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Representations of violence: A study of Mau Mau memoirs and their value to the historian


By William Sewell


This essay will analyse the weight that can be placed on memoirs by the historian. It will focus specifically on the memoirs of Mau Mau detainees and their representation of the violence they endured in Kenyan detention camps during the period of National Emergency. Detention camps in Kenya were established by the British colonial government and proliferated in response to the Mau Mau uprising which started in October 1952 and continued until 1960. The Mau Mau uprising was framed as the archetypal colonial conflict, in which an atavistic, primitive group rejected the modernising imperial power in a bid to return to barbaric tribalism.[1] British colonial interpretations at the time positioned Mau Mau as "the antithesis of the colonial trustee" that propagated "a complete rejection of civilisation", and the colonial government envisioned Mau Mau as representing a fundamental failure of the civilising mission.[2] This failure needed correction, and colonial officials saw detention camps as essential interventions. The camps were established with the aim to "re-educate the Africans and to convince them that British plans hold more promise of a brighter future than those of the Mau Mau", and were imagined as forming a "pipeline": a series of centres that morally bankrupt Mau Mau agitators entered in order to reject their primitive convictions and become internally restored before returning to society as loyal colonial subjects. [3][4]

Memoirs occupy a fundamentally liminal space. They are positioned between primary and secondary sources; they sit between history and fiction, and they are simultaneously private and public discourses. Memoirs’ medial characteristics make them both uniquely valuable yet uniquely problematic to the historian. This understanding of their liminality will be used as the organising thematic framework for the essay, and the different aspects of their anomalous position will be discussed in this essay’s three distinct sections.

Section One will consider the use of memoirs as a way of understanding the experience of detention, focusing specifically on how violence has been remembered in the memoirists’ accounts. Section Two will consider occasions in which violence has been excluded from autobiographical accounts. Acknowledging the fallibility of memory, Section Two will consider memoirs’ liminal status as both historical and literary texts and discuss the implicit editing and mediation that takes place when experience takes on narrative form through autobiography. Finally, Section Three will consider memoirs’ liminality between private and public discourse, arguing that this duality gives memoirists a unique ability to influence the collective memory of Mau Mau. Through these three sections, this essay will highlight the multiple complexities present in memoirs as sources to the historian. Memoirs are a form of autobiography, detailing the author’s life experience. However, memoirs also focus more explicitly on specific events, in which authors attempt to position themselves within wider external circumstances.[5] Furthermore, memoirs – usually written at some distance from the events they describe – use their narratives to reflect and commentate on the time at which they were written, meaning their presentations of the past are guided by present preoccupations.[6] The essay will argue that these characteristics of memoirs engenders their liminal nature; meaning they can provide a lived experience of specific events to the reader, while producing personal narratives that must be analysed more deeply.

Centring on violence, this is a two-tiered study that will focus on the specific: the value of Mau Mau memoirs to the historian of Kenyan detention – but also the general: the weight that can be placed on memoirs as sources more broadly. In doing so, this essay will extrapolate the themes found in Mau Mau memoirs to the wider debates surrounding autobiographical accounts, memory and the memorialisation of violence.

Violence Remembered – Letting Africa Speak through recollections of violence in British detention camps

Mau Mau memoirs hold a liminal position between primary and secondary sources. They are both "primary documents by direct participants and secondary interpretations of the movement written after the fact."[7] This liminality means utilising memoirs to understand violence in detention is important both for what is revealed, and for what the use of memoirs represents. Mau Mau memoirs can play a fundamental role in shaping historians’ understanding of violence within detention. At once they demonstrate the different ways violence was used within the camps and allow detainees to present their own narrative of the detention experience: a historical account removed from the monolithic discourse of Empire. Although memoirists’ accounts of violence vary in detail, it is clear from Mau Mau memoirs that violence was an intrinsic aspect of life behind the wire.

Through the Mau Mau memoirs, it can be seen that in the British detention camps, violence was used as a form of punishment. Gakaara Wa Wanjaū’s 'Mau Mau Author in Detention' clearly details this:

I had been given a severe beating on the charge that I had talked across the barbed wire to somebody in Compound 2… My right arm was dislocated, and I was put in a punishment cell.[8]

Physical punishment as a response to "misbehaviour" is a common theme in all the memoirs’ accounts of detention. Joram Wamweya’s 'Freedom Fighter' details how he and seven other detainees were "chased around the compound and flogged as [they] ran", as punishment for "spreading Mau Mau propaganda", whilst J. M. Kariuki in his memoir ‘Mau Mau’ Detainee' describes how he wrote a letter of complaint and was resultingly "stripped and dealt strokes" by a prison guard.[9] "These were just about the most painful ones I had ever received, and they drew much blood from my buttocks."[10]  Physical violence as a form of punishment is an expected symptom of hostile prison camps, however it is clear from detainees’ accounts that this was not the only role violence had within the Kenyan camps.

