Brief History

The Kenya-Uganda Railway
Uganda was deep within the interior of the Africa. It had commercial relationships with Zanzibar on the East African coast usually in the forms of slaves and ivory. Technically it was part of the Zanzibar sphere of influence, although the Sultan's powers and representatives rarely reached this far.

Europeans became interested in this part of Africa whilst trying to figure out the source of the Nile. Burton and Speke would be the British explorers who stumbled across Lake Victoria as the source of the Nile - although it would take many more years to confirm this.

This era was the heyday of missionary activities, and the London Missionary Society competed with Catholic and other Protestant denominations for converts. These missionaries would become fundamental critics of the slave trade that was devastating swathes of East Africa and lobbied hard back in London to put pressure on Zanzibar for its role as the assembly point for this trade. This pressure paid off and in 1873 the Sultan of Zanzibar abolished slavery in his lands which technically extended considerably in to the interior of East Africa.

Britain had been content to take a hands off approach to exercising its authority in East Africa. However, in the 1880s this would all change. 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. 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 competition 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. However, it was unclear how far into the interior this agreement stretched.

By now, the British were sure that Lake Victoria was the source of the Nile. Surprisingly they agonised over the security of this source, worrying that if it fell into another European power's hands its flow could be diverted. Its fears would seem to be confirmed when the redoubtable Carl Peters went on another secret mission to Uganda and got the king their to sign another treaty with Peters' Company. It seemed as if the source of the Nile had been snatched from under the noses of th British.

When news of this treaty reached London, it startled the British government into immediate action. They realised that Bismarck was far more concerned with the European balance of power. The Kaiser had dreams of a German Empire in the sun, but the more pragmatic Bismarck was firmly focused on Europe. The British offered the Germans a generous strategic carrot in Europe in return for control of Uganda and Zanzibar. This carrot was the island of Heligoland just off the coast of North Germany. It had been a British possession since the Napoleonic Wars. With the construction of the Kiel Canal under way and the German ports nearby, this was an offer to good to refuse. Bismarck eagerly took the carrot and the frustrated Peters saw that his efforts had been in vain - at least for his company. In fact, the 1890 agreement would comprehensively agree on German and British claims throughout East Africa. The British were to be given primacy along the entire Nile watershed. The Germans meanwhile had settled for the relatively poor lands of Tanganyika. Although by the time that World War One broke out, the agreement was not as one sided as it had seemed in 1890.

Uganda Railway
Uganda's highlands were actually a pleasant environment for Europeans to live in and efforts were made to encourage settlers to the area. However, its remoteness made this difficult. The British East Africa Company found administering too expensive whilst there was little or no income from its considerable holdings. The Company wound itself up in 1893 and handed over administration to the British Government. In many ways, the company had only ever been a convenient cloak for Imperialists back in London. The shareholders would find out that government and defence were expensive commodities.

To try and breathe some commercial wealth in to the colony, the authorities set about building a railway. It was a major engineering feat in very harsh conditions. Labour was imported from India to help the project keep to budget and time, but the difficulties were considerable including crossing a 450 metre escarpment at the Rift Valley. The railway was ultimately completed in 1903 but massively over budget and with many deaths amongst the workforce.

Ugandan Independence
Ugandan Independence
Its completion did not see the anticipated increase in European settlers. However, it did open up considerable commercial opportunities for the colony. Tea, coffee and other commodoties could reach the port of Mombasa and then sold on to the rest of the world. Over time, Uganda would slowly grow into one of the more prosperous African colonies. Unusually, much of this wealth would stay in the hands of Africans. There were some European settlers but they were never more than a tiny minority.

The 1950s was a period of retreat and consolidation for the British in Africa. The costs of running colonies was becoming too high for a country exhausted by war. India had already been granted its independence and other African countries wanted to follow suit. Ghana and Nigeria had been relatively wealthy colonies that could finance their independence with relative ease. Uganda hoped to be placed in this category. However, Britain did not want to be left with just the uneconomic colonies - like Tanganyika. It wanted to create a British East Africa Colony combining the poor Tanganyika, with reasonably successful Kenya and Uganda. The timing was bad, as Kenya erupted into the Mau Mau rebellion. The costs of putting this down pretty much killed off the idea of a large British East Africa region. Uganda stayed out of the trouble and tried to carry on life as normal. It was rewarded with its independence in 1962.

Imperial Flag
map of Uganda
1892 German Map of Africa
1906 Map of British East Africa and Uganda
1925 German Map of East Africa
1956 Map of Uganda
1962 Map of East Africa
1963 Map of Uganda
Historical uganda
Images of Uganda
National Archive Uganda Images
The Nile, 1932
Silent amateur film of the lower reaches of the Nile in Uganda from 1932.
1890 - 1962
Mountains of the Moon

Ghost and the Darkness

PDFs of the East African Railways and Harbours Magazines
Sir Andrew Cohen and the End of Empire
Tommy Gee considers the nature of Britain's departure from its Empire and from Africa in particular and the role played by Sir Andrew Cohen in attempting to make the decolonisation process as smooth as possible.

