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British East Africa

East Africa Protectorate
Protectorate of British Empire


Flag of British East Africa and the subsequent Colony of Kenya

God Save the Queen/King
Map of British East Africa in 1911.
Capital Mombasa (1895–1905)
Nairobi (1905–1920)
Languages English (official)
Swahili, Gikuyu, Kamba, Luo, Gusii, Meru, Nandi–Markweta also spoken
Religion Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, traditional African religion
Government Constitutional monarchy
 -  1895–1901 Victoria
 -  1910–1920 George V
Commissioner, Governor
 -  1895–1897 Arthur Henry Hardinge
 -  1919–1920 Sir Edward Northey
 -  Established 1 July 1895
 -  Disestablished 23 July 1920
 -  1895 639,209 km² (246,800 sq mi)
Currency Rupee
Main article: History of Kenya

East Africa Protectorate (also known as British East Africa) was an area of East Africa occupying roughly the same terrain as present-day Kenya (approximately 246,800 mi² / 639,209 km²) from the Indian Ocean inland to Uganda and the Great Rift Valley. It was controlled by Britain in the late 19th century; it grew out of British commercial interests in the area in the 1880s and remained a protectorate until 1920 when it became the colony of Kenya.[1]


European missionaries began settling in the area from Mombasa to Mount Kilimanjaro in the 1840s, nominally under the protection of the Sultan of Zanzibar. In 1886 the British government encouraged William Mackinnon, who already had an agreement with the Sultan and whose shipping company traded extensively in East Africa, to establish British influence in the region. He formed a British East Africa Association which led to the Imperial British East Africa Company being chartered in 1888 and given the original grant to administer the dependency. It administered about 150 miles (240 km) of coastline stretching from the River Tana via Mombasa to German East Africa which were leased from the Sultan. The British "sphere of influence", agreed at the Berlin Conference of 1885, extended up the coast and inland across the future Kenya and after 1890 included Uganda as well. Mombasa was the administrative centre at this time.[2]

However, the company began to fail, and on 1 July 1895 the British government proclaimed a protectorate, the administration being transferred to the Foreign Office. In 1902 administration was again transferred to the Colonial Office and the Uganda territory was incorporated as part of the protectorate also. In 1902, the East Africa Syndicate received a grant of 500 square miles (1,300 km2) in order to promote white settlement in the Highlands. The capital was shifted from Mombasa to Nairobi in 1905 and in 1906 an order in council constituted the administrator a governor and provided for legislative and executive councils. Lieutenant Colonel J. Hayes Sadler was the first governor and commander in chief. On 23 July 1920 the protectorate became the Kenya Colony.[2]


After 1896, immigrants from India came to the area as money lenders, traders, and artisans. Racial segregation was normalized, with the Europeans assigning the Highlands to themselves. Other restrictions included commercial and residential segregation in the towns, and restrictions on Indian immigration. Nevertheless, the Indians rapidly grew to outnumber the Europeans by more than two to one by 1919. India was a crown colony whose citizens enjoyed certain privileges but it was unclear whether the Indians in East Africa were to be recognized as citizens of the British Empire or as a subject race.

In April 1902, the first application for land in British East Africa was made by the East Africa Syndicate - a company in which financiers belonging to the British South Africa Company were interested - which sought a grant of 5,382 square feet (500 m²)., and this was followed by other applications for considerable areas, including a large Jewish settlement. In April 1903, Major Frederick Russell Burnham, the famous American scout and then a Director of the East African Syndicate, sent an expedition consisting of John Weston Brooke, John Charles Blick, Mr. Bittlebank and Mr. Brown, to assess the mineral wealth of the region. The party, known as the "Four B.'s", travelled from Nairobi via Mount Elgon northwards to the western shores of Lake Rudolph, experiencing plenty of privations from want of water, and of the danger from encounters with the Maasai.[3] With the arrival in 1903 of hundreds of prospective settlers, chiefly from South Africa, questions were raised concerning the preservation for the Maasai of their rights of pasturage, and the decision was made to entertain no more applications for large areas of land.

In the carrying out of this policy of colonisation a dispute arose between Sir Charles Eliot, then Commissioner of British East Africa and Lord Lansdowne, the British Foreign Secretary. Lansdowne, believing himself bound by pledges given to the East Africa Syndicate, decided that they should be granted the lease of the 500 mi². they had applied for; but after consulting officials of the protectorate then in London, he refused Eliot permission to conclude leases for 50 mi². each to two applicants from South Africa. Eliot thereupon resigned his post, and in a public telegram to the Prime Minister, dated Mombasa, the 21st of June, 1904, gave as his reason:- "Lord Lansdowne ordered me to refuse grants of land to certain. private persons while giving a monopoly of land on unduly advantageous terms to the East Africa Syndicate. I have refused to execute these instructions, which I consider unjust and impolitic." On the day Sir Charles sent this telegram the appointment of Sir Donald William Stewart, the chief commissioner of Ashanti (Ghana), to succeed him was announced.

Stamps and postal history of British East Africa

The territory had its own mail system during the 1890s; see Postage stamps and postal history of British East Africa for further details.

See also



Further reading

  • John S. Galbraith, Mackinnon and East Africa 1878–1895 (Cambridge 1972)
  • Map of British East Africa in 1901
  • , 1889
  • 1911 Encyclopedia

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