The City Makers of Nairobi offers a welcome departure from much of the historical scholarship on colonial-era urban Africa. Rather than focus on colonial efforts to construct and control urban space, Anders Ese and Kristin Ese recognize the agency and significance of the African population, which has always made up the majority of Nairobi’s residents, as city makers. In popular understanding, Nairobi originated as a stopover on the British colonial railway line joining Uganda and Kenya before it was constructed as a colonial capital. The authors overhaul this perception by foregrounding the role of African Muslims—ex-servicemen as landlords, women market traders, Christian salaried men, informal entrepreneurs, political organizers, and many others—who were key to the development of the city from its inception in the late nineteenth century until Kenyan independence in 1963. They reveal how not only local Kikuyu and Kamba communities but also coastal Swahili, Somali, Sudanese, and Comorans...

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