A Geologist in Uganda
Bob Macdonald explains his role in helping to develop, manage and conserve the mineral and groundwater resources of Uganda in the decade up until independence in 1962. His career provides a good example of the expertise and skills that could be provided by the Colonial Service in its later years as it sought to develop Uganda's economy and manage its landscape.

Welcome to Asamuk Leper Camp
Michael Welchman gives details of the fight against Leprosy in Uganda in the 1950s and recalls the visit of Alan Lennox Boyd to the opening of a new leper camp.

Africa and British Colonialism - Foes or Friends?
As someone born in colonial controlled Uganda but now a British citizen, Sam Akaki considers the balance sheet and impact of imperialism on the place of his birth.

The Amudat Story
Peter Cox recounts how the Bible Church Missionary Society established a hospital, dispensaries and schools in a remote area on the Kenya/Uganda border in the 1950s and 1960s.

Empire Day at Fort Portal
N. F. S. Andrews' extracts of a letter sent home from Uganda in 1926 give an interesting account of how the 'Empire' was celebrated in even the remotest of locations.

Uganda Safari by H.R.H. Prince of Wales
J. E. Gale tells the story of the role he played in ensuring that HRH The Prince of Wales' 5 day journey through Uganda in 1930 went without a hitch.

Karamoja Journey
S Nicholl gives an account of just how rapidly conditions could change in North-Eastern Uganda once the rains arrived!

By Motorcycle in Uganda
S Nicholl recalls the difficulties he had in attempting to coordinate himself to be by his wife's bedside when she was due to give birth to their first child. An unplanned and unwanted motorcycle journey proved far more arduous than was possibly anticipated.

25 Years in Slumber
Kuldip Rai Moman recalls his time as a Post Office clerk in the sleepy Ugandan town of Soroti - where on one occasion he happened to come across post that had not been sent for a quarter of a century!

Train to Iganga
Kuldip Rai Moman relays how he was unexpectedly sent to work in a post office in a remote part of Uganda after returning thousands of miles from vacation and a marriage back in the Punjab. He relates the role of the Post Office along the lines of communication in the British Empire and how he felt revisiting his old place of work in post-imperial East Africa.

Uganda Long Ago
John Vernon Wild CMG, OBE and Marjorie Lovatt Smith give a fascinating account of colonial government particularly between the years 1950 and 1952 from the point of view of two very different government actors; John Wild was the Assistant Chief Secretary whilst Marjorie was a stenographer.

A Piano, a Buffalo and Kidneys in Red Wine
Patricia Jacobs explains some of the more interesting trials and tribulations facing the wife of a District Commissioner in rural Uganda.

Dura Camp
James Lang Brown gives an account of the time he had to travel to remote West Uganda to assess the environmemtal impact of miners in the forest and how he incidentally became the first paying customer on the newly opened Western Extension on the Uganda Railway.

A Matter of Understanding
Simon Templer explain how as a young customs officer he had a rather major misunderstanding with a refugee fleeing from the Belgian Congo to the British Protectorate in Uganda.

Ernest Hemingway Lost in Uganda
J R F Mills recalls the time that he was told that one of the most famous authors in the World had gone missing in a light plane and may well have ended up somewhere in the Murchison Falls National Park he was working at.

Setting the Record Straight
Alan Forward credits Andrew Roberts' account of how so few British administrators governed with the consent of so many. However, he also contemplates the exceptional case of the murder of the unfortunate Harry St George Galt in Uganda in 1905.

Agricultural Officer in Uganda
Dick Horrell explains what it was like to be a hard-up new Agricultural Officer freshly posted to Uganda helping to develop the country before its handover in 1962.

Further Reading
Interesting Times: Uganda Diaries 1955-1986
by Sir Peter Allen

Personal and Historical Memoirs of an East African Administrator
by Sir Geoffrey Archer

The Changing Scenes of Life: from the Colonial Service to the European Civil Service
by Keith Arrowsmith

A Circle of Trees
by G.H. Barker

A Gust of Plumes: A Biography of Lord Twining of Godalming and Tanganyika
by Darrell Bates

Bunyoro, Tropical Paradox
by Walter Bazley

A Policeman's Lot
by Tony Beaden

Wagon of Smoke : An Informal History of the East African Railways & Harbours Administration 1948-1961 by Arthur F. Beckenham

Glimpses of a Governor's Life
by Sir Hesketh Bell

Blown by the Wind of Change
by Vivienne Bell

A Dissolving Dream: A New Zealander In Amin's Uganda
by Heather, Benson

A Cuckoo's Parting Cry
by Rennie Bere

When The Sun Never Set - A Family's Life In The British Empire
by Alice Boase

Looking Back At The Uganda Protectorate: Recollections Of District Officers
Edited by Douglas Brown