In ‘Mau Mau’ Detainee', Kariuki details an experience from the Manyani Detention Camp that demonstrates violence used to psychologically torment and coerce compliance with the colonial government.

[Marlow, the Camp Commandant] then took from his car a piece of three-ply wood, and told me to hold it up above my head at arm’s length. He walked five yards and said that he was going to kill me if I did not agree to write the sentences… I refused. To my horror he raised his gun and shot at me. I remember a tremendous noise, knowing that I was dead and then nothing. He had, in fact, shot through the wood and I had fallen down with it… I think now he probably did not mean to kill me, it was merely to frighten me which it certainly succeeded in doing.[11]

The Camp Commandant’s expression of violence towards Kariuki is planned – seemingly almost rehearsed – but not physical. Kariuki’s memoir allows the historian insight into the different ways punishments within the detention camps could be manifested and also  demonstrates the added value that memoirs hold because of their literary nature. This exploration of violence within the camps demonstrates memoirs being used as primary narratives from those who were experiencing detention first-hand. They detail the minutiae of life behind the wire, displaying their unique value to the historian. Kariuki, Wa Wanjaū and Wamweya’s depictions of violence not only demonstrate how violence was deployed, but also elucidates the effect it had on the individual. They reveal an experience of violence that is not sanitised into numbers and statistics, allowing the reader to comprehend the emotional burden of detention as well as the purely physical, and afford the historian the ability to construct a more nuanced understanding of how violence was employed in detention and the different forms it would take.

The role of memoirs in helping historians construct narratives of violence in detention is significant, not just because of the descriptive detail of the accounts, but also because using memoirs of Mau Mau detainees symbolises an attempt to consult previously excluded voices from the history of detention. Using memoirs broadens the scope of voices from detention, helping to establish a more total history of life within the camps. Because of this, using memoirs as historical sources can be seen as an example of history from below.

History from below is a theoretical approach to history that values and projects the history of ordinary people.[12] It is written with the marked intention of giving a voice to previously unheard groups, individuals and their perspectives, rejecting political centrality in history, and instead directing analysis towards non-elite once "historyless" citizens.[13] Marshall Clough strongly contends that memoirs can be used to create a history of detention from below. He asserts that memoirs have the ability to uncover previously muted voices.[14] Memoirs’ inherently personal nature, Clough argues, makes them ‘a special sort of history’ that accommodates "a particular kind of commentary, describing a set of unique experiences and reflecting a distinct perspective."[15] Clough asserts that "the authors of memoirs may be ordinary people with special experiences, whose personal accounts can sometimes be as valuable as the public figures because of their view from below."[16]  To this extent, memoirs are valuable to the historian because they afford individuals that would have previously not been accounted for in history the agency to articulate their personal experience, and in doing so, shift the perspective of the prevailing narrative from a top-down to a bottom-up approach.  As a historical practice, this is particularly important due to the context of the  discursive hegemony that was practiced within Kenya by the British colonial government.

Caroline Elkins has described the British as "fighting a battle of information against the Mau Mau."[17] They established a propaganda campaign that was formulated with the marked intention of "dealing with the memory of Mau Mau."[18] Myles Osborne describes  this as a campaign that demonstrated "the apex of the ‘information war’ that had been fought between African intellectuals and newspaper editors, and colonial information staff since 1945."[19] This "information war" is characterised in a 'World of Today' radio report from West Kenya Radio in October 1958 perfectly exemplifies the means by which media was used by the colonial authority to instigate public antipathy towards Mau Mau.

