Browse content similar to Empire - Learning Zone. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
Modern Britain is a nation of many cultural traditions.
British people are connected
to other parts of the world through many ties -
and of community.
Many of these connections have their roots in the British Empire.
It was called "the empire on which the sun never set".
At its height, Britain ruled over a quarter of the world's population.
But how did Britain come to rule so much land
and so many people?
Many convinced themselves it was Britain's destiny to do so.
Much of the Empire was built on greed
and a lust for power.
But the British came to believe they had a moral mission, too -
a mission to civilise the world.
The sheer expanse of British rule was breathtaking.
It stretched from the wilderness of the Arctic
to the sands of Arabia...
..and the islands of the Caribbean.
A century ago, the British Empire was the greatest power on Earth.
That imperial past has left Britain
with a sense of entitlement to a place at the top table
in current world affairs.
For better or for worse, the Empire changed the world
and it changed Britain, too.
The Empire coloured huge parts of the map of the world pink.
But India was the grandest,
richest and the most important territory it came to control.
In the 18th century, this was the home of India's ruling dynasty.
The first British visitors were awestruck by what they found.
It was clear that this was an advanced civilisation.
The Indians regarded the arriving British as barbarians,
but by the mid-18th-century,
the balance of power had shifted decisively in favour of the British.
How did this happen?
The earliest Britons in India,
such as the men of the East India Company, weren't invaders
but traders who'd gone there for spices, cotton and indigo dye.
The company, which soon dominated trade,
raised its own army of local troops.
In 1744, a young man arrived in India
to work as a clerk for the company.
His name was Robert Clive.
He was ambitious, short-tempered and impatient.
He soon saw that wielding a sword
was a faster route to riches than pushing a pen.
Clive taught himself to be a soldier.
He learned, for example,
that the best way to repel troops mounted on elephants,
should you ever need to know,
is to fire a volley of shots at the animals until they stampede.
But his greatest talent of all was, in his own words,
"for politics, chicanery, intrigue
"and the Lord knows what."
At the Battle of Plassey in 1757,
Clive outwitted the ruler of the State of Bengal,
a man who had dared to challenge the power of the East India Company.
Clive then walked into the prince's treasury
and coolly helped himself to a fortune.
He then shipped it in a fleet of 75 barges
to the company's headquarters in Calcutta.
Soon afterwards, a new word entered the English language.
It was a Hindi word,
With wealth came power.
The East India Company gradually took control
of huge swathes of the country.
The company men were the new princes of India.
They built themselves great palaces in the British style
on Calcutta's main street.
Many of them still stand today.
Clive himself became Governor of Bengal.
So what had begun in plunder
had ended in government
and so it was to prove right across the world.
It was the greed of Robert Clive and men like him
which built Britain an empire.
Today some people dismiss the Empire as a cause for nothing but shame.
But the story is more complex than that.
British rule in India demonstrates it very clearly.
The first British people in India came to trade rather than invade.
Their attitude to the peoples they encountered
would be very different from that of those who followed.
These pioneers of Empire actively embraced an Indian way of life.
One of these early traders was Charles Stuart.
He worked for the East India Company,
which traded in cotton, silks and spices.
Most mornings, Stuart could be seen joining the locals
as they bathed in Calcutta's Hugli river.
Charles Stuart is the sort of person
who upends easy prejudices about the Empire.
The caricature is that it was all run by arrogant racists
oppressing downtrodden natives.
And like all caricatures, there is a degree of truth in that.
But Charles Stuart belongs to an early generation
of the British in India, who were seduced by the place.
In this unfamiliar world,
Charles Stuart saw holiness,
order and civilisation.
So enchanted was he with India,
he soon became known as Hindu Stuart.
He encouraged his fellow Europeans to adopt Indian customs.
He called on British women to abandon their corsets and dresses
and to wear colourful Indian saris.
