The British Foreign Office has released thousands of documents and records detailing the shameful acts and crimes committed during the twilight years of the British empire, the Guardian reports.The documents not only detail the persecution of colonial subjects by the British, but also that thousands of even more damaging documents are now thought to have been destroyed.
The surviving papers talk about, among other things, the “elimination” of the colonial authority’s enemies in Malaya in the 1950s, the torture of Mau Mau insurgents in Kenya, fears over a Nazi plot to invade East Africa in 1930, and concerns over the “anti-American and anti-white” tendency of Kenyan students (including President Barack Obama’s father) sent to study in the US in 1959, according to the BBC.
Painstaking measures were taken to prevent post-independence governments from ever learning of the files’ existence. The order to destroy the most sensitive information was issued in 1961 after Iain Macleod, secretary of state for the colonies, directed that post-independence governments should not get any material that “might embarrass Her Majesty’s government”.
The existence of the remaining papers, which were kept hidden in a Foreign Office archive for 50 years, only came to light last year, when a group of Kenyans detained and allegedly tortured during the Mau Mau rebellion won the right to sue the British government. The Foreign Office promised to release the 8,800 files from 37 former colonies. The first 1,200 records will be released on Wednesday, and more will be released through November 2013.
Professor David Anderson, an adviser to the Kenyans in the case and professor of African History at Oxford University, said the release of the files would help “clear the air on Britain’s imperial past”, which has always been clouded by a “legacy of suspicion”.
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