The British Empire Library

Uganda Before Amin

by Anna Osmaston

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by G.H.Y.
In this delightfully engaging and ingenious book, and in the compass of only 88 easily read pages, Anna Osmaston gives us a window into Uganda's golden age. Up to the reign of the ogre Mwanga who was ruler of the Baganda at the time of the establishment of the Protectorate at the end of the last century, tyranny was as least constrained by the primitive nature of available weapons. But during the regimes of Obote and Amin, no such restraint pertained: Uganda was held at Kalashnikov gun point, and it was destroyed. The half century in between was a period of unprecedented peace, prosperity and progress in one of the most naturally blessed countries of Africa, and in her book Mrs. Osmaston takes us behind the scenes in the years 1949-63: behind the advance of politics and development, into the world of the expatriate wife and mother, and her dining room, kitchen and safari camp.

The Osmastons were an avid safari family; Anna's husband Henry was a forester, and his work took them to all the most beautiful and thrilling parts of this diverse country. With her growing family, we visit the great mountains - Rwenzori, Virunga, Elgon - and the then still pristine forests and lakes. They didn't waste a moment: every weekend sees a new adventure, any one of which would be the highlight of a lifetime for modern package-tour imprisoned western man.

Everything is here - the admirable Ugandan people, the elephants, buffaloes and hippos - and the snakes, bees, ants, fleas and ticks - not to mention unnerving subterranean bats in the long drop loo! But the anxieties of family life on the edge of civilisation also come through: only those who have worked really deep in the blue, far from medical aid, can understand the panic of a child's sudden fever, or imminent childbirth.

It is all here; the British woman's viewpoint, spelt out just as it was - a domestic time capsule of a brief and never to be repeated interlude in the history of both Uganda and Britain.

The economies of this inexpensive production have prohibited the use of glossy paper for Henry Osmaston's photographs, but their high quality comes through in spite of this. They are numerous and excellently apposite to the text, and must induce deep nostalgia in all of us who were privileged to share this halcyon period in eastern Africa.

British Empire Book
Anna Osmaston
Henry Osmaston


Armed Forces | Art and Culture | Articles | Biographies | Colonies | Discussion | Glossary | Home | Library | Links | Map Room | Sources and Media | Science and Technology | Search | Student Zone | Timelines | TV & Film | Wargames

by Stephen Luscombe