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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Master and Servant in Colonial Kenya, 1895-1939
Author:Anderson, David M.
Periodical:The Journal of African History
Geographic terms:Kenya
Great Britain
labour law
History and Exploration
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Labor and Employment
Economics and Trade
Law, Human Rights and Violence
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/183477
Abstract:This essay examines the master-and-servant laws used to regulate contracts between employers and workers in colonial Kenya. Master and servant legislation was first adopted in East Africa in 1906 and remained the most important element of Kenya's labour laws until the 1950s. It was an important characteristic of this body of law that while the employer could be subjected to civil action for any breach, the worker was liable to penal sanctions. The law was thereby used as a weapon in the 'disciplining' of labour and had little effect in protecting the worker. The master-and-servant regulations were augmented by a range of other laws that affected labour, especially those relating to the registration of workers and resident labourers; these laws came to be more widely used from the 1920s in the prosecution of offences that had previously fallen under the master-and-servant code, for example desertion. Despite the extensive legal powers available to employers, it was common for extrajudicial punishments to be administered in the workplace - the 'rough justice' of beatings and mistreatment. Magistrates and employers alike expressed the view that this violence was a 'necessary evil' if African labour was to be retained and controlled. The racial attitudes underlying this behaviour can also be seen in the patterns of sentencing carried out by colonial courts, with European, Asian and African convicts each being subjected to differing punishment regimes. Notes, ref., sum.