In the last week’s edition of this programme we told you that a martyr is a man who dies for a great cause. This is the truth. We told you that men who suffer because they are convicted of bringing suffering, torture and death to others are not martyrs. This also is the truth…Finally we told you that the martyrs who died in Kikuyuland in the emergency died… because they would not become foul members of Jomo Kenyatta’s Mau Mau society. And that, listeners, is also the truth. It is not a view; it needs no authority. It is as true as it is to say that the sun is shining or that the rain is falling.[20]

This propaganda campaign against the Mau Mau further demonstrates the importance of using memoirs to uncover the experience of violence within detention. The campaign exemplifies an imposed narrative from above, and therefore using memoirs – which provide a platform to the voices that the government were explicitly trying to suppress  – clearly demonstrates a history from the bottom up.  Memoirs work to afford previously stifled voices a platform to present their experience of detention, after a history that previously relegated the Mau Mau to secondary figures in their own story.

It can be seen, therefore, that the liminal space that memoirs hold between primary and secondary sources means they provide uncommon questions to the historian. As primary sources their depth and literary nature serve to provide an insight into the violence of detention that is not available in other accounts. As secondary sources reflecting on past events, they reframe the narrative – reclaiming the historical agency of the individual. However, it must be considered whose voices memoirs fail to uncover – and whether their experiences of violence have remained unheard. These issues will be discussed in the following sections.

Violence Forgotten – Contrasting narratives of violence and subconscious misremembering

Within Mau Mau memoirs, there are marked inconsistencies regarding the depth and detail in which detainees recorded their experiences of violence in detention. Discussing cases of violence being excluded from Mau Mau memoirs, this section will examine these inconsistencies. First, it will argue that memoirs fail to project the female experience of violence from detention. The broad implications of this will be discussed, specifically in relation to the fallibility of memory and the inevitable editing that takes place when life experience becomes organised into narratives. Then, this reasoning will be employed to discuss the relationship between the author and the narrative. It will be argued that memoirs are at once historical and literary texts, and that, to the author, memoirs can be as both sites of identity production as identity revelation.[21]

Women clearly experienced violence in detention to a similar extent to men. Between 1954  and 1960 approximately 8,000 women were held in detention.[22] Historians Ann Presley and Katherine Bruce-Lockhart discuss how the colonial government established the Kamiti and Gatamayu detention camps explicitly for Mau Mau women, in which they clearly suffered violence. Presley highlights how "former women of Kamiti described conditions of terror and physical punishment" in the camps, while Bruce-Lockhart has argued that women’s experience of violence within the pipeline was "essentially the same as Mau Mau men."[23] Yet female narratives delineating their experience are underrepresented in Mau Mau memoirs.

The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, there is a marked dearth of memoirs written by women from detention: for the historian attempting to uncover female narratives of violence in detention, Wambui Waiyaki Otieno’s memoir 'Mau Mau’s Daughter: A Life History' represents "the sole narrative produced by women who participated in the Mau Mau rebellion."[24] Secondly, Otieno’s account provides very little detail of the violence she experienced. There are only three occurrences in which she explicitly talks about the violence she endured whilst detained at Lamu camp. They detail her ‘interrogation’ by a British Officer, and her descriptions are remarkably brief.

You can guess what happened: I was brutally raped.[25] He pushed me to the ground with such force that my back was hurt, causing a scar on my spine that I carry to this day. But I did as I was told. He raped me again.[26] When he awoke, I pleaded with him to let me go. He raped me two more times before he let me go.[27]

The brevity of Otieno’s descriptions clearly evidence a discomfort in detailing the ordeal of violence in detention. Furthermore, her experience does not represent one that was "essentially the same" as the Mau Mau men, as argued by Bruce-Lockhart and Presley, but exposes the sexual characteristics of the violence she experienced, and thus distinguishes the female experience of violence from that of Mau Mau men.[28]

The latent gaps in the accounts written by women can be used by the historian to evidence the effect violence had on the individual. Considering the sexual nature of the violence women endured and the silences with which it was met, it can be argued  that detention was a fundamentally traumatic experience: an experience of "actual or threatened death or sexual violence."[29] Moments of trauma can result in silences in autobiographies of those that experienced it because they are "incomprehensible" to the individual.[30] English and Philosophy scholar Jennifer Yusin describes the effect of traumatic moments: "They overwhelm us to the extent… that consciousness cannot experience, understand, and process the traumatic event as a trauma in the moment that it occurs."[31] Because of this, Yusin argues, traumatic experiences alter or affect the individual’s ability to remember an event.[32] In his work 'History and Memory', Geoffrey Cubitt contends that "sometimes, minds deal with traumatic threats by struggling to repress the memory of a disturbing experience; in other cases, there may be an uncontrollable recurrence of impressions whose horrifically vivid immediacy can find no place in the carefully stabilised structures of autobiographical recollection."[33] Both Cubitt and Yusin posit that moments of trauma diminish the mind’s ability to reliably record an experience.

