Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture by Ian Cobain - review by John Sweeney

John Sweeney

‘As British as Suet Pudding’

Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture


Portobello Books 345pp £18.99

Wouldn’t it be nice to meet the British soldiers who tortured Hussein Onyango Obama in Kenya in the 1950s by squeezing his testicles between two plates of metal and piercing his fingernails and buttocks with a sharp metal pin while he lay face down with his hands handcuffed behind his back? I’d like to meet these chaps, if they are still with us, and ask them if it ever crossed their minds that this poor wretch’s grandson would become the 44th President of the United States – and that their cruelty would linger in the grandson’s mind. 

This is a brilliant book, written coolly and dispassionately by a reporter at the top of his game. It’s no easy read for anyone who cares about Britain, but Ian Cobain presents a compelling case that British intelligence tortured German prisoners of war during the Second World War, Mau Mau

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