British Colonization in Kenya Essay Sample

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From around 1870 to the first World War (1914), a wave of new imperialism was brought upon the world. Imperialism was not a generally new event to the world, it had been going on for centuries before that. Imperialism is basically when a policy seeking to extend its territories targets a specific nation, and takes it over, the country being much weaker than the colonizer. Between New Imperialism and Old Imperialism, there are many characteristics which differed them apart, such as the number of powers that competed and that New Imperialism was agreed to be the final time of expansion. However, there was one thing they both had in common, that being; Europes hunger for expansion, always fighting over who will gain what, and racing to conquer the most territory. It all started when Europe all at once realized the potential for Africa.

Africa is sometimes thought to have been where everything began, where the first people on earth had lived. Filled with millions of miles of virgin land, this large gem could not have stayed hidden from the world for too long. Realizing the extreme weakness the natives had, it was easy to take over, and it literally was viewed as “up for grabs” since it had no real defense. Britain took over its share of East Africa, being modern-day Kenya, and called it British East Africa. Although slavery had recently been banned, the British still had no respect for the black native people, and oftentimes treated them very poorly. The British colonization in Kenya simply destroyed the native peoples economy and culture, but left Kenya a much more modernized country

During the late nineteenth century, European nations including Britain became quite interested in the potential of East Africa. After missionaries, hunters, traders, scientists and travelers visited and met with the people of this vast land, their reports they brought back with them were astonishing. According to them, East Africa was not very rich in natural resources, but it did have several other key features which attracted the attention of the rest of the world once news spread. Africa had so much trade potential, and being completely untouched by civilization, it had seemingly fertile land, and would even allow for a trade surplus. It seemed as if it was too good to be true, but it was not, and all the surrounding countries jumped at the opportunity to colonize East Africa.

Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal, and Germany all tried to colonize as much african land as possible in order to limit the amount their rivals could take, creating what’s known as the Scramble for Africa. By 1886, Germany had already taken a decent amount of East Africa and Britain had to act fast in order to get some new land. It took its claim on what is now modern day Kenya, naming it British East Africa(BEA). They wanted to stop other European nations from potentially jeopardizing their trade interests in the Middle East. Colonization didn’t really begin until 1985 when BEA became a “protectorate”, a smaller, weaker state which Britain protected and controlled.

The British did whatever they wanted in BEA, without ever consulting with the rightful owners of the land first. They had entire control over the native people and even went to the lengths of changing their entire lifestyle to new British ways. It never really occurred to the British government to ask the native African peoples who lived on the land what they should do with the new territory. Although it was their land, the British saw the black natives as lower in power, following the rules of social darwinism. They built on the land, took control of the best farmland, chose new cheifs, and even sometimes married their women! It was ridiculous that the British just barged in and took over everything, simply because “they claimed it first”, it seems quite savage actually. In order to create more trade opportunities inland, the British built a railway system which could supply the garrison near Lake Victoria, named after the English Queen, and other inland territories. Different African tribes all over BEA were completely taken advantage of.

The colonialists would take their land, give it new dimensions and even in some cases, entirely change the name of the tribe. They had no due respect for them, and always looked down on them as weaker subjects. As for their farmland, the settlers took over the best land, being the White Highlands, and made rules so that no African was allowed to own property there, hence the name. After having the natives under their control, the British imposed a system called “Indirect rule”. They would re-appoint chiefs for the villages themselves who would then report back to the British government, and follow their rules. By doing this, the British had imposed their western style of life on every village, having their own specifically chosen chief for each who would follow their rules. The British pretty much just stormed in, and believed that since they were white, they could do whatever they want to the weak black natives, and so they did. They claimed the land unrightfully, and did whatever they felt was needed in order to create their utopian trade nation.

The African Natives had literally no experience with eastern tax systems, and the British took major advantage of this. Since the British had control over them, they forced the Africans to pay the highest in taxes while the european settlers were given all the government services promised. They actually banned the Africans from growing the most profitable crops, this way they could be saved for the european economy, and the Africans would still be at poverty levels. Sometimes, the government did some sneaky things, working with the tribal ways of the people to their advantage. They paid squatters, farmers who were given land to farm, 12 shillings every 30 days. However, they also forced them to pay the hut-tax, being 12 shillings per hut they owned.

It could come out to be a very heavy burden on a poor African man because due to ancient tradition, he could have several wives, and each wife must be given their own hut. (Joyce Moss and Lorraine Valestuk. Vol. 2: African Literature and Its Times. Detroit: Gale Group, 2000. p317-326.Allison Weisz). Soon, mass amounts of people began to come into BEA from all different foreign countries. Missionaries preached new religions. Before, the Europeans had converted some Kenyan native peoples to Islam. Some Indian tradesmen attempted to convert local Kenyans to Muslim also, but failed in doing so. Europeans brought Christianity with them, which was already present in BEA but wasn’t widespread. Because of this, the Europeans were easily able to convert many tribes to Christianity.

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