This film is held by the BFI (ID: 15188).


A settler arrives at Mombasa and proceeds by lorry to his future home. The film shows his first herd of cattle, horses, and sheep, and his first harvest.

'The prospective settler lands at Mombasa' and the film then follows his journey to his new home, which begins as his two lorries are unloaded from a ship. The journey is told from the perspective of the settler - 'a panorama of the country ahead unfolds before the settler's eyes' - and shows the various obstacles met along the way: the lorry is towed by cattle when it breaks down; it scrapes through narrow lanes; three Africans construct a bridge, strengthened by the settler's food supplies, before the lorry proceeds. The settler then reaches 'the site of his future home'. Locals begin to dig the foundations and gather materials. They complete the house, working finally on the thatched roof. The settler soon has his own herd of cattle, as well as horses and sheep, and has a number of Africans looking after the farm and working the machinery. They load hay and round up the cattle at night. The film concludes at the end of the working day. The intertitles explain that 'the natives, their long day over go to their huts...and the settlers return to their home'.



During the early part of the 20th century ‘a very substantial chunk’ of the arable land within Kenya was alienated for European settlers. In 1903 only about 2000 hectares had been alienated to Europeans in Kenya. By 1914, this had risen to 260,000 hectares and then to about 2,740,000 in 1930. The settler population increased accordingly. In 1903 there were 596 Europeans in Kenya. This figure had risen to 5438 by 1914 and to 16,663 by the end of 1929 (Kaniki, 1985, 386). This was still a ‘miniscule’ figure, with the 21,000 Europeans in Kenya by 1939 representing one European ‘to 175 Africans’. Piers Brendon has argued that because of this imbalance ‘Kenya’s Europeans lived in a perennial state of insecurity and defensiveness’ (Brendon, 2007, 360).

Europeans held a ‘disproportionate amount of land’, denying Africans access to land, even though ‘by 1930 as much as 64.8% of the land available to Europeans was not ‘in any form of agriculturally productive activity’. Furthermore, the Land Apportionment Act, enacted in 1930 and enforced in 1931, ‘legally promoted the interests of the white minority at the expense of the black majority’ (Kaniki, 1985, 387).

However, the Hilton-Young Commission report, published in 1929, noted the land grievances of local Africans, and in response to this, Kenya Daily Mail, an Indian newspaper published in Mombasa, condemned the ‘undue and artificial’ emphasis on settler interests and wrote of ‘principles that are inapplicable in any community that claims a civilising mission’ (The Times, 29 January 1929, 13). Other critics, such as Norman Leys and W. McGregor Ross condemned white settlement as morally unjust and economically inefficient (Duder, 1991, 428), while the Duke of Devonshire, a Conservative Colonial Secretary, had stated in 1923 that ‘primarily Kenya is an African territory’ and ‘the interests of the African natives must be paramount’ (Crowder, 1984, 11).

Kenya was, according to Michael Crowder, ‘the white-settler colony par excellence’ in the popular British imagination (Crowder, 1984, 11). C.J.D. Duder noted ‘a spate of books which gave the white settlers of Kenya a notoriety unmatched by their counterparts elsewhere in Africa’. ‘Kenyan novels’, Duder argued, ‘invested what was often a brutally exploitative lifestyle with the soothing balm of glamour’, presenting a popular image that was ‘wholly favourable to the settlers’ (Duder, 1991, 428, 432). This image was further enhanced by the Prince of Wales’ visit to East Africa in February 1930, which included a few days hunting near Mombasa.

This filmed representation of the white settler – Up Country with the Settler– was produced by British Instructional Films, who also produced Products of Kenya – Sugar and Coffee in 1930. 



The formal structure of this film presents a journey from the moment the ‘prospective settler lands in Mombasa’, to the arrival, construction and establishment of his new home. The film – in its title as well as its formal structure - encourages the audience to identify with the settler. The camera assumes the role of the settler, watching and supervising the work performed on his behalf.

The film represents a generic, non-specific character, referring to ‘the settler’ throughout and offering little insight into, or close-ups of, the individual white characters.

Indeed, there is markedly more footage of the local Africans than of the settlers themselves. To an extent, this is a film showing what is done for the settler, rather than what the settler does himself: local Africans unload the lorries from the ship under the supervision of one white man; Africans load the lorry to cross the water; locals, overseen by a white man with an axe, support the bridge with food supplies, while a further group of women sits in the background eating; the locals, supervised by a single white man, construct the house; Africans herd the cattle and perform the work on the farm. The titles credit the settler with this work, noting that ‘it is not long before the settler has established his own herd of cattle’.

The locals are defined purely in relation to the settler, until the film’s conclusion, which shows the locals, ‘their long day over’, going to their huts. This final scene also highlights the stark contrast between the living conditions of the black Africans and the settler. A contrast in character and manner is also implied earlier when a shot of two rushing Africans surrounded by cattle, cuts to a single white woman leading a horse out of the stable. This division is reiterated in the next shot as an African and a white woman watch over the sheep from opposite sides of the screen.

The film does hint at the ‘developments’ provided by the British, most notably in its close-ups of the farm machinery in action, yet ultimately ‘the primitive method of transport’ – in the form of oxen – ‘comes to the rescue of the modern lorry’, which they tow. The film may highlight the ‘primitive’ within the colony, but it also depicts the skilled work of the locals – ‘the natives are excellent workers and soon the house is finished … except for the thatching and at this the natives are experts’. This depiction of the skilled labour and of the work performed by the locals inadvertently highlights the injustice – as many local workers saw it – of the British land alienation policy.

Tom Rice (March 2008)


Works Cited

Brendon, Piers, The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781 – 1997 (London: Jonathan Cape, 2007).

Crowder, Michael ed., The Cambridge History of Africa, Volume 8 1940-1975 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984).

Duder, C. J. D., ‘Love and the Lions: The Image of White Settlement in Kenya in Popular Fiction, 1919-1939’, African Affairs, Vol. 90, No. 360. (July, 1991), 427-438.

Kaniki, M. H. Y., ‘The Colonial Economy : The Former British Zones’,  from A. Adu Boahen ed., General History of Africa : Africa Under Colonial Domination 1880-1935 (Berkeley, California: Heinemann, Unesco, 1985).

‘Kenya and the East Africa Report’, The Times, 29 January 1929, 13. 




Technical Data

Running Time:
9 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
35mm Film
807 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Great Britain
Production Company
British Instructional Films





Production Organisations