Mau Mau and Kenya

This is another book recommended to me by Conrad Barwa.

Mau Mau and Kenya: An Analysis of a Peasant Revolt by Wunyabari O. Maloba is a good book, though it is written somewhat in an academic language and hence can be dry at times. I guess that couldn’t be avoided since the book is based on the author’s Ph.D. thesis.

It covers the peasant revolt in Kenya in the 1950s against the British. Since I had no knowledge of these events, I found the details about the causes, the military campaign and the aftermath fascinating. The book gives an interesting look at the insurgency as well as British counter-insurgency operations.

Reading books about the history of colonialism always surprises me in how much racism and prejudice were not only common but quite open.

Another issue that piqued my interest is the role of church in Africa. Both Africa : A Biography of the Continent show direct and indirect support of the church and devout Christians for colonial authority. I wonder if there is a study on the role of Christianity (and Islam, for that matter) in Africa. Conrad?

Author: Zack

Dad, gadget guy, bookworm, political animal, global nomad, cyclist, hiker, tennis player, photographer

2 thoughts on “Mau Mau and Kenya”

  1. Mau Mau and Kenya: An Analysis of a Peasant Revolt by Wunyabari O. Maloba is a good book, though it is written somewhat in an academic language and hence can be dry at times. I guess that couldn’t be avoided since the book is based on the author’s Ph.D. thesis.

    Thanks I am glad you liked it; there was an excellent talk today by one of the grand old men of African history John Lonsdale, packed full including a small delegation from the Kenyan embassy here as the talk was on “Jomo Kenyatta and African Historiography” very, very interesting lecture. If you are interested in the topic and since you have read Maloba’s book you might want to check out Bruce Breman and John Lonsdale’s “Unhappy Valley” a two-volume study that covers Kenyan history and society from colonialism upto independence. Its analysis of Kikiyu society and colonial politics is brilliant and it is extremely well-written – I would think that it has the elegance and craftsmanship that most historians can only wish for. It is kind of weighty though, but well worth it.

    Another issue that piqued my interest is the role of church in Africa. Both Africa : A Biography of the Continent show direct and indirect support of the church and devout Christians for colonial authority. I wonder if there is a study on the role of Christianity (and Islam, for that matter) in Africa. Conrad?

    This is not a topic I know much about or have read a lot on; for some reason most of our taught courses tended to cover more indigenous religious traditions or conventional political/economic issues. In addition many of the more standard narratives and works were really only told from the missionaries point of view and were less critical histories than an account of what the missionaries thought they were doing, as opposed to what they actually were. All this adds to my dislike of evangelical religion particularly when it is accompanied as an imposed modernity to cover up a so-called civilising mission. Still to get a flavour of some of the work available:

    Catholics, Peasants and Chewa Resistance in Nyasaland 1889-1939 – Ian Linden. Good survey of Catholic missionary work in the region as well as the ‘improvement’ efforts such activities undertook in order to shake off ‘native torpor’. Does explore the clash that different cultivation techniques experienced especially as demands on the agrarian sector changed with the linking up to external markets and increased tax burdens.

    Politics and Christianity in Malawi 1875-1940 – John McCracken. McCracken is an excellent historian, though I don’t think this is one of his stronger works; his later stuff on environmental history and change is extremely perceptive in tackling a difficult and often-neglected topic. But he is always worth having a look at, and here he examines what those meddling Christians were up to in his favoured region.

    Mission, Church and State in a Colonial Setting: Uganda 1890-1925 – Holger Bernt Hansen. This humongous book is way too long and after you have read it, you will probably know much more than you ever wanted to, about mission work in Uganda. Very much written as a conventional top-down history and from the metropolitan point of view but has a wealth of details and facts marshalled into a straightforward narrative.

    Making Ethnic Ways: Communities and their transformation in Taita, Kenya 1800-1950 – Bill Braman. This excellent book has three great chapters on how missionary influences combined with colonialism can change traditional societies, mostly in unpredictable ways – check out chapters 2,3, and 4 though the whole book is to be recommended as a sensitive ethnographic study of a changing society.

    East African Expressions of Christianity – edited by Thomas Spear and Isaria N. Kimanbo. This informative collection of essays tries to place in context Christianity’s impact on the region by looking at orthodox doctrine and theology was adapted and in turn shaped by local and indigenous factors and impulses. Very much explores the idea of an ‘African Christianity’ in this context and what that label means.

  2. Conrad: Thanks for the recommendations. I think I am going to stay away from the 2-volume Kenya book for now since I am kinda busy. But the Christianity books look interesting.

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