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Mau Mau

Friday, July 03, 2015 - 12:43 AM

Mau Mau detainees (Photo Credit: Getty Images/Getty)

This is the story of a few documents that tumbled out of the secret archives of the biggest empire the world has ever known, offering a glimpse of histories waiting to be rewritten.

Just down the road from a pub in rural Hanslope Park, England is a massive building — the secret archives of the biggest empire the world has ever known. This is the story of a few documents that tumbled out and offered a glimpse of histories waiting to be rewritten.

When professor Caroline Elkins came across a stray document left by the British colonial government in Nairobi, Kenya, she opened the door to a new reckoning with the history of one of Britain's colonial crown jewels, and the fearsome group of rebels known as the Mau Mau. We talk to historians, archivists, journalists and send our producer Jamie York to visit the Mau Mau. As the new history of Kenya is concealed and revealed, document by document, we wonder what else lies in wait among the miles of records hidden away in Hanslope Park.

Produced by Matt Kielty with reporting from Jamie York

Special thanks to:

Mattathias Schwartz for first bringing us this story. Martin Mavenjina and Faith Alubbe of the Kenyan Human Rights Commission

Nyakinyua Kenda for the use of their music, Rose Mutiso and Anne Moko for translation help, and Sruthi Pinnamaneni for production support.

Correction: An earlier version of this episode contained two errors, which we have corrected. 

The first was our mention of Israel as a former British colony where official documents were purged. In fact, Israel was a successor to the British mandated territory of Palestine, which we also listed, and so we removed the redundancy. 

The second was that we qualified our statement about Kikuyu support for the Mau Mau. Some listeners misinterpreted our claim that support for the Mau Mau cut across all demographics among the Kikuyu to mean that all Kikuyu supported the Mau Mau, which is untrue. We tempered the language in that spot.



David Anderson, Martyn Day, Caroline Elkins, Katie Engelhart and Gitu wa Kahengeri


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Comments [52]


May we please know the name of the song or link to listen to Nyakinyua Kenda's music?

Feb. 09 2018 09:59 AM

This podcast cut off after 35 minutes for me. Where's the rest of the episode?

Oct. 13 2016 06:42 PM

* captives. not captors

Mar. 12 2016 10:37 AM

You can make anything about race, but the fact of the matter is that those in power whose sole purpose is to subdue and control a certain group of people are going to develop a complex similar to the prison experiment where they develop the superior guard complex, which leads to abuse and thinking of your captors as a lesser being.
The British torture is absolutely appalling & inexcusable, but the violence and appalling acts that powerful African groups inflict on their own African people are even more plentiful and gruesome.
Bottom line, an unsettling percentage of people, regardless of race, would have done the exact same thing that the British and other countries have done. War is ugly, even if the acts aren't excusable. So let's not be so ignorant as to make this all about white vs. black. Those people are part of the problem.
This is about humanity and how we raise our children & participate in our everyday culture.
It is OUR job, each and every human, to educate our children on the right way to treat everyone. Not to teach them that they are a victim of the color of their skin, the country they grew up in, or where their family is from.

Mar. 12 2016 10:36 AM
Nancy Karuri

Thank you for this Radiolab and Ms. Elkins. True American exceptionalism.

Mar. 03 2016 07:19 PM
Sue Palmer from UK

A really excellent programme - thank you.
A very distressing and disturbing history, and so important to understand it and to acknowledge it.

I'm reminded of something Sven Lindqvist writes in Exterminate All The Brutes: “You already know enough. So do I. It is not knowledge we lack. What is missing is the courage to understand what we know …”.

Thank you.

Jan. 11 2016 05:55 AM
William from ROI

Some very clear parallels between the treatment of the Kikuyu people and the treatment of the Irish by the British.

Dec. 26 2015 11:25 AM
winnie christensen from idaho

in the program you mentioned you did not know what MAU MAU means;here is the meaning.
Mzungu Arudi Ulaya Mwafrika Apate Uhuru
whiteman return to america, the african to gain freedom.

