Portrait of Niels Boender PHD Student

AHRC Collaborative-PhD Student at the University of Warwick working with the Imperial War Museum on the Legacies of the Mau Mau Conflict in Kenya.

A bit about me…

I’m a Dutch PhD Student at Warwick working on the Legacies of Mau Mau in post-colonial Kenya, on a Collaborative Doctoral Project with the Imperial War Museum in London. Mau Mau was a significant conflict in 1950s Kenya between the British colonial government and African guerrillas fighting for ‘land and freedom’.

My Project

My study hopes, by engaging a melange of official and unofficial sources in both Kenya and Britain, to go beyond the established historiography of the conflict by emphasising the continuing importance of former guerrillas and detainees in the process of decolonisation and the formation of the post-colonial Kenyan state. This research will challenge forthrightly notions of decolonisation as a peaceful, consensual or planned process on the one hand, as well as nationalist teleologies that submerge every-day struggles and lived experiences on the other. 

I will also hope to play a small part in making British audiences aware of the realities of the late-Empire as a self-serving instrument of political domination willing to use exemplary force to achieve control, as well as the legacies of imperial rule within polities permanently disfigured by its violence. 


2020-2024, PhD in History, University of Warwick

2019-2020, MPhil in World History, University of Cambridge (with Distinction)

2016-2019, BA in History, University of York (First Class Honours with Distinction)

Research Interest

Colonial emergencies; Kenyan history; legacies of empire; world history; settler colonialism; global Cold War; public history and museum studies. 


“From Federation to ‘White Redoubt’: Africa and the geographical imagination of Rhodesian propaganda, 1962-1970,” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History (2023),

‘Rotting among the tsetse’, History Today 71, no. 6 (June 2021): 90-93.


  • ‘Intra-ethnic electoral competition and the founding of the Kenya African National Union in Central Kenya,1960-1963’, (British Institute in East Africa Annual Conference, Nairobi, February 2023).
  • ‘Heroes and Hooligans: Reframing Mau Mau’s legacies through a reconciliatory lens’, (International Conference on the 70th Anniversary of the British Declaration of State of Emergency in Kenya in 1952, University of Nairobi, October 2022).
  • ‘Kenya and Britain from the 1950s: An entangled decolonisation’, (Lecture for Black History Month, Warwick History Society, October 2022).
  • ‘The local politics of late colonialism: resistance and repression in Central Kenya, 1956-1963’, (Comparing ‘Late Colonialisms’ in Africa Conference, University of Northumbria/University of Coimbra, September 2022).
  • ‘Mau Mau at the Museum: Reviewing the Imperial War Museum’s Kenya Collection’, (Culture, Empire, Things Seminar Series, March 2022).
  • ‘A plethora of potentially subversive activity: Wanjohi Mungau, “neo-Mau Mau” and the local politics of Uhuru in Nyeri, 1959-1965’, (University of Nairobi Department of History Muted Histories Research Seminar, March 2022). Link is available.
  • ‘Grassroots Politics in the Aftermath of the Mau Mau Rebellion’ (Kenyatta University, Department of History Staff Seminar, March 2022).
  • ‘Twilight: Insurgent Nationalism between Emergency and Independence in Kenya, 1959-1960’ (University of Cambridge, World History Workshop, November 2021).
  • ‘Swearing at the forest: Colonial encounters with the Mau Mau’ (Enemy Encounters Conference, Cardiff University/Imperial War Museum, July 2021).
  • ‘A land flowing with milk and honey’: Exile in late-colonial Kenya, 1956-1961’, (History Lab Seminar Series, The Institute of Historical Research, June 2021).
  • ‘The ghosts at the banquet: Kiama Kia Muingi and the legacies of colonial violence in Kenya, 1956-1959’, (History Department Postgraduate Conference, University of Warwick, May 2021).

Awards and Funding

  • University of Warwick, Vice Chancellor’s International Scholarship, 2021-2024.
  • Imperial War Museum, Collaborative Doctoral Award, 2020-2024.
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council & The John W. Kluge Centre at The Library of Congress (Washington DC, USA), International Placement Scheme, 2023 
  • University of Cambridge, Cambridge Trust European Scholarship, 2019-2020.

Public Engagement

As part of my PhD I am working closely with the Imperial War Museum in the re-imagining and revitalising of their 1945-1989 exhibits, specifically by foregrounding the late-colonial conflicts at the End of Empire.

I will hope to help the IWM amplify under-represented voices within its collections by exploring the cultural and social changes in Britain and in Kenya wrought by the Mau Mau uprising and the brutal counterinsurgency campaign waged to suppress it by British forces. Specifically, this will involve expanding the IWM’s holdings through the collection of oral histories and material artefacts, contributing to the discussion of imperial memory in contemporary Britain. To this end I will also be participating in a variety of public programme outputs of the IWM, including blog posts, a podcast, and other outreach activities. 

During 2022 I helped in the production of a documentary entitled ‘A Very British Way of Torture’, which used first-hand testimony from Kenyan survivors to represent new findings from the so-called Migrated Archives, files which were illegally removed from British colonies just before independence. I aided with archival research using these files and was interviewed for the documentary itself. It aired on Channel 4 on the 14th of August 2022. An interview relating to the documentary was also featured in The Guardian.


The International Far-Right and White Supremacy in UDI-era Zimbabwe, 1965-1979: 

‘The Trouble with The English’: Mau Mau’s Place in The Present Debate about Imperial Legacies: 

Between Mau Mau and Home Guard: Intertwining Voices from the Mau Mau in IWM’s Archive, 

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