As part of the Allied forces, thousands of Kenyans fought alongside the British in World War II. But just a few years after the defeat of Hitler, the British colonial government detained nearly the entire population of Kenya's largest ethnic minority, the Kikuyu-some one and a half million people.
The compelling story of the system of prisons and work camps where thousands met their deaths has remained largely untold—the victim of a determined effort by the British to destroy all official records of their attempts to stop the Mau Mau uprising, the Kikuyu people's ultimately successful bid for Kenyan independence.
Caroline Elkins, an associate professor of history at Harvard University, spent a decade in London, Nairobi, and the Kenyan countryside interviewing hundreds of Kikuyu men and women who survived the British camps, as well as the British and African loyalists who detained them.
The result is an unforgettable account of the unraveling of the British colonial empire in Kenya—a pivotal moment in twentieth-century history with chilling parallels to America's own imperial project.