Dec. 21 2015 03:46 AM
Kungu Karumba from Sacramento, California USA

The story by Radiolab was great and thank you for doing that piece and the information by Caroline Elkins "Imperial Reckoning" has most of the information correct.
I am one of the grandsons of Kungu Karumba and if you don’t know who Kungu Karumba was he was one of the Kapenguria six freedom fighters jailed with our first president of Kenya Jomo Kenyatta. He was also a wealthy businessman in the 1940’s to 1953 who lost a lot of property and land to the British Colonial Government in the early 1950’s for supporting and funding the Mau Mau movement. My late Grandmother used to share stories of how the colonial whites took all what they had to try and break the Mau Mau movement.
My dad was a small boy in the early 1950’s and lived to see the colonial life and boy he tells chilling stories of how Kenyans fought back to earn freedom from the British did not respect the Indigenous people of Kenya.
What I know the British Government came to Kenya and took the most fertile land and enslaved Kenyan's how that right is? I read a comment try to down play what happened in Kenya during the Mau Mau revolution. The Mau Mau movement was used to defend their country and get back freedom from the British.
I am luck to have my Dad who is still in this day shares firsthand information on the Mau Mau movement and how the struggle for our freedom in Kenya came to be.
Last but not list we Kenyans need to tell and document our stories correctly to avoid other people documenting our history wrong, I read a comment from “Meg from Pennyslvania USA Brit Colonial's daughter” who had some very wrong information. She does not have the whole picture of what took place in Kenya at that time and her comments should be avoided.

Nov. 19 2015 05:40 PM
Dana from Southampton, UK

This was a really important and well-told story. Thank you. I just wanted to send an extra special thanks to Jamie York for the self-funding to make this story. It was great to hear Terry's and the voices of elderly Mau Mau women in this story.

Nov. 12 2015 04:30 PM
Lef from U.S.A

He asks why this isn't more widely know about, then compares it to the 'enslavement of the Hebrew people under the pharaoh, Moses had to let them out and cross the river.' Erm... that never really happened!!! Maybe people don't know about this kind of stuff because there are people making podcasts who don't know the difference between historical events and myths.

Aug. 28 2015 04:27 PM
Patrick wachira from SF

I've listened to this show a couple of times and i can't help but imagine what my grand mom went through. In his book our late president wrote, the Kikuyu's were willing to sacrifice everyone except 2 people of child baring age.

Aug. 26 2015 02:49 PM
Meg from Pennyslvania USA

So, I am white and a Brit Colonial's daughter. I was only 3 at Independence but grew up in the shadows of Mau Mau stories. I do know that from the white POV the majority of Kikuyu were not Mau Mau and the "loyalist Kikuyu" were very vulnerable caught between British punishments and fear of the Mau Mau demanding information, support such as food etc. The Ruck's "faithful servant" who led the Mau Mau to their child would have died had he not. My parents bought farms (subsidised by low interest WW2 Veterans loans) outside of the Kikuyu traditional lands and refused to hire any Kikuyu. My Uncle had several Kikuyu on his farm, my Uncle was also a JP (local judge) he jailed his loyalist Kikuyu cook to "keep him safe from Mau Mau." Kikuyu were between a rock and a hard place. Unless a Kikuyu could prove loyalty they were suspect. If they were "loyal" they were targeted by Mau Mau to cooperate, inform or die. This same conundrum exists in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan today and similarly the media tends to ignore the human situations survivors of conflicts have to deal with, in preference to creating boogey men out of the situation and averting our gaze from how we CREATE terror.

