Struggle for Kenya: The Loss and Reassertion of Imperial Initiative, 1912-1923
Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 1993 - 351 pages
Struggle for Kenya details the evolution of British policy toward Kenya for the period 1912 to 1923. This was a particularly important time, for during the First World War, London lost the initiative in imperial affairs to Kenya's colonial state and European settlers. The postwar era dawned with the possibility that a settler state might take root in Kenya. However, this possibility touched off an intense struggle over imperial policy toward Kenya, and the direction in which the colony seemed to be heading. Protest and pressure from diverse groups helped push the imperial government to reassert control over Kenya. In this work, author Robert M. Maxon describes that process, and demonstrates what was most responsible for the Colonial Office regaining the initiative in the colony.
In 1912, the British government, through the Colonial Office, was clearly in control in its relations with the East African Protectorate (which, after 1920, became Kenya). With the start of World War I, the Colonial Office rapidly lost the initiative to Kenya's colonial state and the European settlers resident there. Most responsible for this were the Colonial Office's rapid loss of control over military operations in East Africa, a general lack of interest in Kenya by the Secretaries of State for the Colonies during the war, and the economic gains made by settler agriculture during the conflict.
These gains, the postwar stance taken by the Kenya government in support of settler economic and political demands, and the settler's desire for minority self-government provoked a period of intense struggle over the direction of imperial policy toward Kenya that exposed the imperial government's loss of control. As a result of that struggle, which involved protests from Kenya, India, and Great Britain, the Colonial Office finally intervened to regain the initiative in Kenya policy in 1922 and 1923 through the replacing of governor Sir Edward Northey, the development of a new policy agenda for Kenya, and the issuing of the Devonshire white paper. Of all the protests and pressures brought to bear on the Colonial Office between 1920 and 1923, the most significant was Kenya's economic situation. The colonial state's reliance on settler production for export had driven Kenya to the brink of bankruptcy, threatening the continued existence of colonial rule. It was, therefore, economic reasons, combined with a desire to avoid further African protest in Kenya, rather than missionary/humanitarian pressure that led the Colonial Office to seek to revive African production for export and officially espouse a doctrine of African paramountcy in 1923.
The reassertion of imperial initiative also had the advantage of providing a way out of the vexing Indian Question, which had caused so much embarrassment and difficulty for the British government, straining relations with the government of India and the India Office. Rather than come down completely on the side of the main protagonists, Kenya's European and Indian residents, the Colonial Office declared that African interests must be paramount in Kenya.
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