Date of Award

Spring 2017

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of arts (BA)


Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Libi Sundermann

Second Advisor

Michael Allen


During the British Empire’s colonial occupation of Kenya, which began in 1895, a new sense of Kenyan nationalism emerged. Between 1952 and 1956, the combined Kenyan tribes—united for the first time and calling themselves the Mau Mau—launched a violent guerilla war against the occupying British forces. Militarily, the Kenyans were no match for the seasoned soldiers, yet the rebellion became a significant cause of the ultimate British decision to withdraw from the Kenyan colony. Policy makers in the British metropole­—the political and cultural center of the British Empire—grew concerned that any reprisal against further Mau Mau insurgent action would lead to socio-political repercussion that the dwindling empire could ill afford. By 1954, in response to their own political fears, the colonial government, in full cooperation with the Home Office, increased the repression of the native Kenyans in an attempt to cover up the abuses the Kenyans suffered under British rule. It was not until 2005 that investigative historians uncovered evidence of these abuses, and by 2011 thousands of documents offered incriminating evidence of both colonial abuse and the complicity of the central government. This paper examines how fears of socio-political repercussions over colonial abuses in Kenya led directly to the decision to decolonize. At the core of this anxiety lay the Mau Mau rebellion and the British governments attempts to obfuscate the true nature of the insurrection.