And on British men
to grow what would become that trademark of Empire,
a luxuriant moustache,
The traders of the East India Company
liked to mix business with pleasure.
Relaxing with the locals was an everyday affair.
To judge from their clothes,
you often couldn't tell one from the other.
This was the Empire making up the rules
about the appropriate relations between the races as it went along.
In fact, there weren't really any rules at all - yet.
Many British traders took Indian mistresses,
known as Beebees.
But there were more serious and lasting relationships too,
leading to marriage and families.
Many men of the East India Company
left their possessions to Indian wives or children.
The offspring of these mixed-race marriages
became known as Anglo-Indians.
Today there are an estimated 150,000 of them in India.
Anglo-Indians tend to marry within the community
so the term now means having some British blood,
often several generations back.
I am proud to be who I am here.
I have both worlds to enjoy,
I enjoy the West as well as I enjoy the East.
You're all Christians?
-And you've all got some British blood somewhere.
-But you can't...
I couldn't tell you from any other Indian.
But my name says it,
and I know my roots. That is it.
What does it mean to you?
It means something nice, because I feel proud to be Anglo-Indian.
But you are a visible reminder...
-..of the fact that this country was a colony.
Well, a lot of people wouldn't like that.
That's history, that's all. Just take it as a part of history.
Many of the early colonists in India,
men of the East India Company,
were enthusiastic about Indian life and culture.
Many married Indian woman
and it seemed there was a positive mix of two cultures.
But in Victorian Britain,
these relationships were seen as subversive, even dangerous.
Britain was in the grip of a religious revival.
The British were adopting a new, more puritanical Christianity,
and they wanted the rest of the world to do likewise.
That shift would soon be felt on the far fringes of Empire.
It wasn't long before Victorian values arrived in India.
They were brought, not only by missionaries,
but by wives sent out from Britain
who were arriving in ever-increasing numbers.
They were known as memsaabs.
They hadn't the slightest interest in local culture.
One memsaab wrote of Indian holy men
as "horrible objects, with their wildly rolling eyes,
"long tangled hair, and every bone visible in their wretched bodies."
Another arrived in India and wrote home,
"There's such a lot of everything!"
No wonder the memsaabs ran for the hills.
They had very different ideas
about how to make themselves at home in India.
The days of easygoing tolerance were now over.
In their place came a culture war,
a never-ending battle to maintain the British way of life
in the face of foreign temptation.
The British strongholds in this battle
were the places they came to escape the summer heat.
Hill stations, like Ooty.
The Indians called it Ootacamund,
but that was too much of a mouthful for most of the British.
As soon as they discovered the place,
they began to turn it into a version of Surrey.
In places like this, a particular idea of Britishness was forged.
Tea on the lawn,
a certain reserve, order,
formality, unbelievable stuffiness.
It is an idea that some people still have a soft spot for
while others have been laughing at it for decades.
What tends to be forgotten, though, is that it was forged, initially,
as a defence against something.
In this case, as a defence against India.
Bungalows sprouted like little forts all over the hills.
Bungalow is originally an Indian word
meaning "a house in the Bengali style,"
but the buildings it came to describe were very British indeed.
The great Empire writer Rudyard Kipling
talked about them as "models of shut-up-ness."
Enclosed within their own little compound, rigidly ordered within,
they really were about the separation of us from them.
Of course, the great shift in attitudes
was shared by men and memsaabs.
But as mistresses of the house,
it was the women who were on the front line.
For a young woman, arriving in this alien land
after weeks on a boat from England
must have been a truly daunting experience.
Fortunately, though, help was at hand.
The Complete Indian Housekeeper and Cook,
by Flora Annie Steel and Grace Gardiner,
is an intriguing window into the mind of British India.
It tells you absolutely everything,
from how much to pay the cook's assistant,
to the best way to divide up the family possessions
when you're moving house, by means of 11 camels,
to how many coolies it takes to carry a piano.