On the oral history and the lack of recognition of oral history in British Law. Traditional living in almost any African context is centered around story telling in every way, in an aliterate society oral history is how information is transferred from one generation to another. In the 1950's literacy was just taking hold in Kenya and the upper classes of indigenous Africans were literate. I had a black girl friend on the farm owned by my Dad. My mother would try and help anyone who wanted an education. This girl friend was told by her parents that they would not allow her to learn how to read or write "because people who can read and write can't remember anything." They perceived literacy as a kind of "dumbing down" because in writing records, the literate can't recall anything the way people who rely on oral tradition and learning. This is a stage of development that can be compared to our ADD around computer and cellphone technology now.

My point is that we need access to these records to know who we are, to know that just postwar, we and the "Greatest Generation" also created concentration camps and though there were no ovens there was no food either, the prisoners were not fed (too expensive) women were released daily for a few hours to find insects and seeds and grass to eat. The Kikuyu were de-humanized and treated worse than cattle.

For what it's worth IMO David Anderson "Histories of the Hanged" is the better scholar than Caroline Elkins "Imperial Reckoning" whom I find dramatizes and even exaggerates and inserts and centers herself into her "discovery" more than is necessary, at times undermining her subjects stories... which are dramatic enough on their own without her.

Aug. 17 2015 11:01 AM
Gathoni from Australia

Thank you for this episode. I am a Kenyan living outside Kenya where my dad sent me to get an education. When I decided to live here, dad sent me a book written by Caroline Elkins about this period of my home country's history so that I would appreciate what it took to have the freedom to make that choice. I was in no mood to read a dry history book after completing 3 years of University so I ignored the book. But listening to your show today has made me dig it up with the intention to read it. And given me a much greater appreciation for what my forefathers had to do to allow me to be free to make life choices.

Aug. 15 2015 05:45 AM
Kerri from Texas

Oh, the shame of not proof-reading/assuming autocorrect worked. Should say "brought to my attention", of course.

Aug. 13 2015 04:06 PM
Kerri from Texas

I very much appreciate this bit of history being brought to my intention. However, I feel the need to agree with some of the earlier-mentioned concerns (esp the remarks of John from Canada - if you had removed some of that hyperbolic investigative behind-the-scenes, there would have easily been room for the 46 cut seconds). Additionally, it stuck in my craw that the Moses/Exodus tale was used as a comparable tale of oppression by the narrator - as if it were a factual story rather than a cultural fable.

Aug. 13 2015 04:03 PM
Lane from Carlsbad, CA

Great story, interesting, disturbing, yet factual and historical. I don't mean to split hairs but one fact mentioned was so incredibly mind-boggling that I have to challenge....undoubtedly you simply accepted as fact without closer examination but I'd love for you to confirm or correct.

Toward the end of podcast you stated there exists files and files of documentation "floor to ceiling for 15 miles"!!!!! Really think about this statement, I can't fathom that volume of paperwork/documentation. If, for example, the British had 500 agents processing/collecting data, information, and documents each of those persons would have to produce 158' of floor to ceiling (6', 8', 10' tall?) files full of paperwork. Is that even humanly possible?

The printing press was invented mid 1400's, could that much printed or written matter even have been produced throughout the entire world 500 years later? Simply curious, please clarify.

Aug. 12 2015 12:12 PM

This was a brave piece. The Brit's casual torture puts current events into perspective. ISIS and its beheadings are universally excoriated as atavistic barbarism by conservatives and liberals alike. But no one is facing up to fact that the same practices were systematically employed by the colonial West as recently as 50 years ago. What's that about the past not being dead?

As another commenter said, the West perpetrated it's own holocaust that it has yet to answer for, except in an insular academia. Westerners are the Nazis that succeeded and never paid for our crimes. The past is ignored at our peril.

Aug. 09 2015 01:01 AM
Wave from MD

Good story. There are thousands of Mau Mau stories across the world if you go to areas and speak to the natives were the European came in and colonized the area. Start with talking to the natives in the United States of American, who were colonized by the British. Kenya did eventually get the European out. Don't see them leaving the U S any time soon.

Aug. 06 2015 06:17 PM
Peter from Bel

Thanks for this. Makes up for the previous episode situated in Kenya. Yay!!