The idea of detention being a traumatic experience is corroborated by non-written personal accounts of female ex-detainees. In Bruce-Lockhart’s study, she details the testimony of Jane Muthoni Mara, a plaintiff during a case against the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Muthoni’s testimony reveals how she was whipped, had stones thrown at her, and suffered sexual abuses such as "having a 'glass soda bottle' filled with hot water and pushed into her vagina."[34] These experiences ‘continued to impact’ Muthoni at the time of her testimony: she had developed flashbacks of "people running towards [her] with sticks as if they were about to hit [her]", and Bruce-Lockhart has used the continued festering of the event in Muthoni’s psyche to argue that she was suffering "psychological trauma due to physical and sexual abuse in the camps."[35]

This ongoing trauma goes some way to explain both the dearth of female voices and the marked silence relating to the ordeal of violence. Rather than suggesting that women did not experience violence in detention, by reading between the lines and employing an interdisciplinary approach, the gaps within Mau Mau memoirs surrounding the female experience of violence in the camps can be brought to the surface, and used as evidence to argue that detention was a fundamentally traumatic experience – especially for women due to the sexual nature of the violence they suffered – thus increasing the historian’s understanding of the way in which violence affected the individual.[36]

Understanding that events can be left out of memoirs – either due to the fallibility of memory, trauma or by the author’s conscious intention – raises broader questions surrounding the reliability of memoirist’s accounts and the historicity of the autobiographical genre.

Like historical texts, memoirs document past events. However, unlike historical scholarship, the narratives are not based on rigorous archival research and analysis but rely instead on the memory of an individual. Memoirs do not detail what happened, but rather what the author thinks happened from the time at which they were written.  This is key. Their accounts rely on memories which, as Cubitt has reasoned, represent the individual’s "conscious sense of the past" that have become "meaningfully connected to the present."[37] This calls into question the credibility of memoirs because the author is temporally removed from the event which they are detailing – a removal that can allow recollections to become blurred, altered and influenced by experience.

This is where memoirs, as sources, deviate from history. All historical writing is engaged in organising the past into an accessible narrative. However, memoirs do this on a fundamentally personal level without the research and recourse to corroborating evidence that plays a central role in written history.[38] By the author’s very nature, they are inextricable from the text because, unlike the historian, the recounted events have played a role in shaping the author’s identity. As Cubitt contends, there are "intimate and emotional connections between memory and personal identity" because autobiographies are formed around particular memories that are considered to have played an active role in shaping identity, and as a result these are given greater prominence when we remember.[39] Cubitt argues that "we simultaneously construct and maintain ourselves as remembering subjects."[40] This holds: we construct our identity through our narrativisation of the past, and then maintain our identity through the reification of a narrative that was, by its very nature, constructed. To this extent, autobiographical remembering is a doubly constructed experience.

The fallibility of memory explains the liminal status that memoirs hold between historical and literary texts – as fabrication is inherent to the process of transmuting experiences into organised narratives.  Because of this, the reliability of memoirs, as historical sources, must be questioned. Ultimately, however, it can be seen that what is omitted from memoirs regarding violence in detention is still of significant importance. This section has dealt with examples in which subconscious misremembering has blurred representations of violence; examples of where the presentation of violence has been consciously manipulated will be discussed in the final section.

Violence Manipulated – Memoirs, collective memory, and the memorialisation of violence

This section will consider how memoirs have been used to influence collective memory surrounding detention and the Mau Mau in general. This is because memory of the Mau Mau became a key battleground for theoretical debate after independence – and how the movement was remembered was both influenced by, and used to shape, post-colonial understandings of Kenyan nationalism and collective identity. This section will argue that Mau Mau memoirs exhibit liminality between personal and public discourses and that this duality means Mau Mau memoirs are in a specifically advantageous position to shape public memory.

In Kenya, the collective memory of Mau Mau was a battleground for contemporary debates about post-colonial national identity. Frederick Cooper highlights the fluidity of past and present in relation to Mau Mau in Kenya, arguing it was "a politically charged topic, [that] became a way of saying something about the present."[41] This perception is supported by Clough, who contends that Mau Mau was inextricable from controversies regarding "the role of memory in moulding history, the role of history in shaping the present, and the responsibility of the present to the past."[42] The representations of violence within Mau Mau memoirs demonstrates how their accounts were used to underpin present preoccupations regarding competing claims to Kenya’s nationalist movement.

