Colonial Secretary warns against ‘immoral relations with native women’

Lord Crewe –
© NPG x127823

11 January 1909

On 11 January 1909, Lord Crewe, Secretary of State for the Colonies, issued his ‘immoral relations’ memorandum. It cautioned all members of the Colonial Service on ‘the grave injury to good administration’ and ‘the disgrace and official ruin which will certainly follow’ should they become involved in ‘arrangements of concubinage with girls and women belonging to the native population.’1

The warning was issued after one Kenyan District Commissioner was said to have his own harem of African women, another was rumoured to combine ‘tax collection with rape,’ while a third, Hubert Silberrad, was suspended from his post for five months for ‘abducting a young native girl (just 13 years old) against her wishes and further with taking another girl from her father, one of his own native policemen.’2 Many Kenyan settlers were sympathetic even to such brutal sexual exploitation, especially when the victims were indigenous Kenyans, and they merely mocked the formal caution with a blasé jingle.

‘Pity the poor official, When’er he gets a stand, He may not have a bibi ( concubine ), He has to use his hand.’3

FOOTNOTES

  1. Chrstine Stephenie Nichols, Red Strangers: The White Tribe of Kenya, Timewell Press, London 2005, p. 72.
  2. Ibid., p. 72, ‘The Case of Mr. Silberrad,’ The London Evening Standard, 7 December 1908, p. 7  and Piers Brendon, The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781-1997, Jonathan Cape, London, 2007 p. 354.
  3. Chrstine Stephenie Nichols, Red Strangers: The White Tribe of Kenya, Timewell Press, London 2005, p. 72.

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