The souls of white folk

White settlers in Kenya, 1900s-1920s

By Brett Shadle

The souls of white folk


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-0681-0
  • Pages: 192
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £25.99
  • Published Date: January 2017
  • BIC Category: POLITICAL SCIENCE / Colonialism & Post-Colonialism, Humanities / African history, Humanities / Colonialism & imperialism, Modern History, History, East Africa, African history, HISTORY / Africa / East
  • Series: Studies in Imperialism


Kenya's white settlers have been alternately celebrated and condemned, painted as romantic pioneers or hedonistic bed-hoppers or crude racists. The souls of white folk examines settlers not as caricatures, but as people inhabiting a unique historical moment. It takes seriously - though not uncritically - what settlers said, how they viewed themselves and their world. It argues that the settler soul was composed of a series of interlaced ideas: settlers equated civilisation with a (hard to define) whiteness; they were emotionally enriched through claims to paternalism and trusteeship over Africans; they felt themselves constantly threatened by Africans, by the state, and by the moral failures of other settlers; and they daily enacted their claims to supremacy through rituals of prestige, deference, humiliation and violence. The souls of white folk will appeal to those interested in the histories of Africa, colonialism, and race, and can be appreciated by scholars and students alike.


'Kenya's settlers are too often stereotyped as either brutal racist parasites or bold, high-spirited, pioneers of civilisation. This book tells of real lives, of the deep insecurities of a dominant colonial minority and the contradictions between genuinely benevolent paternalism and a vivid fear of African savagery.'
John Lonsdale, Trinity College, Cambridge

'Brett Shadle has with "The Souls of White Folk" achieved an extraordinary book. His engaging prose makes it both a smart and entertaining reading.'
Norman Aselmeyer H-Net December 2016

'It does, however, dig deep, and it addresses two vital questions: who did settlers think they were? and why did they think and act as they did? Both these questions, especially when situated within the wider frame of ethnicity, have important comparative dimensions that a close reading of Souls reveals.'
Richard Waller, Bucknell University Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, ASR Vol 59, No 3


1. Introduction: The souls of white folk
2. Race, civilization and paternalism
3. Prestige, whiteness and the state
4. Chivalry, immorality and intimacy
5. The law and the lash
6. Conclusion
Select Bibliography


Brett Shadle is Associate Professor of History and ASPECT at at Virginia Tech

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