The varying coverage within memoirs of the violence detainees endured at the hands of non-Mau Mau Kenyans, who served the colonial government as prison guards and warders at the camps, provides a clear example of this as it illustrates presentations of violence being used to influence contemporary debates regarding constructions of nationalism in the newly independent Kenyan imagined community. For example, Jomo Kenyatta’s memoir 'Suffering Without Bitterness: The Founding of the Kenya Nation' includes very little mention of violence from Kenyan guards. His memoir touches on his experience at Lokitaung – the Island camp where he was imprisoned – only very briefly, and to an even lesser extent contains descriptions of the violence endured. Kenyatta revises the narrative put forward in alternative accounts: "Although conditions were very bleak," he concedes, "this should not be presented as some sort of Devil’s Island, with floggings and tortures and wanton neglect."[43] Contrastingly, Kenyatta harnesses his experience of detention as a means of tracing the development of his personal political philosophy, and discussing how his time at Lokitaung impacted on his views of nationalism in Kenya.

Towards the end of 1954, he [Kenyatta] was allowed by his own request to read selected religious books, including the Bible and the Koran. This study of religious philosophies left him with the conviction that all were rooted in the one common theme: love your neighbour as yourself.[44]

At the same time, he highlights his own importance to the Kenyan freedom struggle.

 In Kenya at large, always in the shadow, if it could not be in substance, Jomo Kenyatta continued to dominate the scene.[45]

The reason for this can be understood when Kenyatta’s memoir is placed in a broader political context.

'Suffering Without Bitterness' was published in 1968, five years after Kenyatta became Prime Minister of a newly independent Kenya. Throughout this period, Kenyatta forwarded a Kenyan national identity that attempted to include all Kenyans and thus downplayed the role of the Mau Mau in Kenya’s freedom struggle. This can be seen from the foreword of 'Suffering Without Bitterness', in which he asserts: "The most essential need to which I have constantly sought to proclaim and to fulfil in Kenya has been that of national unity; nationhood and familyhood must be contrived out of our many other tribes and cultures."[46] Kenyatta is employing a unifying discourse that does not attempt to place the experience of the Mau Mau as a necessary aspect to the national character. Kenyatta’s post-independence political speeches support this claim:

To you now I say: let us unite and fight for the future of this country…Whether you are Kikuyu, or a member of another tribe, is beside the point. My work is essential to the African people and I have no room for tribalism in my heart.[47]

Here, Kenyatta is using his memoir as a vessel for his political ideology. Presenting himself to the Kenya people as a paternalistic figure whose experiences were communicable not just to the Kikuyu people but to the nation as a whole, and in doing so he promoted a nationalism that could be accessed by all Kenyans.

Here, memoirs’ fundamental characteristic of holding a liminal position between sources for private and public discourses is key. On one hand, memoirs are formalised diaries – the inner thoughts of individuals who had first-hand experience of detention.[48] However, in conjunction with the private nature of their discourse, memoirs are written with the intention of publication and therefore the awareness of an audience. To this extent, they are also markedly public discourses. The key understanding here, and what distinguishes memoirs from secondary sources, is that the audience of the memoir, unlike a historical essay, is non-academic. Once published, memoirs are widely accessible to a general public that considers their accounts historically accurate. Marshall Clough has highlighted this. Memoirs, unlike autobiographies, "deal more with exterior events" tending to focus "on a particular period, a time of significance to the community or nation as much as the individual."[49] Memoirists at once emphasise the uniqueness of their life story whilst also connecting themselves to something larger than themselves. Because of this, memoirists –by their very nature – are aware that they are writing a text which is considered by its audience to be personal, and therefore unbiased, thus granting them a unique ability to shape collective memory.

This is particularly pertinent in the case of political memoirs. Memoirs afford individuals the opportunity to use their life narrative to serve targeted contemporary concerns. In 'Freedom Fighter', Joram Wamweya uses the experience of serving soup in the camp kitchen as a parable for an inclusive nationalist outlook. Having initially only filled the bowls of the Kikuyu to the brim and subsequently met a backlash, Wamweya eventually served soup for all detainees in equal measures.

