa in the 1950s he was expected to help the rains to fall from the sky!

Moving the Maasai - What were the Conditions
David Forrester takes issue with Lotte Hughes' strong criticism of the Government of British East Africa for relocating the Maasai tribe between 1900 and 1912.

My First Weights and Measures Prosecution
Clive Howard-Luck remembers his very first excursion as a Trading Standards Officer in the Rift Valley in Kenya and the speed with which justice could be achieved!

First Posting in Kenya
J A Nicholas Wallis recalls his first posting to Kenya when he had to give a tour to a visiting American dignitary which ended up ticking off most of the stereotypes Westerners had for East Africa at the time.

The 'Bush Telegraph' brings Royal News
Ted Saggerson remembers the way that he learned that Britain had a new Queen whilst in the depth of the East African Bush.

Wanderings among the Nomads
Mervyn Maciel recalls the magical experience of living amongst the Turkana in the North-West of Kenya in the late 1940s.

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