The answer to that one, if you're interested, is 16.
The book is astonishingly rude about the Indians themselves.
"The Indian servant," this bit here says,
"is a child in all things save age,
"and should be treated as a child.
"That is to say, kindly, but with the greatest firmness."
It was the memsaabs' duty
to introduce the native servants to the British way of doing things
and to teach them their place
as decent, dutiful inferiors.
Yet for all their apparent self-confidence,
these were women who lived in a state of fear -
fear that the climate and conditions in India might actually kill them.
St Stephen's Church was one of British Ooty's first buildings.
Its graveyard is full of British women and children
whose stay in the country didn't last long.
Death and disease ravaged the British in India.
Soldiers' wives and children
were three times more likely to suffer an early death
than if they'd stayed at home.
"Sacred to the memory of Issabella Frances Etheldred,
"fourth daughter of the late Lieutenant Colonel Havelock,
"14th Light Dragoons,
"who died June 18th 1851, aged 17 years, two months and three days."
How precisely they measured their loss.
Along with the snobbery and self-righteousness
went a certain fortitude and courage, as well.
Maybe they passed themselves off as the master race
because deep down, they knew that they were an endangered species.
India was valuable to Britain, not only for its spices and cotton
but for another commodity...
A small island like Britain couldn't, by itself, find the manpower
to hold onto this vast territory.
So the British came up with a system
that would become a cornerstone of Empire.
They paid local soldiers to fight for them.
British officers would now lead Indian troops.
SHOUTS IN OWN LANGUAGE
The colonised would provide the fighting force of colonialism
for centuries to come.
The Madras Regiment, founded in 1758,
is the oldest in the Indian Army.
It's spent most of its existence
fighting not for independent India,
but for Britain.
It doesn't bother Captain Dilip Shekhar
that his regiment helped to build the Empire.
Three quarters of your battle honours are when you were part of the British Army.
-What do you think about that?
You were on the wrong side, from an Indian nationalist point of view -
you fought for the British.
We were soldiers,
and a soldier does not know whose region it is for he's fighting.
Tomorrow, I have a fight with any other country,
I'm told to fight with that country. I don't have any personal grievance.
Do you think the British being here was a good thing or a bad thing?
What happened in history is history. Still, we should not go into that
but, yes, they have done good for us, and even bad to us.
But you're... It's a good thing they're not here, isn't it?
Indian troops helped the British control their empire
and they played a key role fighting for Britain
through the 18th and 19th centuries,
right up to the 20th century and two world wars.
The British Empire wasn't just about conquests and government
and chaps in shorts telling foreigners what to do.
It was also about money and profit.
It began with a few unscrupulous adventurers
and it grew into a vast network that spanned the globe,
from Britain to Australia,
from Calcutta to Jamaica,
from Australia to Hong Kong.
Off the coast of China,
British traders made fortunes
from ships freighted with addictive drugs.
And they helped themselves to the riches of Ancient India.
They planted new crops in their expanding colonies,
like rubber in Malaysia...
..and transformed the economies of those countries.
Empire trade and empire theft
helped make Britain a world capital of money.
It may be surprising,
but a key factor in the development of the Empire
was a British sweet tooth.
Those at home had developed a taste for sugar
to sweeten the novelties arriving from the tropics -
chocolate and tea.
The British were already becoming a nation of sugar addicts.
Sugar from plantations in the British colony of Jamaica
could satisfy their craving.
But the island's population was tiny
and the plantations needed vast amounts of labour.
The answer to the problem
lay in the trafficking of human beings from Africa.
The slave trade.
The British didn't introduce slavery to the Caribbean
but they took to it with enthusiasm.
Traders bought slaves in Africa
and then shipped them thousands of miles across the world.
Many died in the packed, filthy, airless cargo decks.
Sugar was a back-breaking crop to harvest.
The cane had to be cut down and then stripped of its foliage
and then transported to the mill,
often in intense, blazing heat.