Jul. 30 2015 03:22 PM
Mara Gottlieb, PhD from New York, NY

I just wanted to express my gratitude for this podcast. I am a professor of social work and a white woman whose life's work is to end racism in our country, and this story helped illustrate just how badly the US needs to talk about the atrocities we have committed against African and Indigenous people. In order for healing to occur, the trauma must be faced. Thank you for your courage in unearthing and addressing at least one story of the devastation colonialism wreaked.

Jul. 23 2015 08:32 AM
Ryan Jahn from New York

Hi Radiolab,

Could you post a link to the specific track at the end if the episode from Nyakinyua Kenda ? A Google search turns up a lot of live YouTube videos - would love to listen to the recording you played . Thanks a bunch !

Jul. 22 2015 09:38 AM
Joseph Tracy

Wonderful comments and very well done show. What troubles so many of us is that our current national identities and political arguments still emphasize the current version of the 32 white Kenyans represented by the innocent boy with the pony. There is a tremendous urge to conceal our own crimes from ourselves and channel our sense of injustice into the backlash. The story of European and American colonialism is as violent and racist as the story of the Axis powers. We all need to face the dark side of global power. When do we stop listening to the propaganda for war, theft and despoiling of land and economic exploitation put forth by governments? This legacy has not been faced and our failure to do so threatens us all.

Jul. 20 2015 05:40 PM
David Blumenkrantz from Los Angeles

Thanks for this report.... those of us already familiar with Elkins and her findings might relish in the detail here.... those like myself who have lived in Kikuyuland (myself in the 80s and 90s) appreciate the fuller telling of history. Those interested in other sides of the Mau Mau story might find this interesting:

Jul. 16 2015 04:19 PM
Lewis from Lincoln, NE

May I ask what the music piece is at 41:53??

Jul. 15 2015 03:46 AM

I listened to this yesterday and am so moved by this. The most important piece is the way this story was told - it was as if you took the listener by the hand and walked through each step of discovery, explaining the historical and cultural contexts of the situation and environment. Your storytelling method influences the impact of the story on the listener. If you had started with the ending - that would've been like a blow to the stomach - and there would've been disbelief and resistance to accept the story.

I'm more concerned now about those miles of paperwork from all the British colonies, and the injustices occurred by "savages."

Jul. 14 2015 01:10 PM
june2 from NYC

What a horrific tale. As I think about the advent of AI, artificial intelligence, I can only wonder how in the world scientists working now can possibly think they can program a self-teaching machine BUILT to be a 100,000 times smarter than the smartest human for compassion. (The post on blog, Wait But Why, titled: The AI Revolution gives an excellent and heavily footnoted breakdown of the speed and direction AI is heading - unless we get really smart really fast). HOW can humans hope to maintain the upper hand in the quite too near future if scientists are at the mercy of funding driven by competition? Financial survival drives technology beyond wisdom...As it stands, It's like robotics are a giant karma machine, and we may be on the wrong side of the coin. Why would we risk this? For a momentary advantage in the competition for funding? yikes.

Jul. 12 2015 10:09 PM

I just want to go there,
Go there,
where ?
Here, there, everywhere !
where i built my home !
where i planted !
where i sowed !
where i eat !
where i slept !
where i belong !
I just want to go there,
Go there,
where ?
Here, there, everywhere,
I just want to go home

Jul. 12 2015 02:30 PM
Kenneth Daly from New Jersey

In the mid-1960s I lived among the Meru who are cousins of the Kikuyu and who participated in the Mau Mau uprising.
I want to thank Radiolab for telling the real story of Mau Mau, but I must agree with some of the previous criticisms of the way Radiolab and Caroline Elkins present their work as uncovering a previously untold story. One comment called this the "Columbusing effect," i.e., something didn't exist until white people discover it, or in this case some white people. In 1965 a former British special ops soldier published Bwana Drum: The Story of a Pseudo-Terrorist. Dennis Holman led a team who went out in the forests disguised as a Mau Mau cell. They would meet up with real Mau Mau fighters and when they had the chance would kill them all by surprise. Although the exact number may differ, 50 years ago Holman gave statistics with the same orders of magnitude of the casualties in Kenya as are now presented as new discoveries.

