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Circumstances short of global war: British defence, colonial internal security, and decolonisation in Kenya, 1945-65

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  • Da Great Britain
  • Dt Africa
  • Communication
  • Design
  • Economics
  • Political Science


This thesis fills a significant gap in current secondary literature on post-war British defence and internal security policy. Hitherto, post-war British defence policy in Kenya has only been considered in passing, in relation to the larger question of Middle East strategy. Very little attention has been paid to Kenya's particular importance in the post-1956 ‘east of Suez’ role. Current works on British internal security policy in Kenya concentrate either on post-war policing in general or, more specifically, on the British counter-insurgency campaign during the Mau Mau revolt (1952-6). In examining post-war British defence and internal security policy and practice in Kenya until 1965, this thesis demonstrates the essential continuity in British strategic priorities in the area. Far from having to ‘scram from Africa’, Britain adapted its defence requirements to an acceptable minimum, thereby ameliorating the more ‘extreme’ face of African nationalism, and denying it political capital with which to apply pressure to Britain's ‘moderate’ collaborators. The success of this flexible approach to defensive requirements is clear because, in losing its politically unacceptable army base, Britain gained a great deal in terms of retention of communications, leave camp, overflying, staging and training rights and facilities, in exchange for arming and training the Kenyan military and assisting in the maintenance of post-independence internal security. Such arrangements continued well beyond the apparent demise of the ‘east of Suez role’. This thesis sets British internal security policy in Kenya in its broad Cold War context (1945-65). Even after apparent military victory in 1956, Britain remained fearful of a recurrence of Mau Mau, and the possible failure of attempts to fudge a ‘political solution’ in Kenya. Britain also had to ensure that its ‘moderate’ successors would be safe from the more radical elements in Kenya African politics, especially given the earlier contradictions inherent in the divisive political and socio-economic reforms which had been designed to foster economic and political stability. Quite simply, therefore, this study demonstrates that British defence and internal security interests in Kenya were far more important, and far more intricately connected with the transfer of political power, than has hitherto been acknowledged.

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