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The Lunatic Express: An Entertainment In Imperialism

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  111 ratings  ·  17 reviews
The Lunatic Express is the saga of the turbulent international race for the mastery and development of an immense region of East Africa that all but visionaries thought worthless. It is the narrative of the building of the Mombasa-Nairobi-Lake Victoria Railway itself - the colossal six-year enterprise that was to cost #5,000,000 and countless lives, from derailments, colli ...more
Hardcover, 559 pages
Published 1971 by The History Book Club
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Barbara Stoner
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Once upon a time, I worked in the public relations office of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History for a couple of years. One of my favorite dioramas featured two taxidermied lions -the infamous Man-Eaters of Tsavo. These lions killed and consumed anywhere from 30 to over 100 workers during the construction of the railway bridge over the Tsavo River on the Mombasa/Nairobi/Lake Victoria route built in the late 19th century. Last year, I discovered a book about the building of that railroad.

Tom DeMarco
Mar 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
The lunatic express of the title is a railroad in Kenya that was built to transport British upper-class twits to the highlands ("vacationland of aristocrats"). But you can't read the book without coming to think that the entire colonial effort in Africa was a kind of lunatic express. ...more
Vicky Hunt
"Lions Do Not Fear Lions"

In laying bare the ideas and emotions of generations on the topics of race, The Lunatic Express takes you on a journey into the dark side of a century. Forget the landscape. In this tome the reader will journey through the dark dank corners of the human prejudice. In the title of this book, I am transported almost four decades to my Political Science classes, where I learned about the MAD Doctrine. As the MAD Doctrine was towards understanding the political philosophy o
Nov 10, 2013 rated it liked it
A very interesting and historical account of the early colonization of East Africa, now Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. At times, it gets a bit slow but overall, an enjoyable read for those interested in the development of these countries.
Apr 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is one of the most unfortunately titled books I have ever read. It's not just that I have no idea what the subtitle means ("an entertainment in imperialism"?). The main title, "Lunatic Express," had led me to believe that this book offers the history of the Uganda Railway, the main part of which was constructed in the 1890s and early 1900s. It would be more accurate to describe this book as a history of East Africa (Tanganyika, Kenya, Uganda, and Zanzibar) from the first arrival of European ...more
Sep 21, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
I couldn’t get past even the first 30 or so pages!!!! Too heavy into ancient history about the different tribes and the countries trying to get a foothold in Africa. I kept thinking...when am I going to see the names of some of the, supposedly, main characters of the story?! I paged through the book from beginning to end and decided it was too “bogged down” for my taste. The author gets too carried away and “off track” (pun, very much intended!). Only read this if you are a history-buff who love ...more
David Koblos
Dec 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Scary, funny, exciting, inspiring, disgusting, intriguing, and entertaining stories about how British colonialism forged East Africa, and built a railroad that was deemed impossible. The time-line is quite long, however, which can be pretty distracting.
Nate Hendrix
Jul 23, 2015 rated it did not like it
I gave up after 150 pages. Parts of it were very interesting, but I found myself skimming much of it so I quit.
Jul 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book sets off in full gusto and maintains this until the last chapter. Without doubt one of the best books about East Africa I have read, and there's been many. ...more
Sam Romilly
Aug 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating history. Shows what courageous people were the first explorers of Africa. Incredible research.
Vicki Fishlock
Mar 31, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is the one that has taken longest in my life to finish! I normally devour books but although this was well written, the dense type in my paperback and long pre-history into the railway's birth was a bit off-putting. Nonetheless when I got to the actual construction, it flew through and I would recommend it for anyone wanting to understand more of history in the region. ...more
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Apr 11, 2021 added it
Reading this book when living and working in Tanzania.
Mark Dunn
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: colonialism
The neo anti colonialist hipster would do well to read a book ,like "Lunatic Express," and understand what they hate ,or they could just smoke a J. ...more
Steven Poore
Aug 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
The truth is stranger than fiction. In this case, it's the story of how the British Empire expanded into East Africa - almost by accident - and caused the construction of a railway line between Mombasa on the coast and Lake Victoria. If you've seen the film The Ghost And The Darkness, in which Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer go lion hunting, then you already know something about one of the most famous incidents that interrupted the construction. The rest of it is even more eye-opening.

This book i
Aug 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
A fantastic, well-investigated study of the East African railway and the East African slave trade that spurrned it on. The stuff on Zanzibar in the beginning of the book was fascinating stuff, as you can sense much of that still on the island. The book is exhaustive in detail, but it was gloriously rich and at now point did I feel intimidated by the sheer immensity of the novel. Good stuff, one of the best historical African books I've ever read. ...more
Jan 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, nonfiction
I read this book while hiking through Kenya. It was a compelling history of the area that I still want to reread (I had borrowed the book).
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