Moving the Maasai : a colonial misadventure
This dissertation examines the two major forced moves of the Maasai in British East Africa in the 1900s, through which the 'northern' sections lost the greater part of their land, and non-violent resistance to these events which culminated in a landmark court case in 1913. The Maasai lost this action, the so-called Maasai Case, on a technicality. The dissertation amis to compare the parallel and contested narratives of the British and the Maasai about these events and related issues, drawing on original oral testimony and archival sources in Kenya and Britain. It attempts to address major omissions in the historiography which include a failure to examine these events from a Maasai perspective and include Maasai voices, to fully analyse their significance and effects, and to place Maasai responses to the moves within the context of contemporary African resistance. It focuses as much on people's perspectives as it does on events, and on a metaphysical as well as material realm. The immediate frame of reference is 1904 to 1918, with the broader frame c. 1896 to the 1930s. The two leading characters around whom the story revolves are Dr Norman Leys, a colonial dissident who orchestrated support for the Maasai in Britain, and Parsaloi Ole Gilisho, an important age-set spokesman of the Purko section who launched the legal action against the British. New evidence reveals the full extent of their actions, motivation and influence, and casts light upon the activities of other European colonial critics inside British East Africa. Secondary themes include the legal implications of the Maasai Case and Agreements; the relative powers of Maasai leaders and a critique of 'anthrohistorical' models; the complex relationship between Maasai leaders and prominent settlers; labour relations on highland farms; the post-war return of Maasai to their former northern territories; the role of East Coast fever in relation to the second move; disease as a social metaphor; and a reinterpretation of the causes of rebellions in 1918, 1922 and 1935 which may be connected to the earlier land alienation.