The catalog of cruelty Elkins uncovered—bits from surviving documents, more from interviewing survivors—makes for quite nauseating reading that descends the slope of depravity from torture to outright killing. Inevitably news of incidents leaked out, igniting parliamentary rows in London, which Elkins chronicles with contained fury. Filling a previously blank page in history, Elkins’ pioneering study is a crucial recording of Kenyan history in particular, and that of African decolonization in general.
Elkins, working in archives and travelling throughout Kenya, has undertaken an extraordinary act of historical recovery ... With the moral fervor (and, occasionally, the overreachings) of a prosecutor, Elkins provides potent evidence of how a society warped by racism can descend into an almost casual inhumanity.
Imperial Reckoning is an important and excruciating record; it will shock even those who think they have assumed the worst about Europe's era of control in Africa ... [Elkins's] method is relentless; page after page, chapter after chapter, the horrors accumulate ... Yet for all its power, Imperial Reckoning is not as compelling as it should be. With so much evidence of atrocity, Elkins often forgoes complexity and careful analysis. Not only are the colonists barbaric in their treatment of the Kikuyu, but, as she has it, they are basically barbarous in private as well ... Unfortunately, Elkins's prosecutorial zeal in a sense precludes a true 'imperial reckoning.'
...Elkins...has unearthed a chilling account of colonial British detention camps and villages during the Mau Mau insurrection between 1952 and 1960. Her intense scholarly research has yielded empirical and demographic evidence that Britain distorted data regarding deaths and detainees and destroyed official records ... This compelling account of the British colonial government's atrocities can be compared to Adam Hochschild's King Leopold's Ghost. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries.
A careful investigation of Kenya’s Mau Mau uprising and the manifold crimes by the British colonial government in attempting to suppress it ... Sure to touch off scholarly debate and renew interest in recent, deliberately forgotten history.