Jul. 11 2015 04:21 PM

I agree with an earlier comment. Why is only one group referred to as savages. The Mau Mau acted with brutality and they were overpowered by brutality.

When they seek compensation why did they get it when their acts were savage? I completely disagree with the retaliation but I find the acts that triggered them repulsive.

I love this podcast. So thought provoking.

Jul. 10 2015 03:37 PM
Radio Labfan from Australia

Hi Radio Lab,
Another amazing episode, Thought provoking and utterly revolting, The Jews had a "holocaust" and now it is a Noun that refers specifically to 1942 and WW2.

In terms of numbers of people or the general savagery the british have committed way serious crimes.

Here's another example more than a Billion People starved to death Perhaps an Idea for a future episode.

Jul. 09 2015 02:39 AM
Mimi from Kenya

what really made me angry is how the court kept dismissing the testimonies of these people!? Does it make sense that Bill Cosby drugs 40 women and its a worldwide scandal and on the other hand thousands of Kenyan Africans go through a mini Holocaust and all we get is a podcast. The world really doesn't value the African and it pisses me off. Whenever I see this stuff I seesaw between being semi racist and being reasonable. But I feel like as Africans we don't get angry enough and that is why I have written this nonsensical post just so that random people can know that I am angry with how we continously get treated as Africans because trust me we are still be colonized economically politically ugh we should just move to Mars. Ok I'm done. Now that that is over thanks for the great episode :-) I'm back to being reasonable...

Jul. 08 2015 04:22 PM
Deidre Roberts

I first learned about the Mau Mau fighters while watching The First Grader: about a former Mau Mau fighter who enrolls in school after the government offers free elementary school education in 2003.

Jul. 08 2015 10:32 AM
Kagai Kinyua from Washington, DC

Hey Radiolab team - thanks for doing this piece.

Your podcasts are always very informative and entertaining as well - I always look forward to them - especially the ones that go beyond the borders. I personally get a jolt of joy when I hear an episode with a Kenyan setting :)

I'm a Kenyan by origin, and Kikuyu by tribe - so this is history for me that I grew up through primary and high school. While most of the story is pretty accurate, there are a few minor corrections, and points of clarification.

For example, it's very inaccurate to imply that President Kenyatta (the first one) suppressed the Mau Mau story, and the story of the British Gulag in Kenya from the public, and our history books. We've always celebrated and remembered our history, especially our Freedom fighters. Also, they did not detain, or torture every single Kikuyu - and the numbers don't add up either.

Out of about 45 to 50 tribes in Kenya, the Kikuyu are the Tribe (what you refer to as ethnic group) with the highest population (currently a little over 20%) - and the percentage was much higher in the colonial days. I remember we had a population of about 25 million in the 90's, so let's call that 15 million in the 50's and 60's (I'm just estimating) - that would put the Kikuyu at about 3 million back then - possibly more. Unlike today, where a lot of Kenya has a variety of tribes in one city, back then - a very big majority, over 90%, of a city would have people of one tribe - so it's rather impractical, and counter-productive to detain everyone in a particular city.

There is however, a part of this story that few people ever address. You mentioned that the first President Kenyatta played well with the former British colonial masters after Independence. Well, here's a theory. He, and a lot of other politicians back then, benefitted a lot from the transition - especially in the way of land .... acres of land, that were sold to them by the British that were leaving the country - for pennies on the dollar. This land, arguably, belonged to thousands of other people before that. So, should he not have turned it back to the people?

Anyway, for anyone interested in some more information on British colonial rule in Kenya, I highly recommend "Histories of the Hanged: The Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire" by David Anderson - and another book, "Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya".

