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Kenya's Mau Mau Rebellion, 1952-60 (HI32B)

Office Hours:
Seminar Times:

Professor David Anderson
Monday, 3-4 pm; Tuesday, 2-3 pm, 4-5 pm.
+44 (0) 24 76574691, internal extension 74691
Class 1 - Monday 1-3 pm, FAB 2.35; Class 2 - Tuesday 5-7 pm, FAB 4.79



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This 30 CATS undergraduate final-year Special Subject module examines a wide variety of sources related to the origins, conduct and memorialization of Kenya’s Mau Mau rebellion of 1952-60. The sources will reveal the complexity and ambiguities of what was both an anti-colonial rebellion against British rule and a civil war within the colony’s Kikuyu community. The module has a particular focus on understanding the motives and actions of those Kikuyu who joined the rebellion, and those who opposed it. The sources used will include key documents from Kenya’s colonial history before 1952, the memoirs of those who participated in the rebellion, official records from both Kenya and the UK – including documents released since 2012 as a result of the court case brought by Mau Mau veterans against the British government - and fictional accounts of the war in Britain and Kenya (including films). Sources produced by all sides of the conflict will be discussed. Students will examine the many political and cultural uses to which this deeply contested history has been put, including the use of historical evidence in the court case that brought an acknowledgement from the British government that Mau Mau suspects had been tortured.

Course Aims
  • Discuss the place of Mau Mau within the wider history of colonial Africa and the longer histories of British imperialism and Kenyan politics.
  • Understand the complexity of anti-colonial rebellions.
  • Understand the methodological challenges of archival-based research into colonised societies.
  • Demonstrate an ability to evaluate critically a range of secondary and primary sources, and an enhanced capability for individual and self-motivated study.
  • Have gained an understanding of the availability, uses and limits of primary source material for historical analysis.
  • Have interrogated textual and archival historical sources.

Seminar Programme

Assessment and Contact Hours

Reading and Resources