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History Head Start - Option 7

These sources and reading were chosen by a member of our Warwick History department, Professor Daniel BranchLink opens in a new window. Dan is a Professor in African History, with main research interests in the colonial and post-colonial history of Kenya - and he has written many books, chapters, and articles on this subject! (see a list of some of these here: Dan is also working with colleagues from different Universities on a project focussed on East Africa's global 1960sLink opens in a new window.

Dan has selected this source, article, and asked some related questions to think about which are raising important questions about British imperialism, and resistance to it - but also about the role of history and historians in public debate about past atrocities and crimes.





Copy of letter regarding the arrest of trade union leaders in Nairobi, 1953Link opens in a new window


Letter Page 1Link opens in a new window

Letter Page 2Link opens in a new window

The letter was written by Aggrey Minya, General Secretary of the Kenya Federation of Registered Trade Unions to the General Secretary of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. He protests against the arrests and argues that the emergency is being used as an excuse to target trade unionists.


The Guardian - 'UK to compensate Kenya's Mau Mau torture victims'Link opens in a new window

Press coverage of a British apology in 2013 regarding British actions during the Mau Mau rebellion (1952-60) against British rule in Kenya: 


Please read the above source and article, and then answer the following questions:

  1. This letter is taken from the early stages of the Mau Mau rebellion (1952-60) against British rule in Kenya.  What evidence can you find in the document that might explain why the rebellion occurred?
  2. The British response to the uprising was particularly violent, as the 2013 apology by the UK government acknowledged.  How can you account for this violence and the sorts of behaviours described in the document?
  3. How do you think the case of Kenya fits a wider history of the end of British imperialism?
  4. Is an apology and compensation enough?  What should restitution for Kenyans look like?
  5. Should we think of events like the Mau Mau rebellion as much part of British history as Kenyan?  If so, how should such history be memorialised and/or taught in Britain today? 
  6. What should be the role of historians in the public debate of past atrocities and crimes?

General Information:

To help you think about these sources in a historical way, use the list of questions to guide your thinking.

Tips for Using
Primary Sources: