Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Robert M. Maxon.


This dissertation research examines forced labor in colonial Kenya from 1911 to 1925 and the critique of this institution from various humanitarian organizations in Britain and subsequent changes in colonial policy regarding forced labor. The theoretical ideas of contradiction and power provide the backdrop for this study and help to illuminate the relationships between forced labor, ideology and control.;The British administrators in Kenya used forced labor as a means of accumulation for the European settlers but also for the state itself. However, forced labor for European settlers impinged upon the ideals of trusteeship. Moreover, the justifications for some forms of forced labor rested upon an amorphous idea of African communal duties that was often false. This dissertation examines the contradictions of this policy.;Humanitarians criticized certain aspects of forced labor in Kenya. Certain elements of the coercive labor regime, like forced labor for private purposes and forced labor for state purposes, were described by the humanitarian lobby in Great Britain as new forms of slavery. The colonial administration in Kenya responded by extirpating forced labor for private purposes eventually curtailing forced labor for state purposes. Significantly, though, humanitarian criticism did not address "communal" forced labor for state purposes because it was deemed a continuation of traditional duties.;Consequently, the humanitarian critique of forced labor, as opposed to mitigating colonial power, instead helped to solidify colonial control in Kenya by reemphasizing the trust principle. Humanitarian criticism of forced labor in Kenya created a moral atmosphere that allowed the administration to denounce some objectionable forced labor practices, like forced labor for private purposes, while reinforcing communal labor. This strengthened the ethical power of the colonial state as a munificent apparatus working for the benefit of African progress.