Monday, May 21, 2007

Our May Author: Caroline Elkins

As the author the Pulitzer-winning Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya, I expected to find more interviews with Caroline Elkins. For what it's worth here's one from NPR. And here's a profile from the History News Network. This Boston Globe piece has some good quotes,
Elkins said, ``When I was writing, there was a bit of damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't. If you wrote a book like this and didn't have an opinion, people would say, `For God's sake, how can you possibly not have an opinion about this?' But if you express anything that hints at partiality, people will say you're not impartial enough."
and from one of her critics,
Kenyan historian Bethwell Ogot questioned Elkins's honesty in quoting anonymous settlers' confessions of tortures: ``How do we know these are not fabricated confessions intended to paint the British in the worst possible light?" he wrote in The Journal of African History. In a review in the Times of London, historian Lawrence James wrote, ``Like other American academics, [Elkins] is an heir of the [American] war of independence and schooled to believe that all empires are intrinsically evil, corrupting and integral to the `old Europe' of current American demonology. . . . The reputation of the British empire can withstand the defamation of holier-than-thou American academics."
Gotta love those Brits! But they aren't all like that... the New Statesman offers a counter view. Plus they offer a bit of psychoanalysis from Michela Wrong (Rights Readers selection, I Didn't Do It for You : How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation). I must say that the piece made me a bit uncomfortable.

NPR, the Guardian and the BBC (here and here) report on the efforts of the Mau Maus to seek restitution. The BBC report contains a tantalizing sidebar of audio/visual offerings (Terence Gavaghan "I feel no guilt") that don't function for me. Best of luck to those with different computer configurations. Finally, for a sense of how the Mau Mau rebellion was presented to the British public at the time it was happening, check out this YouTube video.
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