Fellow: Awarded 2010
Field of Study: British History
Competition: US & Canada
A Professor of History and African and African American Studies at Harvard University, Caroline Elkins has produced groundbreaking work whose impact reaches beyond the ivory tower. Her first publication Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya (Henry Holt, 2005) details the British crackdown on the Mau Mau movement in Kenya from 1952 to 1960, dispelling in the process the widely accepted notion that Britain’s “deaccessioning” of her empire was entirely humane and civilized. Awarded a Pulitzer Prize, named a best history book of the year by The Economist and a New York Times Editor’s Choice, and applauded by Publishers Weekly as a “profoundly chilling portrait of the inherent racism and violence of ‘colonial logic,’” Imperial Reckoning was an outgrowth of Ms. Elkins’ dissertation and the product of ten years of research in British archives and throughout Kenya (she is well versed in Kikuyu, the language of the minority Kenyan population that suffered the most during the British suppression of the Mau Mau “Emergency”). Well before the completion of this book, her initial findings formed the basis for the 2002 BBC documentary Kenya: White Terror, which won the International Red Cross Award at the Monte Carlo Film Festival.
Her research for Imperial Reckoning was supported by an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities (1994-95), a Fulbright Fellowship (1998-99), and an SSRC Fellowship (1999-2000).
During her Guggenheim Fellowship term, she will be working on her second book, tentatively titled Twilight: The End of the British Empire, which, as she explains, will examine “the process of British decolonialization through the lens of . . . counter-insurgency operations that were waged in the empire after 1945” in Palestine, Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus, Aden, Southern Rhodesia, and Northern Ireland.
In addition to teaching at Harvard and publishing articles in such important academic journals as the Journal of Interdisciplinary History and the American Historical Review, Ms. Elkins has brought her insights to the general public with her contributions to The New York Times Book Review, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The Independent, the London Times, NPR’s All Things Considered, and through various radio and television appearances in Britain, Australia, and Kenya. She has also been the Fusco Lecturer at the University of Connecticut and a keynote speaker at the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, the University of Nairobi, Kenya, and the 3er Encuentro Internacional del Veracruz, Mexico.