Other than that, thanks for another great episode, and keep up the good work.

Jul. 08 2015 12:16 AM
bob minder from wbur canton, ma.

listened to last bit that went unaired. if we are going to try to root out genocides, it would only be a push towards it to do an episode on the root of the word and Raphael Lemkin, a story that just might be a good one for Radiolab? bob minder

Jul. 07 2015 04:30 PM
Howard Kellogg from Somerville MA

Guns, Germs and Steel ... and Torture

Jul. 07 2015 04:06 PM
mickeypigfish from Orange County, CA

It's clear to see now why Obama returned the bust of Winston Churchill to England. His Father is from Kenya.

Jul. 07 2015 02:53 PM
John Polk from Washington DC

There was a book some time ago called Passbook Number F.47927 written by a Kenyan woman. I had an opportunity to hear her speak in '93, amazing.

Jul. 07 2015 08:54 AM
James from Shanghai

The last 6 podcasts have been solid stuff. I'd almost forgotten about the love + radio and invisibilia aberrations. More culture, science, and social science please!

Jul. 07 2015 04:22 AM
yohanes from usa

This episode is amazing.It is interesting to learn of what really may have happened in the African Colonies. I am an African from Tanzania and there is many more great tells about the invasion of foreigners. Most of our tells were verbal and they were passed along via stories. I understand why in the global stage it may be hard to prove some of the witnesses testimonies, however this is how our society operated

Jul. 06 2015 11:05 PM
Jason Sunde from Minneapolis

Who are the musicians at 16:36? What a great voice!

Jul. 06 2015 03:52 PM
Jason from Milwaukee

Its funny how one group of people are portrayed to be savages.

Jul. 06 2015 12:10 PM
Alex from hong kong

amazing story, u are my favorite podcast! I come from former British colony Hong Kong. I'm going so share this with my friends.

One suggestion to make sharing easier: place Facebook, google sharing buttons for each of your podcasts

Keep up the great work!


Jul. 06 2015 08:23 AM

Thank you for this episode. When I heard "what matter to these people was not a financial settlement at all but rather acknowledgement," that was the point the story came alive for me. I have heard this same line before from comfort women.

Jul. 05 2015 09:37 PM

It is strange for a RadioLab programme to feel so personal to me. I have heard programmes from all sorts of far flung places but this one felt personal. I know the Cholmondeley/Delamre family, who control much of Kenya both pre and post colonialism, my mother worked for the last governor of Nigeria, but I have always tried to rid myself of the white man's guilt, so while acknowledging that I am from a country and social strata that has profited from what we did there, I don't think I should feel responsible for actually doing it. I know about the Mau Mau and have long admired what they did. But I am from Milton Keynes, so it was quite shocking to hear that the archives are stored nearby.

Jul. 04 2015 09:08 PM
Paul from Los Angeles, CA

Excellent episode, fascinating topic which I had previously never heard of.

I did notice something I thought was worth sharing. So as the bleeding heart liberal I am, as I am listening to the story I am wholeheartedly agreeing with the position being forwarded by Caroline Elkins. However, at the 28-29 minute mark I had to step back and critically appraise what she was saying.

First, I am a firm believer that you do a disservice to a cause when you overstate your argument. I think this is a great example. Jad states that the estimates of how many Kikuya were subjugated as part of the British re-education camps range from 160,000 on the low end. Caroline Elkins then follows giving her estimate that over 99% of all Kikuya--for all practical purposes every Kikuya man, woman, and child in the country--were put into this system.

Now just as a critical thinking skeptic, I had to stop and say "wait a minute..." Wasn't it stated that the Kikuya were the largest ethnic group in Kenya, the majority of the population? Every single one of them (or almost every single one), was processed into these re-education camps?

And immediately following this, the topic of her critics comes up. Elkins sums up those who criticized her conclusions in a transparently straw man-sounding way. She sums up the position and arguments put forth by those who disagree with her as

1) That she (Elkins) made everything up..
2) That Africans all lie, therefore her oral interviews are entirely false.