From this day I realised that if it is one’s duty to serve the public, the wise course is to adopt complete impartiality even though this should seem unpopular. One day, people would learn to be appreciative.[50]

Wamweya is using his memoir to detail his life story, but also to put forward his ideology and politics. Wamweya, like other memoirists, is using a personal literary framework to provide credence to publicly intended views. Memoirists are mobilising their personal experiences to serve political gain. They are using autobiography – a literary framework which is considered by its audience a reliable account of past events – as a means of expressing opinions on nationalism. The personal is manipulated to become an analogy for publicly intended arguments. Once more memoirs’ liminality between history and literature is highlighted. Rather than using the present as a vantage point from which to draw a more accurate representation of the past, the past is being mobilised to serve a political purpose in the present.

Tied to this is the growing awareness of the importance that having autonomy in the processes of narrative production can be for groups previously disenfranchised from the history-making process. As highlighted in the first section, uncovering lost individual voices – especially in the colonial setting – acts to diminish the hegemony of those with power in society; but this is also salient on a collective level. During empire, Kenyan history was a subsection of British imperial history. Mau Mau memoirs hold significance as they allow the collective to speak for themselves,  write their own past and forge their own imagined identities. All identities are constructed, it is just a matter of from whom these constructions come. Before the Mau Mau were able to write their own narratives, their identity as an atavistic, brutal, backward group was imposed by colonial government; in granting Mau Mau members the opportunity to write their own history as a collective, memoirs represent more than the sum of their parts, and demonstrate a nation slowly ridding itself from the shackles of colonial hegemony.


This essay has used the representations of violence present in the autobiographical accounts of former Mau Mau detainees as a lens through which to consider the value of  memoirs as sources to the historian. It has explored memoirs’ ability to evoke in the reader, through the richness of their narratives, an understanding of the author’s experience on an emotional level; yet, at the same time, this essay has considered the multiple complexities that question the credibility of the narratives presented. Memoirs occupy a space that is defined by its liminality. They stand between primary and secondary sources, historical and literary texts, and private and public discourses. This essay has argued that through this understanding of memoirs’ medial identity, and when studied in conjunction with other sources available, that memoirs hold fundamental value to the historian attempting to understand the experience of violence within the pipeline camps.

Through this essay, it is clear to see that experiences of violence, and how it is remembered, have a profound effect on identity. In 2015, as part of the legal settlement reached between the British government and the Mau Mau two years before, a UK-funded memorial to Kenyans killed and tortured during the Mau Mau uprising was unveiled in Nairobi.[51] The fact that the memorial was British funded, the ‘excitement’ which its unveiling generated amongst the onlooking veterans and the idea that this represents a notion of closure regarding the Mau Mau, reveals three things about the memorialisation of violence: memorialisation can be a form of reconciliation; if collective memory is a necessary part of nation building then it should be those within the nation who control that memory; and, finally, that often we remember so we can forget.[52]


Primary Sources

Archival Documents

British National Archives, FCO 141/6227

News Reports and Articles:

‘Kenya Mau Mau memorial funded by UK unveiled’, BBC News, (September 2015), <>


Askwith, Tom, ‘From Mau Mau to Harambe,’ (Cambridge: African Studies Centre, 1995)

Kariuki, Josiah Mwangi, ‘Mau Mau’ Detainee, (London: Oxford University Press, 1963)

Kenyatta, Jomo, Harambee! The Prime Minister of Kenya’s Speeches 1963-1964, (Oxford University Press: Nairobi, 1964)

——, Suffering Without Bitterness: The Founding of the Kenya Nation, (Nairobi: East African Publishing House, 1968)

Wambui Waiyaki Otieno, Mau Mau’s Daughter: A Life History, (London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1998)

Wamweya, Joram, Freedom Fighter, (Nairobi: East African Publishing House, 1971)

Wanjaū, Gakaara wa, Mau Mau Author in Detention, (Nairobi: Heinemann Kenya Limited, 1983)

Secondary Sources

Atieno Odhiambo, E. S., ‘Matunda ya Uhuru: Seven Theses on Nationalism in Kenya’, in

Atieno Odhiambo & Lonsdale (eds.) Mau Mau & Nationhood, (Nairobi: East Africa Educational Publishers, 2003), pp. 37-45

——, ‘The Production of History in Kenya: The Mau Mau Debate,’ Canadian Journal of African Studies, vol. 25, no. 2, (1991), pp. 300-307

