Britain fought in the Second World War to save the world from fascism. But just a few years after the defeat of Hitler came the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya - a mass armed rebellion by the Kikuyu people, demanding the return of their land and freedom. The draconian response of Britain's colonial government was to detain nearly the entire Kikuyu population of one-and-a half-million - to hold them in camps or confine them in villages ringed with barbed wire - and to portray them as sub-human savages.
From 1952 until the end of the war in 1960 tens of thousands of detainees - and possibly a hundred thousand or more - died from the combined effects of exhaustion, disease, starvation and systemic physical brutality. Until now these events have remained untold, largely because the British government in Kenya destroyed most of its files. For the last eight years Caroline Elkins has conducted exhaustive research to piece together the story, unearthing reams of documents and interviewing several hundred Kikuyu survivors.
Britain's Gulag reveals what happened inside Kenya's detention camps, as well as the efforts to conceal the truth. Now, for the first time, we can understand the full savagery of the Mau Mau war and the ruthless determination with which Britain sought to control its empire.(20050217)