Maybe I am giving academics too much credit, but I have a strong feeling that this was not in fact the summation of the criticism against her. I think that 1) was probably not argued. And I think 2) was really stated as "Oral interviews from a handful of subjects 50 years after the fact are not reliable enough to draw the statistical conclusion that every Kikuya man woman and child were imprisoned by these concentration camp systems.

I am actually happy that I was able to stop and catch this, as we humans are NOTORIOUSLY poor at stopping and understanding our opponents arguments. Moreso, we are very bad at catching critical errors made in arguments which we are predisposed to agree with.

As I stated earlier, overstating your argument is often less productive than making less bold assertions that are factually correct. I couldn't help but notice Elkins falling into this trap during the episode.

Anyhoo, loved the episode. Keep up the good work Radiolab :)

Jul. 04 2015 06:45 PM
Kate from PA from Pennsylvania

Yes John from Canada, you may have not liked the way the story was put out but here in America unfortunately the reporting on historical times such as that is VERY limited and immediately swept under the rug afterward. It is because of programs like Radiolab that people here would even be made aware of such a thing.

Thanks again Jad and Robert for putting this together. It is appalling and upsetting to hear of such things but very important for people to know and understand. I've been listening for years since your show first started. All of you are wonderful intelligent people and I appreciate all the work and dedication you put into your presentations.

Kate M.

Jul. 04 2015 04:24 PM

What happened at ~42:13 into the piece? There was a comment cut there.


Jul. 04 2015 03:29 PM

I think for those who is interesting story, the YouTube video "Mau Mau" will give you a different perspective on the issue. (URL:

As always, Radio Lab had done a great job on presenting a very interesting and also important story. However, unfortunately, due to the scope of the show, the coverage of the story is kind one sided, so I strongly recommend those who wish to learn more, check out the above mentioned video, and preferably more related materials.

Jul. 04 2015 01:26 PM
John from Canada

This is an important story to tell but the way Radiolab went about it bothers me for a few reasons. The programme begins with an account of a vast, sinister and apparently impenetrable archive outside of London and a reporter from Vice who is 'devastatingly obsessed' with what lies inside. Later we discover that lawyers have already had access to it because it was used in a court case in 2013, which I assume some of Radiolab's listeners knew about because it made international headlines. We get something of the same when the likewise obsessed Radiolab member heads off to Kenya on the trail of the story. Why didn't he just stay in England and read some newspapers from the time? The story was very well covered back then. This notion of young, driven reporters out to break a story on behalf of Radiolab was completely misleading. They told us nothing that wasn't already on the public record. The real story lay in what Caroline Elkins, the British lawyers and the Kenyan witnesses had to say. I thought the inclusion of the Vice reporter and the Roadiolab member made it sound like the programme had a team of crack investigators on to a story that everyone else already knew about.
Radiolab is great but for a non-American like me the America-centrism gets wearisome.

Jul. 03 2015 04:27 PM

Great story to have told. Thank you for the Podcast. Very timely as well with other releases of information from Britain's National Archives.

Jul. 03 2015 01:13 PM
Michael Steeves from Canada

Thank you for presenting this sordid part of history in an intelligible way. I grew up in Kikuyuland 20 years after Mau Mau and heard many stories from the "white" side.

In university, around the time of Caroyln's research, I did a paper for a history course trying to look at Mau Mau from a Kikuyu point of view. I must have done something right as I had it done a month before it was due and I got an A+ on it (unheard of in the course).

It even gives me shivers hearing a little Kikuyu being spoken.

As for oral histories: Valid observations on remembering dates (or numbers for that matter), but oral recall was amazing for most of the people I knew. A Kikuyu person would give me 15 steps for directions to somewhere and be puzzled that I felt the need to write it down.

Jul. 03 2015 06:55 AM

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