Uganda Diary: The Life Of A Forester In The Years Before Amin
by James Lang Brown

Adventures in Education
by Bernard de Bunsen

The Incorporated Wife
by Hilary Callan

A Railway Runs Through: Goans of British East Africa 1865 - 1980
by Selma Caravalho

Journey of a Lifetime
by Olive Champion

Khaki and Blue: Military and Police in British Colonial Africa
by Anthony Clayton and David Killingray

The Airmails Of East Africa To 1952
by William Colley

East African: An Airline Story
by Peter J. Davis

African Crossroads
by Sir Charles Dundas

When I Was Younger: A Forest Officer's Memories of Uganda in the Thirties
by W. J. Eggeling

The Early Postcards Of Uganda
by P C Evans

Odyssey of a Veterinary Vagabond
by Lewis Forbes

You have been allocated Uganda
by Alan Forward

Enigmatic Proconsul: Sir Philip Mitchell and the Twilight of the Empire
by Richard Frost

Tribute to Pioneers: Index of Many of the Pioneers of East Africa
by Mary Gillett

Far Away Cows: Veterinary Vignettes from the Third World
by Patrick Guilbride

A Diplomatist in the East
by Sir Arthur Hardingle

Red Dust. Memoirs of Uganda Police Service 1935-55.
by Christopher Harwich

Lords of the Fly: Sleeping Sickness Control in British East Africa 1900-1960
by Kirk Arden Hoppe

Time Remembered: Reminiscences of Education in Uganda and Nyasaland
by Harry Hudson

Memories of Forestry and Travel: Uganda, Mexico, Britain, Brussels and Beyond
by Fred Hummel

Tropical Africa, 1908-1944,: Memoirs of a period
by Eric Hussey

Early Days in East Africa
by Sir Frederick Jackson

Administrators in East Africa: Six Case Studies
by B. L. Jacobs

Agriculture in Uganda
by J D Jameson

The Shamba Raiders: Memories of a Game Warden
by Bruce Kinloch

It might Have Been You
by Collie Knox

Your Obedient Servant: Tales of a Uganda Forester
by George Leggat

Fabrication Of Empire: The British And The Uganda Kingdoms, 1890-1902
by D A Low

Rise of Our East African Empire
by F.J.D. Lugard

Lord Lugard Diaries
edited by Margery Perham

Love is a Grapefruit: Life and Times of Olive Alexanderina MacDonald - An Exercise in Social Commentary by Her Other Half
by Andrew S MacDonald

More A Way Of Life Than A Livelihood: An Autobiography
by Andrew S MacDonald

Letters From Far Away Places by McDonald Sitwell, Grace

Wrong Place, Right Time - Policing the End of Empire
by Michael J. Macoun

Anthony's Odyssey
by Tony Mason

Pearl of Africa
by Maurice Maybury

Amin's Uganda
by Bob Measures

African Afterthoughts
by Sir Philip Mitchell

Copper Mandarin
by Gerald Murphy

Uganda Before Amin
by Anna Osmaston

Shipwrecks And Salvage On The East African Coast
by Kevin Patience

Sir Bernard Bourdillon: The Biography of a Twentieth-Century Colonialist
by Robert Pearce

Lugard: The Years of Adventure and Authority
by Margery Perham

I Look Back
by J R P Postlethwaite

The Scent of Eucalyptus: A Journal of Colonial and Foreign Service
by Richard N. Posnett

Casualty Of Empire: Britain's Unpaid Debt To An African Kingdom
by Cedric Pulford

Eating Uganda: From Christianity To Conquest
by Cedric Pulford

Two Kingdoms Of Uganda: Snakes And Ladders In The Scramble For Africa
by Cedric Pulford

Peripatetic Pedagogue: Some Reminiscences of R A Snoxall
edited by P R Snoxall

Tribe - The Hidden History Of The Mountains Of The Moon
by Tom Stacey

Of Cargoes, Colonies And Kings
by Andrew Stuart

History of Uganda Land & Surveys
by H.B. Thomas

Always a Countryman
by Lord Tweedsmuir

Towards Independence In Africa: A District Officer In Uganda At The End Of Empire
by Patrick Walker

History of Uganda Forest Department 1951-1965
by George Webster

Early days in British East Africa and Uganda,
by C A Wiggins

A Colonial Postmaster-General's Reminiscences
by Alan Workman

The Story of the Uganda Agreement
by J V Wild

The Uganda Mutiny
by J V Wild

Early Travellers in Acholi
by J V Wild

Africa's Mountains of the Moon: Journeys to the Snowy Sources of the Nile
by Guy Yeoman

Robert Thorne Coryndon: Proconsular Imperialism in Southern and Eastern Africa
by Christopher Youe

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