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British East Africa was an area of East Africa controlled by Britain in the late 19th century, which became a protectorate covering roughly the area of present-day Kenya. It grew out of British commercial interests in the area in the 1880s and lasted until 1920, when it became the colony of Kenya.

Map of British East Africa in 1911.
One cent and ten cent British East Africa pieces (note the inscription: REX ET IND. IMP. GEORGIVS V or George V, King and Emperor of India)

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. 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.

However, the company began to fail, and on 1 July, 1895 the British government proclaimed a protectorate, and in 1902 made the Uganda territory 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 on 23 July, 1920 the protectorate became the Kenya Colony.



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 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 Masai.[1] With the arrival in 1903 of hundreds of prospective settlers, chiefly from South Africa, questions were raised concerning the preservation for the Masai 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 m². they had applied for; but after consulting officials of the protectorate then in London, he refused Eliot permission to conclude leases for 50 m². 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

Flag of British East Africa and the subsequent Colony of Kenya.
2 1/2 annas, 1896

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


  1. ^ Fergusson, W.N. (1911). Adventure, Sport and Travel on the Tibetan Steppes, p. preface. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York

Further reading

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BRITISH EAST AFRICA, a term, in its widest sense, including all the territory under British influence on the eastern side of Africa between German East Africa on the south and Abyssinia and the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan on the north. It comprises the protectorates of Zanzibar, Uganda and East Africa. Apart from a narrow belt of coastland, the continental area belongs almost entirely to the great plateau of East Africa, rarely falling below an elevation of 2000 ft., while extensive sections rise to a height of 6000 to 8000 ft. From the coast lowlands a series of steps with intervening plateaus leads to a broad zone of high ground remarkable for the abundant traces of volcanic action. This broad upland is furrowed by the eastern " rift-valley," formed by the subsidence of its floor and occupied in parts by lakes without outlet. Towards the west a basin of lower elevation is partially occupied by Victoria Nyanza, drained north to the Nile, while still farther inland the ground again rises to a second volcanic belt, culminating in the Ruwenzori range. (See Zanzibar, and for Uganda protectorate see Uganda.) The present article treats of the East Africa protectorate only.


The southern frontier, coterminous with the northern frontier of German East Africa, runs north-west from the mouth of the Umba river in 4° 40' S. to Victoria Nyanza, which it strikes at 1° S., deviating, however, so as to leave Mount Kilimanjaro wholly in German territory. The eastern boundary is the Indian Ocean, the coast line being about 400 m. On the north the protectorate is bounded by Abyssinia and Italian Somaliland; on the west by Uganda. It has an area of about 240,000 sq. m., and a population estimated at from 2,000,000 to 4,000,000, including some 25,000 Indians and 3000 Europeans. Of the Europeans many are emigrants from South Africa; they include some hundreds of Boer families.

The first of the parallel zones - the coast plain or " Temborari "- is generally of insignificant width, varying from 2 to m., except in the valleys of the main rivers. The shore line is broken by bays and branching creeks, often cutting off islands from the mainland. Such are Mvita or Mombasa in 4° 4' S., and the larger islands of Lamu, Manda and Patta (the Lamu archipelago), between 2° 20' and 2° S. Farther north the coast becomes straighter, with the one indentation of Port Durnford in 1° I o' S., but skirted seawards by a row of small islands. Beyond the coast plain the country rises in a generally well defined step or steps to an altitude of some 800 ft., forming the wide level plain called " Nyika (uplands), largely composed of quartz. It contains large waterless areas, such as the Taru desert in the Mombasa district. The next stage in the ascent is marked by an intermittent line of mountains - gneissose or schistose - running generally north-north-west, sometimes in parallel chains, and representing the primitive axis of the continent. Their height varies from 5000 to 8000 ft. Farther inland grassy uplands extend to the eastern edge of the rift-valley, though varied with cultivated ground and forest, the former especially in Kikuyu, the latter between o° and o° 40' S. The most extensive grassy plains are those of Kapte or Kapote and Athi, between 1° and 2° S. The general altitude of these uplands, the surface of which is largely composed of lava, varies from 5000 to 8000 ft. This zone contains the highest elevations in British East Africa, including the volcanic pile of Kenya (17,007 ft.), Sattima (13,214 ft.) and Nandarua (about 12,900 ft.). The Sattima (Settima) range, or Aberdare Mountains, has a general elevation of fully ft. To the west the fall to the rift-valley is marked by a line of cliffs, of which the best-defined portions are the Kikuyu escarpment (8000 ft.), just south of S., and the Laikipia escarpment, on the equator.

One of the main watersheds of East Africa runs close to the eastern wall of the rift-valley, separating the basins of inland drainage from the rivers of the east coast, of which the two largest wholly within British East Africa are the Sabaki and Tana, both separately noticed. The Guaso Nyiro rises in the hills north-west of Kenya and flows in a north-east direction. After a course of over 350 m. the river in about 1 ° N., 39° 30' E. is lost in a marshy expanse known as the Lorian Swamp.

The rift-valley, though with a generally level floor, is divided by transverse ridges into a series of basins, each containing a lake without outlet. The southernmost section within British East Africa is formed by the arid Dogilani plains, drained south towards German territory. At their north end rise the extinct volcanoes of Suswa (7800 ft.) and Longonot (8700), the latter -- on the ridge dividing off the next basin - that of M Lake Naivasha. This is a small fresh-water lake, 6135 ft. above the sea, measuring some 13 m. each way. Its basin is closed to the north by the ridge of Mount Buru, beyond which is the basin of the

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