Kenya had been under British rule since the 19th Century, and since becoming a colony in 1920 African demands for a greater role in politics had grown. In the early 1950s a group of Kikuyus, the largest ethnic group in the country, formed the Kenya Land and Freedom Army. Better known as the Mao Mao, they began a violent organised campaign against colonial leaders and white settlers that culminated in the Mau Mau Uprising. By 1956 over 12,000 Mao Mao militants had been killed by the British in an attempt to suppress the uprising, although it’s important to note that both sides committed ruthless acts of violence.
The Uprising did, however, persuade the British of the need for concessions. From 1957 natives were allowed to be elected to the Legislative Council and, by 1960, they held a majority of the seats. Britain subsequently worked with the African politicians to prepare the transition to independence and, in May 1963, the Kenya African National Union secured the majority in both houses of the new bicameral legislature.
Independence was formally declared on 12 December 1963 with Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State. Jomo Kenyatta, the leader of the Kenya African National Union, became the country’s first Prime Minister despite having been imprisoned between 1953 and 1961 after being found guilty of being a Mau Mau leader. Historians have since cast doubt on his conviction.
Kenya’s independence is now marked in part by Jamhuri Day, a national holiday that celebrates Kenya’s admittance to the Commonwealth as a republic the following year.
Henry Morton Stanley, a Welsh-American journalist and explorer, allegedly greeted the missing Scottish missionary David Livingstone with the phrase, “Dr Livingston, I presume?”
David Livingstone was born in 1813 and, having completed training as a doctor, made his first journey to Africa in 1841. He converted his first and only African eight years later, after which he became convinced that further missionary work could only succeed if Africa’s rivers were mapped to become ‘highways’ to the interior.
Livingstone sent his family back to Britain in 1852 prior to beginning an expedition to explore the Zambezi. Over the course of the next four years he crossed the African continent and mapped almost the entire Zambezi while becoming the first European to see the Mosi-oa-Tunya waterfall, which he renamed Victoria Falls.
Livingstone returned to Britain in 1856, but sailed back to Africa in 1858 with the intention of opening the Zambezi to ‘legitimate’ British trade to combat slavery. After this expedition failed in its aim to find a navigable route to the interior Livingstone again returned to Britain. He began his final journey to Africa in January 1866.
Hoping to find the source of the Nile, the expedition began to fail as Livingstone’s assistants began to desert him. With the outside world having heard nothing of him for over three years, Henry Morton Stanley was sent to find the Scot by the New York Herald newspaper in 1869. He was eventually found on 10 November 1871 in the town of Ujiji. Stanley is alleged to have greeted him with the words “Dr Livingston, I presume?” although this phrase is likely a fabrication since the relevant pages in Stanley’s diary were torn out, and Livingstone himself never mentioned it.
On the 27th July 1942, Allied forces in North Africa stopped the advancing Axis powers in the First Battle of El Alamein. Having been defeated at the Battle of Gazala in Libya the previous month, the British Eighth Army had retreated first to the Egyptian town of Marsa Matrouh 100 miles inside the border and then to the more easily defended line at El Alamein just 80 miles away from the city of Alexandria. This was effectively the Allies’ final hope of protecting Egypt’s Mediterranean ports, the British headquarters in Cairo and, ultimately, the Suez Canal.
The Allied position at Alamein marked the narrowest defensible area between the sea and the Qattara Depression, which lay 20 miles to the south. The position ensured that Erwin Rommel, the German tank commander, would be unable to use his favoured form of attack which involved outflanking his enemy. Furthermore, the position stretched the Axis supply line perilously thin and so starved the advancing army of water, fuel and ammunition.
Despite these resource problems, Rommel ordered the 90th Light Infantry Division to begin its advance at 3am on the 1st July. Although the Axis did eventually succeed in breaking through, the advance took most of the day and gave the Allies time to organise more defences along the line. The battle continued for nearly 4 weeks, with both sides attacking and counter-attacking. However, in the end the battle ended in stalemate with both sides taking time to reorganise and re-equip. However, the Allies had succeeded in stopping the Axis advance.