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British East Africa was an area of East Africa controlled by Britainmarker in the late 19th century, which became a protectorate covering roughly the area of present-day Kenyamarker. 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.
GEORGIVS V or George V, King and Emperor of India)

European missionaries began settling in the area from Mombasamarker to Mount Kilimanjaromarker in the 1840s, nominally under the protection of the Sultan of Zanzibarmarker. 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 of coastline stretching from the River Tanamarker 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 in order to promote white settlement in the Highlands. The capital was shifted from Mombasa to Nairobimarker 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 Nairobimarker via Mount Elgonmarker northwards to the western shores of Lake Rudolphmarker, experiencing plenty of privations from want of water, and of the danger from encounters with the Masai. 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 Londonmarker, 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 Mombasamarker, 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 (Ghanamarker), to succeed him was announced.

Stamps and postal history of British East Africa

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


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