East Africa Protectorate
Badge of British East Africa
Anthem: God Save the Queen (1895–1901)
God Save the King (1901–1920)
Map of British East Africa in 1909
Map of British East Africa in 1909
StatusBritish protectorate
CapitalMombasa (1895–1905)
Nairobi (1905–1920)
Common languagesEnglish (official),
Swahili, Kikuyu, Kamba, Luo, Kisii, Kimeru, Nandi–Markweta also spoken
Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, traditional African religion
GovernmentBritish dependency
Commissioner, Governor 
• 1895–1897
Arthur Henry Hardinge
• 1919–1920
Sir Edward Northey
• Established
1 July 1895
• Disestablished
23 July 1920
1904[1]696,400 km2 (268,900 sq mi)
• 1904[1]
CurrencyIndian rupee (1895–1906)
East African rupee (1906–20)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Imperial British East Africa Company
Kenya Colony
Today part ofKenya and Somalia

East Africa Protectorate (also known as British East Africa) was an area in the African Great Lakes occupying roughly the same area as present-day Kenya from the Indian Ocean inland to the border with Uganda in the west. Controlled by Britain in the late 19th century, it grew out of British commercial interests in the area in the 1880s and remained a protectorate until 1920 when it became the Colony of Kenya, save for an independent 16-kilometre-wide (10 mi) coastal strip that became the Kenya Protectorate.[2][3]


Main article: History of Kenya

European missionaries began settling in the area from Mombasa to Mount Kilimanjaro in the 1840s, nominally under the protection of the Sultanate 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 the African Great Lakes, 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 and given the original grant to administer the dependency. It administered about 240 kilometres (150 mi) of coastline stretching from the Jubba River 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. Mombasa was the administrative centre at this time.[4]

However, the company began to fail, and on 1 July 1895, the British government proclaimed a protectorate, the administration being transferred to the Foreign Office. In 1902, administration was again transferred to the Colonial Office. In 1897 Hugh Cholmondeley, the pioneer of white settlement, arrived in the Kenya highlands, which was then part of the Protectorate.[5] Lord Delamere was impressed by the agricultural possibilities of the area. In 1902, the boundaries of the protectorate were extended to include what was previously the Eastern Province of Uganda.[5][6] Also, in 1902, the East Africa Syndicate received a grant of 1,300 square kilometres (500 sq mi) to promote white settlement in the Highlands. Lord Delamere now commenced extensive farming operations, and in 1905, when a large number of new settlers arrived from England and South Africa, the Protectorate was transferred from the authority of the Foreign Office to that of the Colonial Office.[5] The capital was shifted from Mombasa to Nairobi in 1905. A regular government and legislature were constituted by Order in Council in 1906.[7] This constituted the administrator a governor and provided for legislative and executive councils. Lieutenant Colonel J. Hayes Sadler was the first governor and commander in chief. There were occasional troubles with local tribes, but the country was opened up by the government and the colonists with little bloodshed.[5] After the First World War, more farmers arrived from England and South Africa, and by 1919 the European population was estimated at 9,000 settlers.[5]

On 23 July 1920, the inland areas of the protectorate were annexed as British dominions by Order in Council.[8] That part of the former protectorate was thereby constituted as the Colony of Kenya. The remaining 16-kilometre-wide (10 mi) coastal strip (with the exception of Witu), remained a protectorate under an agreement with the Sultan of Zanzibar.[9] That coastal strip, remaining under the sovereignty of the Sultan of Zanzibar, was constituted as the Protectorate of Kenya in 1920.[3][4] The East Africa Protectorate was bounded to the north by the Ethiopian Empire and the Huwan, a semi-independent vassal state of the Ethiopian Empire; to the east by the Italian Geledi, to the south by German East Africa; to the west by the Uganda Protectorate.[10]


After 1896, Indian settlers came to the area as moneylenders, traders, and artisans. Racial segregation was normalised,[citation needed] with the Europeans assigning the Highlands to themselves.[citation needed] Other restrictions included commercial and residential segregation in the towns,[citation needed] and restrictions on Indian immigration.[citation needed] Nevertheless, the Indians rapidly grew to outnumber the Europeans by more than two to one by 1919.[citation needed] India was a crown colony whose citizens enjoyed certain privileges but it was unclear whether the Ishmael Indians in the African Great Lakes were to be recognised as citizens of the British Empire or as a subject race.[citation needed]

