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Fighting the Mau Mau

British Army counterinsurgency campaigns were supposedly waged within the bounds of international law, overcoming insurgents with the minimum force necessary. This revealing study questions what this meant for the civilian population during the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya in the 1950s, one of Britain’s most violent decolonisation wars.

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British Army counterinsurgency campaigns were supposedly waged within the bounds of international law, overcoming insurgents with the minimum force necessary. This revealing study questions what this meant for the civilian population during the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya in the 1950s, one of Britain’s most violent decolonisation wars. For the first time Huw Bennett examines the conduct of soldiers in detail, uncovering the uneasy relationship between notions of minimum force and the colonial tradition of exemplary force where harsh repression was frequently employed as a valid means of quickly crushing rebellion. Although a range of restrained policies such as special forces methods, restrictive rules of engagement and surrender schemes prevented the campaign from degenerating into genocide, the army simultaneously coerced the population to drop their support for the rebels, imposing collective fines, mass detentions and frequent interrogations, often tolerating rape, indiscriminate killing and torture to terrorise the population into submission

Weight 639 g
Dimensions 152 × 228 × 18 mm
Subtitle

The British Army and Counter-Insurgency in the Kenya Emergency

ISBN

9781107656246

Country

Kenya

Pages

320

Format

Paperback

Language

English

Date

31 Jan 2013

Author

Dr Huw Bennett

Publisher

Cambridge University Press

Series

Cambridge Military Histories

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Editorial Review

"Bennett demolishes the myth that the British army fought against the Mau Mau by trying to win the 'hearts and minds of the people'. He shows in unsurpassed detail the ways in which the army used coercion to cow the civil population into capitulation. This book is indispensable to a proper understanding of what happened in Kenya during the Mau Mau emergency."
- David French, author of The British Way in Counter-Insurgency, 1945-1967

"In this first document-based study of the wars of decolonisation fought by the British Army after 1945, Huw Bennett provides a gripping, revisionist account of the campaign against Mau Mau rebels in Kenya. Britain's Army, war-weary, over-stretched, under-trained and dependent upon reluctant conscripts, held on to a philosophy of 'minimum force' in Kenya. But on the ground the 'rule of law' was bent, and sometimes broken, as the Army used whatever force it needed. Newly unearthed documents tell a story that shatters our view of Britain's Army as the 'hearts-and-minds' counter-insurgency specialists. This is more than just another colonial history, it is a commentary on the myths we still live by in post-imperial Britain. If you want to know what went wrong in Basra and Helmand, start here."
- David M. Anderson, author of Histories of the Hanged: Britain's Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire

"... Bennett is to be congratulated for an exciting, lively, readable, informed, and scholarly study of Mau Mau that both supplements and complements the growing corpus on British counter-insurgency."
- Matthew Hughes, War in History