Territory under former British control, Africa. British penetration of the area began at Zanzibar in the late 19th century. In 1888 the British East Africa Co. established claims to territory in what is now Kenya. British protectorates were subsequently established over the sultanate of Zanzibar and the kingdom of Buganda (see Uganda). In 1919 Britain was awarded the former German territory of Tanganyika as a League of Nations mandate. All these territories achieved political independence in the 1960s.
Learn more about British East Africa with a free trial on Britannica.com.
European missionaries began settling in the area from Mombasa to Mount Kilimanjaro in the 1840s, nominally under the protection of the Sultan of Zanzibar. 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 Tana 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 Nairobi in 1905, and on 23 July 1920 the protectorate became the Kenya Colony.
In the carrying out of this policy of colonization 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 London, 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 Mombasa, 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 (Ghana), to succeed him was announced.
The territory had its own mail system during the 1890s; see Postage stamps and postal history of British East Africa for further details.