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 1,300 square kilometres (500 sq mi), and this was followed by other applications for considerable areas, many of which came from prospective settlers in South Africa.[11] In 1903, Joseph Chamberlain, then serving as Secretary of State for the Colonies, offered 13,000 square kilometres (5,000 sq mi) at Uasin Gishu in British East Africa to Zionist settlers as part of the Uganda Scheme. However, opposition to the scheme at the Sixth Zionist Congress led to the plan falling through and Chamberlain swiftly withdrew the offer.[12][13] In April 1903, Major Frederick Russell Burnham, an American scout then serving as 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 Rudolf, experiencing plenty of privations from want of water, and of the danger from encounters with the Maasai.[14] With the arrival in 1903 of hundreds of prospective settlers, chiefly from South Africa, questions were raised concerning the preservation for the Maasai of their rights of pasturage, and the decision was made to entertain no more applications for large areas of land.[11]

In the process of carrying out this policy of colonisation a dispute arose between Sir Charles Eliot, Commissioner of British East Africa, and Lord Lansdowne, the British Foreign Secretary. The East Africa Syndicate had applied for and been pledged the lease of 1,300 square kilometres (500 sq mi) of land. Lansdowne, believing himself bound by the pledges, decided the applications should be approved. In a separate matter, two South African applicants who were each attempting to lease 130 square kilometres (50 sq mi) were declined by Lansdowne, and he refused Eliot permission to conclude the transactions. In view of this Eliot resigned his post, giving his reason in a public telegram to the Prime Minister, dated Mombasa, 21 June 1904, stating: "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."[11] Sir Donald William Stewart, the chief commissioner of Ashanti (Ghana), was announced as Sir Charles' successor on the day the telegram was sent.[11]


In 1914, the British government banned cannabis ("bhang") in the Protectorate.[15]

Stamps and postal history of British East Africa

2½ annas, 1896

Main article: Postage stamps and postal history of British East Africa

The protectorate upon becoming a direct possession of British Empire in 1895 had overprinted postal stamps from India and the former Imperial British East Africa Company issued. Along with this the territory was incorporated into the Universal Postal Union. By 1896, the first line of official stamps was issued, although the protectorate's postage service was short lived as in 1901 it was merged with the Protectorate of Uganda's mail service becoming the East Africa and Uganda protectorates issuing their first stamps in 1904.

See also



  1. ^ a b "Census of the British empire. 1901". Openlibrary.org. 1906. p. 178. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
  2. ^ British East Africa Company
  3. ^ a b Kenya Protectorate Order in Council 1920 (SR&O 1920/2343), S.R.O. & S.I. Rev. VIII, 258, State Pp., Vol. 87 p. 968
  4. ^ a b British East Africa, by Grant Sinclair
  5. ^ a b c d e "Commonwealth and Colonial Law" by Kenneth Roberts-Wray, London, Stevens, 1966. P. 761
  6. ^ East Africa Order in Council 1902 (SR&O 1902/661), S.R.O. & S.I. Rev. 246
  7. ^ "Commonwealth and Colonial Law" by Kenneth Roberts-Wray, London, Stevens, 1966. P. 762
  8. ^ Kenya (Annexation) Order in Council 1920 (SR&O 1920/2342)
  9. ^ Agreement of 14 June 1890: State pp. vol. 82. p. 653
  10. ^ Rayidow, poem 80; Diiwaanka gabayadii, 1856-1921
  11. ^ a b c d Cana, Frank Richardson (1911). "British East Africa" . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 601–606.
  12. ^ Ervin Birnbaum (1990). In the Shadow of the Struggle. Gefen Publishing House Ltd. pp. 40–. ISBN 978-965-229-037-3.
  13. ^ Thomas G. Mitchell (13 May 2013). Israel/Palestine and the Politics of a Two-State Solution. McFarland. pp. 152–. ISBN 978-0-7864-7597-1.
  14. ^ Fergusson, W.N. (1911). Adventure, Sport and Travel on the Tibetan Steppes, p. preface. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York
  15. ^ Kenya Gazette. 15 October 1913. pp. 882–.

Further reading