Bistoen, G., S. Vihuela and S. Craps, ‘Nachträglichkeit: A Freudian perspective on delayed traumatic reactions’, Theory & Psychology, (2014), pp. 668-687

Bhattacharya, Sabyasachi, ‘History from Below’, Social Scientist, vol. 11, no. 4, (1983), pp.  3-20

Bruce-Lockhart, Katherine, ‘”Unsound” Minds and Broken Bodies: The Detention of “Hardcore” Mau Mau Women at Kamiti and Gitamayu Detention Camps in Kenya, 1954-1960,’ Journal of Eastern African Studies, vol. 8, no. 4, (2014), pp. 590-608

Chamberlain, Mary, and Paul Thompson, ‘Genre and Narrative in Life Stories’, (London: Routledge, 1998), pp. 1-19

Clough, Marshall S., Mau Mau Memoirs: History, Memory and Politics, (Boulder: Lynne Reiner Publishers, 1998)

——, ‘Mau Mau & the Contest for Memory’, in Atieno Odhambio & Lonsdale (eds.) Mau Mau & Nationhood, (Nairobi: East Africa Educational Publishers, 2003), pp. 251-267

Cooper, Frederick, ‘Mau Mau and the Discourses of Decolonisation,’ Journal of African History, vol. 29, (1988), pp. 313-320

Cubitt, Geoffrey, History and Memory, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007)

Elkins, Caroline, ‘Britain has said sorry to the Mau Mau. The rest of the empire is still waiting,’ The Guardian, (7/6/2013), <>

——, ‘Detention, Rehabilitation & the Destruction of Kikuyu Society’, in Atieno Odhiambo & Lonsdale (eds.) Mau Mau & Nationhood, (Nairobi: East Africa Educational Publishers, 2003), pp. 191-226

——, Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya, (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2005)

Iliffe, John, Africans: The History of a continent, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017)

Lonsdale, John, ‘Mau Maus of the Mind: Making Mau Mau and Remaking Kenya’, The Journal of African History, vol. 31, no. 3, (1990), pp. 393-421

Neubauer, Carol, ‘One Voice Speaking for the Many: the Mau Mau Movement and Kenyan Autobiography’, The Journal of Modern African Studies, vol. 21, no. 1, (1983), pp. 113-131

Osborne, Myles, ‘The Rooting out of Mau Mau from the Minds of the Kikuyu is a Formidable Task’: Propaganda and the Mau Mau War, Journal of African History, 56 (2015), pp. 77-97

Peterson, Derek, ‘Casting Characters: Autobiography and Political Imagination in Central Kenya’, Researching African Literatures, (2006), pp. 176-192

——, Ethnic Patriotism and the East African Revival: A history of dissent, c. 1935-1972, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012)

Petzold, Stephan, ‘Memory and Identity’, HIST2557 – Thinking About History Lecture Series, (University of Leeds: 2018)

——, ‘The Mau Mau Rebellion, Kikuyu Women, and Social Change, Canadian Journal of African Studies, vol. 22, no. 3, (1988), pp. 502-527

Ranger, Terence, ‘The Invention of Tradition in Colonial Africa’, in Ranger and Hobsbawm (eds.) The Invention of Tradition, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), pp. 211-263

Rosberg, Carl G. Jr. & John Nottingham, The Myth of ‘Mau Mau’: Nationalism in Kenya, (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1966)

Yusin, Jennifer, ‘The silence of partition: borders, trauma, and partition history’, Social Semiotics, vol. 19, no. 4, (2009), pp. 453-568


[1] Carl G. Rosberg and John Nottingham, The Myth of ‘Mau Mau’: Nationalism in Kenya, (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1966), p. 330.

[2] Caroline Elkins, ‘Detention, Rehabilitation & the Destruction of Kikuyu Society’, in Atieno Odhiambo & Lonsdale (eds.) Mau Mau & Nationhood, (Nairobi: East Africa Educational Publishers, 2003), p. 193; Rosberg and Nottingham, p. 330.

[3] Tom Askwith, ‘From Mau Mau to Harambe,’ (Cambridge: African Studies Centre, 1995), p. 101.

[4] Elkins, ‘Detention, Rehabilitation & the Destruction of Kikuyu Society’, p. 195.

[5] Marshall S. Clough, Mau Mau Memoirs: History, Memory and Politics, (Boulder: Lynne Reiner Publishers, 1998), p. 7.

