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What Were the Major Political and Socio-Economic Changes Introduced by the British Colonial Authorities in Kenya. What Did the Authorities Seek to Achieve by These Changes?

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What were the major political and socio-economic changes introduced by the British colonial authorities in Kenya. What did the authorities seek to achieve by these changes?

When the British colonised Kenya in the late nineteenth century they brought about many political and socio-economic changes, including changing the mode of production to capitalist, the introduction of an improved infrastructure and the establishment of chiefs in 1906 when Britain established affective political control over the Kenyan people, as well as more minor changes such as the introduction of mission schools and the improvement in education. In this essay I shall discuss the major political and socio-economic changes that were introduced by the British as well as the motivating reasons for why the British decided to implement these changes; what the authorities sought to achieve.

One of the first fundamental political and socio-economic changes that the British introduced to Kenya was to establish the British rule into “a legitimate authority accepted by Africans” which was “mediated through their own pre-existing or emergent relations of power” (Lonsdale and Berman (1979) page 490). The British managed to accumulate power by multiplying their allies, forcing down the supply-price of African resistance and relying on uniformed police rather than on African military contactors as well as retaining an even larger supply of looted goods for government purposes and use (Lonsdale and Berman (1979) page 497). The changing balance of power between the British rule and the Africans, lead to a shift from “coexistence to British Control, [which] meant that collaboration had now to be rewarded not by loot but with markets, to satisfy both the British and their African allies in the changed context” (Lonsdale and Berman (1979) page 497). Before colonisation by the British, much of East Africa was pre-capitalist. Indeed, much of Africa survived on subsistence farming and the means of production “notably land and labour were not exchanged on the market for money” (Brett (1973) page 168). However, by introducing a capitalist society to Kenya the authorities wished to achieve an export-orientated economy to enable a creation of a society that the British would like to live in, with good infrastructure, education and doctors, (Brett (1973) page 168) as well as improve British trade by having a new market and exploiting the abundance of raw materials in Kenya.

Following this, the British had to attempt to change the imported capital from a “lifeless factor of production into an active social relation.” (Lonsdale and Berman (1979) page 491). Britain needed to do this by capitalising the Kenyan economy. This was achieved by seizing land from the Africans so that they would have to work for wages rather than subsistence. The British needed the African’s to “enter the world of money as wage labourer rather than independent producer” (Brett (1973) page 169), further more this had the added bonus of if the Africans were working under the British pay they also gained greater control over the people.

An important socio-economic change was the improvement in infrastructure during the colonial period, especially the enhancement in transport. Some sources even claim that the British Foreign Office were able to assume “direct control, mainly because of the decision to build a railway from Mombassa to Lake Victoria” (Encarta Encyclopedia (2005) paragraph 1). This highlights just how important the building of this railway was intending to be; it also would have been an investment of large amounts of money by the British as well as “all the public capital investment in economic services during the period” (Brett (1973) page 200). The British wished to improve transport in order to create better links to enable the transport of primary products such as agriculture and cash crops grown by the settlers to the market towns. The original main railway line was “built for strategic purposes and located without reference to the needs of particular groups of producers” (Brett (1973) page 200). However this was not the case as the British settlers were granted use of the land in the vicinity of the railway, even if it was running through tribal lands previously not belonging to them. As imaginable, the railway “heavily favoured the small-scale temperate climate foodstuff producers” which were grown as cash crops by the settlers and not always practical to be grown as far away from the markets or the areas where the crops would be exported. This was often at the expense of the African consumers as “it was in fact African production which provided the railway with sufficient resources to make possible its use to subsidise the most inefficient sectors of settler agriculture” (Brett (1973) page 200). Not only were the indigenous population at a disadvantage when using the land around the train line they were also discriminated against as the branch lines travelled through more British and European areas than they did African, as only one train line was planned to travel through the African cotton growing areas, and this was the last line developed. This demonstrates the inequality the Joint Select Committee showed as they were hugely biased as to where the train lines would be established, and would not even allow many white urban dwellers onto the committee, let alone the Kenyan

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