Within three years of their arriving here,
a third of them would be dead.
By 1775, 1.5 million men, women and children
had been forcibly transported from Africa to the British West Indies.
Their descendants now people these islands.
Treating human beings as beasts of burden
made the owners of sugar plantations rich.
This is the planter's house on the Good Hope Estate, built in 1755.
Its owner was 23 when he bought it.
He became the wealthiest man in Jamaica,
owning over 10,000 acres of land
and over 3,000 slaves.
The luxury of this home
is an indication of the vast sums of money
which could be made in the colonies.
Some of that wealth was spent on good living,
some on gaining power and influence back home.
But much of it was invested in new opportunities to get rich
through international trade.
For more than three centuries,
it was trade rather than conquest
which brought new colonies into the Empire.
Though it was often trade at the end of a gun or a sword.
Canada was opened up by the Hudson's Bay Company,
which traded in skins and furs.
And the African Lakes Corporation
bought and sold the bounty of swathes of Africa.
Many of these companies
were run by men sitting in offices thousands of miles away
in the City of London.
On floors like this, traders speculated
on commodities from across the globe -
cotton from India...
..wool from Australia...
..and cocoa from West Africa.
By the end of the 19th century,
more than half the world's trade was financed in British pounds.
Victorian Britain, in effect, had two empires -
one run by politicians,
the other by moneymen.
In South America, British banks supplied governments with credit.
British companies built railways across Argentina.
British settlers bought huge ranches and raised cattle.
Victorian investors grew rich
trading in things right across the globe.
The former British island colony of Hong Kong
is so densely packed with banking and trading firms,
it's known as the world's most vertical city.
The place lives, eats and breathes money.
The story of how Hong Kong came to be British
reflects the Empire's often ruthless pursuit of profit.
It's an extraordinary story,
even if it is one of the most shameful in British history.
And yet, this dark episode began innocently enough.
It was born from the English passion for a cup of tea.
Oh, it smells lovely, doesn't it?
Would you like to have a cup of tea?
-I'd love to have one, yes.
-This way, please.
In the early 19th century,
China was virtually the only place tea was grown.
But there was a problem.
For three centuries,
China had severely restricted trade with the West.
The British were desperate and had even sent a delegation to China.
They begged the Emperor to open up his country
and take some British products in exchange for tea.
They presented him with all sorts of trinkets -
games and curiosities,
scientific instruments and toys.
But he remained resolutely unimpressed.
"We possess all things," said the Emperor.
"I set no value upon things strange or ingenious
"and I have no use for your country's manufactures."
But to get the tea they craved,
the British had one thing to trade
that many Chinese craved even more.
The drug was illegal in China,
though the ban was widely ignored.
There were an estimated 12 million peasants addicted to opium.
The authorities there called it "a deadly poison,
"ruining the minds and morals of our people."
The British grew opium poppies in India.
There they processed it in factories
on a colossal scale.
Finally, it was shipped to China
and sold to smugglers.
With the profits, British traders bought Chinese tea.
In 1839, the Chinese Emperor decided he'd had enough.
He ordered more than 1,000 tonnes of British-supplied opium
to be seized and destroyed.
The British government was outraged.
It invoked a sacred and very convenient principle -
the principle of free trade.
Britain HAD to be allowed to trade what and where she liked,
especially in the case of opium.
Opium was making Britain rich.
It soon accounted for over a fifth
of the income of the government of India.
Two mighty empires, each convinced of their own superiority,
were now set on collision course.
The Opium Wars were about to begin.
Britain's first ocean-going iron warship, The Nemesis,
built in Liverpool, was sent out to take on the Emperor's navy.
It helped destroy much of it in a single afternoon.
This was the modern world confronting an ancient one.
Sailing junks against steam-driven gun boats.
The Chinese had no choice but to surrender
and to open five ports to British trade.
China had been forced to enter the modern global economy.