[6] Ibid, p.7.

[7] Clough, Mau Mau Memoirs, p. 10.

[8] Gakaara Wa Wanjaū, Mau Mau Author in Detention, (Nairobi: Heinemann Kenya Limited, 1983), p. 58.

[9] Joram Wamweya, Freedom Fighter, (Nairobi: East African Publishing House, 1971), p. 181.; Kariuki, p. 90.

[10] Kariuki, p. 90.

[11] Kariuki, p. 76.

[12] Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, ‘History from Below’, Social Scientist, vol. 11, no. 4 (1983), p. 3.

[13] Bhattacharya, p. 3.

[14] Clough, Mau Mau Memoirs, p. 7.

[15] Ibid. p. 7.

[16] Ibid. p. 7.

[17] Elkins, Imperial Reckoning, p. 287.

[18] British National Archives, FCO 141/6227, ‘PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN – MEMORY OF MAU MAU: War Council Minute 1801 of 6th July ’56,’ 06/07/1956.

[19] Myles Osborne, ‘The Rooting out of Mau Mau from the Minds of the Kikuyu is a Formidable Task’: Propaganda and the Mau Mau War, Journal of African History, (2015), p. 78.

[20] British National Archives, FCO141/6227, ‘The World of Today, Oct 11 1958: Broadcast from West Kenya Radio’, Radio Broadcast, 11/10/58.

[21] Patricia Geesey, ‘Introduction: Why African Autobiography’, Autobiography and African Literature, vol. 28 no. 2, (Summer 1997), p. 1.

[22] Katherine Bruce Lockhart, ‘”Unsound” Minds and Broken Bodies: The Detention of “Hardcore” Mau Mau Women at Kamiti and Gitamayu Detention Camps in Kenya, 1954-1960,’ Journal of Eastern African Studies, vol. 8, no. 4, (2014), p. 590.

[23] Cora Ann Presley, ‘The Mau Mau Rebellion, Kikuyu Women, and Social Change,’ Canadian Journal of African Studies, vol. 22, no. 3, (1988), p. 513; Katherine Bruce-Lockhart, p. 590.

[24] Bruce-Lockhart, p. 591; Cora Ann Presley, ‘Introduction: Memory is a Weapon,’ Mau Mau’s Daughter: A Life History, (London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1998), p. 1.

[25] Wambui Waiyaki Otieno, Mau Mau’s Daughter: A Life History, (London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1998), p. 81.

[26] Ibid, p. 83.

[27] Ibid, p. 83.

[28] Bruce-Lockhart, p. 590.

[29] G. Bistoen, S. Vihuela and S. Craps, ‘Nachträglichkeit: A Freudian perspective on delayed traumatic reactions’, Theory & Psychology, (2014), p. 669.

[30] Jennifer Yusin, ‘The silence of partition: borders, trauma, and partition history’, Social Semiotics, vol. 19, no. 4, (2009), p. 455.

[31] Ibid, p. 455.

[32] Ibid, p. 455.

[33] Cubitt, p. 109.

[34] Bruce-Lockhart, p. 598.

[35] Ibid, p. 598.

[36] S. M. Shamsul Alam, p. 200.

[37] Cubitt, p. 9.

[38] Clough, Mau Mau Memoirs,  p. 7.

[39] Cubitt, p. 90; Ibid, p. 108.

[40] Ibid, p. 90.

[41] Frederick Cooper, ‘Mau Mau and the Discourses of Decolonisation,’ Journal of African History, vol. 29, (1988), p. 313.

[42] Marshall Clough, Mau Mau Memoirs, p. 3.

[43] Jomo Kenyatta, Suffering Without Bitterness: The Founding of the Kenya Nation, (Nairobi: East African Publishing House, 1968), p. 67.

[44] Ibid, p. 68.

[45] Ibid, p. 88.

[46] Ibid, p. ix.

[47] Jomo Kenyatta, ‘Speech to the Meru Co-Operative Union, September 1964’, Harambee! The Prime Minister of Kenya’s Speeches 1963-1964, (Oxford University Press: Nairobi, 1964), p. 10.

[48] Ibid, p. 7.

[49] Ibid, p. 7.

[50] Joram Wamweya, p. 184.

[51] ‘Kenya Mau Mau memorial funded by UK unveiled’, BBC News, (September 2015), <>.

[52] Ibid.

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