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Winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction
—Bill Berkeley, author of The Graves Are Not Yet Full: Race, Tribe and Power in the Heart of Africa
"On the basis of the most painstaking research, Caroline Elkins has starkly illuminated one of the darkest secrets of late British imperialism. She has shown how, even when they profess the most altruistic of intentions, empires can still be brutal in their response to dissent by subject peoples. We all need reminding of that today."
—Niall Ferguson, Professor of History, Harvard University, and Senior Research Fellow, Jesus College, Oxford; author of Colossus: The Price of America's Empire and Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power
"In the 1950s, Mau Mau provided the Western world with photographic evidence of what Africa and Africans "were like": savage, bloodthirsty, and in need of British civilization. Imperial Reckoning shows us how these images neglected to show the brutality and savagery being committed against the Kenyan Kikuyu people detained by the British. Caroline Elkins fills out the images, tells the rest of the story, and corrects the record in this masterful book."
— Henry Louis Gates, Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University
"Rarely does a book come along that transforms the world's understanding of a country and its past by bringing to light buried, horrifying truths and redrawing central contours of its image. With voluminous evidence, Caroline Elkins exposes the long suppressed crimes and brutalities that democratic Britain and British settlers willingly perpetrated upon hundreds of thousands of Africans — truths that will permit no one of good faith to continue to accept the mythologized account of Britain's colonial past as merely a "civilizing mission." If you want to read one book this year about the catastrophic consequences of racism, about the cruelty of those who dehumanize others, or about the crimes that ideologically besotted people - including from western democratic countries — can self-righteously commit, Imperial Reckoning is that book."
—Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, author of Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust and recipient of Germany's Democracy Prize
"Given the number and nature of the atrocities that filled the 20th century, the degree of brutality and violence perpetrated by British settlers, police, army and their African loyalist supporters against the Kikuyu during the Mau Mau period should not be surprising. Nor, perhaps, the fact that the British government turned a blind eye, and later covered them up. What is surprising, however, is that it has taken so long to document the whole ghastly story-this is what makes Caroline Elkins's disturbing and horrifying account so important and memorable."
—Caroline Moorehead, author of Human Cargo: A Journey Among Refugees and Gellhorn: A Twentieth-Century Life
"Imperial Reckoning is an incredible piece of historical sleuthing. The author has reconstructed the story that British officialdom almost succeeding in suppressing. Her sources are the Mau Mau fighters and sympathizers whom the British detained in concentration camps during the 1950s. Her interviews with the survivors of this British 'gulag' are a labor of love and courage-impressive in their frankness and deep emotional content as well as properly balanced between men and women, colonial officials and Mau Mau detainees. Caroline Elkins tells a story that would never have made it into the historical record had she not persevered and collected information from the last generation of Mau Mau detainees alive to bear witness to what happened."
—Robert Tignor, Rosengarten Professor of Modern and Contemporary History, Princeton University
|2||Britain's assault on Mau Mau||31|
|5||The birth of Britain's gulag||121|
|6||The world behind the wire||154|
|7||The hard core||192|
|9||Outrage, suppression, and silence||275|
|App||The operating pipeline circa January 1956||369|
Posted May 4, 2005
Some claim that the British Empire was run well and handed over peacefully, unlike the Belgian Congo or French Algeria (both backed by the British state anyway). This outstanding book exposes those lies, showing how colonial government forces in Kenya killed between 200,000 and 300,000 people in the 1950s. Elkins details the government `campaign of terror, dehumanizing torture, and genocide¿ marked by detention without trial, forced labour, collective punishments, deprivation of medical care, systematic starvation and murders. The colonial government stole the Kenyan people¿s land, starved them and then blamed them for not feeding their children properly. Using the same tactics as in South Africa and Malaya, the imperial forces torched the homes of a million Kenyans then forcibly resettled them into compounds behind barbed wire. The people resisted and fought for their freedom. The judge at the nationalist leaders¿ trial, who got £20,000 for his verdict, admitted that it was a national liberation struggle when he denounced `this foul scheme of driving the Europeans from Kenya¿. The British government demonised all who opposed colonialism as `terrorists¿. It detained without trial up to 320,000 people in punishment camps, where the official policy was systematic brutality, using sexual violence and humiliation. Guards were indoctrinated into a fascist mentality, describing and treating Africans as animals. The assistant police commissioner said that camp conditions were worse than he had experienced in Japanese POW camps. Critics asked how many camps were run by British forces. How many people had been arrested and detained? On what charges? Were they made to work in the camps? If so, for how long and in what conditions? Was there any disease or malnutrition in the camps? Were there any deaths? The British government tried to maintain the absolute virtue of its rule by admitting nothing, lying systematically. `Incidents¿ of abuse were always `isolated¿, carried out by the lowest members of the colonial hierarchy. It set up powerless internal inquiries run by those responsible for the atrocities. It smeared nationalist leaders, witnesses and critics as `self-interested¿ and `prejudiced¿. The Empire was no civilising mission; it was a way to steal other people¿s land and labour power and murder them when they resisted.
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Posted May 25, 2010
As other reviewers have written (extensively), this book is a thorough and graphic account of the atrocities perpetrated by the British Colonial Government and their native accomplices against the substantially innocent Kikuyu people in response to the Mau Mau uprising. The research appears to be meticulous based on the extensive footnotes and the descriptions of the effort by the author herself. It is a very well written book although in some respects a little repetitive but quite well organized. As a avid reader of world history I found this book very enlightening giving a clear picture of the ugly dissolution of the Empire in Africa. One minor quibble would be the brevity with which the Mau Mau uprising itself was described. Although the actions of the British and their loyalists are impossible to justify, the picture would be clearer if more space in the book had been devoted to explaining the actions associated with the Mau Mau which the British used as a pretext for the mass imprisonment and harsh treatment of their victims. Finally I detected an undercurrent of anti-British sentiment throughout but this may be expected from someone who has spent so much time with the victims.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 3, 2009
Posted April 19, 2005
Excellent research and presentation of the 'British' mentality that can be so terrible and self-rightous. Too bad the author did not find out more about who agreed to the parliamentary motion that precluded a more just outcome.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 3, 2011
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Posted April 6, 2012
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Posted July 4, 2011
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