Book Review: An Outline History of Nyanza up to 1914 by William R Ochieng

William Ochieng was a UoN lecturer, a historian who sought to document the history of Nyanza, particularly that of the Luos.

The book which is sponsored by the Kenya Literature Bureau was largely written because ‘the history of African remains unwritten to a very large extent and where research has been conducted the studies are usually beyond the reach of the ordinary man’.

That’s is actually the point of this 104-paged book which only outlines the history of Luo Nyanza.

Anyways, if you wish to leanr a little bit about how Luos emerged in Kenya, how they co nquered the Lake region which they found inhabited by other tribes and how at one point they enslaved the Kisii’s, read this book.

The book also talks about the Maasais, Kipsigis and Kuria’s in relation to the Luos.

For example, Kisiis were never a highland people. They were chased from the plains by the Luos. This might answer why Luos are fond of Luhyas than the Kisiis.

The arrival of colonialism is particularly unnerving to the political economy of the region as pertains to the three tribes.

Mageta island along the shores of Lake Victoria was a rich place in terms of standard of life and agriculture (dealt mostly in grains) until the arrival of the colonialists.

Downside is that the people of Mageta dealt in slave trade; Prof Ochieng writes that ‘the people of Mageta and Yimbo ambushed and captured slaves whom they sold to the Baganda and Basoga”.

The military exploits of some of the warriors of the tribes living in Nyanza is also documented.

Being a Kenya Literature Bureau book, it is not worth the time of a serious historian. However, the book gives reference to other serious chronicles such as those written by Prof Bethwel Ogot.