Academic journal article The International Journal of African Historical Studies

Human Rights in the Shadow of Colonial Violence: The Wars of Independence in Kenya and Algeria

Academic journal article The International Journal of African Historical Studies

Human Rights in the Shadow of Colonial Violence: The Wars of Independence in Kenya and Algeria

Article excerpt

Human Rights in the Shadow of Colonial Violence: The Wars of Independence in Kenya and Algeria. By Fabian Klose. Translated by Dona Geyer. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013. Pp. xvii, 369; bibliography, index. $89.95/L58.50.

The reader would be well advised to begin this book at the back. In the acknowledgements (pp. 367-69), Fabian Klose, a professor of history at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich and a research assistant at the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz, argues that the simultaneous emergence of the human rights movement and the systematic use of torture by the colonial powers in the immediate post-World War II era led him to write this book. He focuses on Algeria and Kenya to demonstrate how the French and British colonial authorities gave lip service to the United Nations and to international human rights law while brutally maintaining their colonial empires. He consulted archives and libraries in Geneva, Washington, D.C., New York, Aix-en-Provence, Chateau de Vincennes, Quai d'Orsay, Paris, London, Oxford, and Munich. The book was originally published in 2009 in German and has 240 pages of text and an additional 125 pages of notes, bibliography, and index. In addition to the introduction and conclusion, it is divided into five succinct chapters: the New World Order; the era of decolonization; the campaign to justify colonial violence; the era of colonial violence; and the influence of the decolonization wars on human rights discourse.

Klose argues that despite recent efforts by both British and French officials to glorify their colonial enterprises, the reality was very different. The allies had fought to uphold universal human rights in World War II, and their colonial subjects hoped in the postwar era to justify their struggles for independence on the basis of the same human rights values. In the immediate postwar era, however, Churchill insisted that it was hands off the British Empire because Britain's standing in the world was based on its empire. …

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