Histories of the Hanged: Britain's Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire

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9780297847199: Histories of the Hanged: Britain's Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire

This book tells for the first time the story of the dirty war the British fought in Kenya, in the run-up to the country's independence in 1964. In 1952, after years of tension and bitterness, the grievances of the Gikuyu people of central Kenya exploded into open rebellion. Only 32 European settlers died in the subsequent fighting, but more than 1,800 African civilians, over 3,000 African police and soldiers, and 12,000 Mau Mau rebels were killed. Between 1953 and 1956 Britain sent over a thousand Kenyans to the gallows, often on trumped up or non-existent charges. Meanwhile 70,000 people were imprisoned in camps without trial for between two and six years. Men and women were kept together in conditions of institutionalised violence overseen by British officials. David Anderson provides a full and convincing account of a war in which all sides behaved badly, and therefore few of the combatants can be either fully excused, or blamed. His book contains the information the press, public and politicians need to decide for themselves about an important aspect of Britain's recent past.These events are still within living memory, and eye-witness testimonies provide the backbone of this controversial story.

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About the Author:

David Anderson is Lecturer in African Studies and Research Fellow at St Antony's College, Oxford. He was formerly Director of the Centre for African Studies at the University of London. Co-editor 1988-98 of the Journal of African History, he has also edited a number of collections on the history of Kenya and Africa. He lives in St Albans, Hertfordshire.


'Anderson's information-rich history vividly depicts the complex political and social dynamics of the Kenyan nationalist movement as it was confronted by the brutal waning British Empire. This is vital reading for any student of British colonial and African history.' PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (22.11.04) 'By calling for reconciliation in the early years of his presidency, Kenyatta understandably sacrificed the past for the future. But today young Kenyans know next to nothing about the Mau Mau uprising and how it led to independence. For them, these books are an incomparable record of what happened in, and to, their country. For others, parallels with American foreign policy today are apparent enough.' THE ECONOMIST (1.1.05) 'David Anderson's Histories of the Hanged is the first full account of the guerrilla war that determined who should inherit Britain's most troublesome African colony. His evidence comes principally from the transcripts of the hundreds of Mau Mau trials that, in four years, resulted in more that one thousand executions, far more than in any other colonial conflict, even Algeria's.' -- John Lonsdale TIMES (8.1.05) 'One reason why Anderson's book is...the better is that he traces the sad aftermath of Mau Mau in Kenyan life up to the present...At the least these two books should cause the government to declassify all remaining documents and lift the veil on what was probably the worst atrocity of the entire colonial period.' -- R W Johnson SUNDAY TIMES (9.1.05) 'Anderson's account is much the more scholarly...[It] creates[s] a bleak record, describing the network of detention camps created in the 1950s to hold Kikuyu driven wholesale from their villages, and the systematic torture and cruelty employed by the counter-insurgency forces.' -- Max Hastings SUNDAY TELEGRAPH (9.1.05) 'it is impossible to read on without sensing a deeper contemporary relevance.' -- Peter Preston OBSERVER (16.1.05) 'The British responded with show trials and swift executions to demonstrate that counter-measures were in place. These trials form the centrepiece of Anderson's book. He has trawled through more than 1,000 of them in Kenya National Archive, emerging with a tale of rough justice and political manipulation that raises disturbing questions about the guilt of some of the accused.' -- Nicholas Best TELEGRAPH (15.1.05) 'Anderson's research on Mau Mau trials and their victims...not only transform[s] our understanding of empire's end, but should produce political shock-waves...What Britain did in Kenya was - as...Anderson...make[s] clear in unprecedented and shocking detail - vicious, shameful and unforgivable.' -- Stephen Howe INDEPENDENT (21.1.05) '[a] considered and dispassionate account of the atrocities commited by the British on the 1950s. Anderson relies on court and other records to expose the shame of an imperial system of justice that led to more than a thousand Africans being hanged. Throughout HISTORIES OF THE HANGED, Anderson condemns the dirty tricks of the British and the Mau Mau with equal vigour.' -- Kwamchetsi Makokha NEW STATESMAN (31.1.05) 'Anderson has reconstructed a a vivid slice of history from the court records of Mau Mau trials...Anderson gets inside the minds and passions of both sides and, best of all, inside the agony of those simply caught up in the horror and forced to make appalling choices.' -- Richard Dowden GUARDIAN (5.2.05) 'These books are not only an important illumination of a half-forgotten war, they show how an empire that tries to crush dissent with brutality is ultimately doomed to failure. Since Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, the stories of the Mau Mau have an unmistakable lesson for today.' -- Declan Walsh IRISH TIMES (12.3.05) 'It is a powerful message, and a timely reminder of the brutal crimes of Empire.' -- Justin Willis TLS (18.3.05) 'Anderson's book is the more meticulous and dispassionate of the two.' -- Robert Guest THE TABLET (12.3.05)

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