Hong Kong was one of Britain's prizes from the Opium Wars
and it remained in British hands until the end of the 20th century.
It would become one of the Empire's most important centres
for banking and trade.
When the British finally quit Hong Kong in 1997,
they did so boasting they were handing on a territory
"intimately wired into the world economy,"
the shameful origins of British colonial presence here
But China has never entirely forgotten
how a foreign power forced it at gunpoint
to allow millions of its citizens
to be turned into drug addicts.
In the second half of the 19th century,
the British Empire reached from Canada in the west
to Australia in the east.
The last phase of the expansion,
the conquest of much of Africa, was about to begin,
and many of these empire builders
believed their work was ordained by God.
In the summer of 1861, a small party of white men
found themselves travelling up the River Shire
in what is now Malawi.
To Europeans at that time, Africa was simply "The Dark Continent",
a place of ignorance and superstition.
They had come here to change that.
The men sang hymns as they travelled.
Lead Kindly Light was a particular favourite.
Their leader was already a legend in Britain,
a man who had come to embody the Victorian purpose in Africa.
His name was David Livingstone,
a deeply religious, fanatically determined Scot.
He was the first white man to have crossed the continent of Africa.
He'd come here as a missionary to save African souls for Christ
but what he found appalled him.
Britain had abolished slavery in the Empire decades before,
but Livingstone found Africans still being captured and sold
to Arab and Portuguese slavers all over East Africa.
Now he and his companions
dreamed of sowing the seeds of a new world here.
One based not on African superstition and slavery,
but on two Victorian obsessions -
and free trade.
This river would become God's highway into the heart of Africa.
Down it would come African cotton
and wheat and ivory and ostrich feathers,
and up it, in exchange, would go clothes and tools and machinery
made in Glasgow or Manchester.
Livingstone had a slogan for it -
Christianity and Commerce.
This would be the Empire's new civilising mission.
But the place chosen by Livingstone for his mission
turned out to be hostile and dangerous...
..a malarial death trap.
Then, in 1865, after years of exploring the interior,
the most famous missionary in the world vanished.
Nothing was heard from him for an entire three years.
It was a worldwide mystery.
The New York Herald sent a journalist,
Henry Morton Stanley, to Africa.
"Find Livingstone", were his orders,
"by any means necessary."
FOLK MUSIC, DRUMS
And find him he did, in what would become
one of the most celebrated encounters of the Victorian age.
Stanley was a chancer,
so we must take his account of the meeting with a pinch of salt,
but here's what he says happened.
"As I approached, I noticed he was pale.
"He looked weary.
"I would have embraced him, but he being an Englishman,
"I wasn't sure how he would receive me.
"So I walked up to him deliberately, took off my hat and said,
"Dr Livingstone, I presume."
But Livingstone didn't want to give up.
For nearly two years, he continued with his mission
to abolish the slave trade of Central Africa.
He drove himself on, sick with cholera and dysentery.
He'd even extracted his own teeth.
Livingstone, it is said, made only one convert to Christianity,
nor did trade with the British
transform the lives of African villagers.
But he did help to persuade the British government
to fight slavery worldwide,
and the work of fanatical anti-slavers like Livingstone
persuaded the British that there was something noble about their empire.
He died in Africa.
He was alone, thousands of miles from home.
They found him in his hut,
kneeling, it was said, in prayer.
Two faithful servants,
one of them a former slave freed by Livingstone,
gathered up his body and carried it all the way to the coast.
There, they loaded it onto a ship bound for London.
His heart, though, was buried in Africa.
David Livingstone had become more than an explorer,
more than a missionary,
he had become a myth.
His brave life and lonely death
reassured a people busy conquering the world
that the Empire was about more than greed and domination.
It was about sacrifice and justice
and doing good.
The story of the British Empire
involved trade and conquest, of course,
but it also involved the movement of huge numbers of ordinary people.
Today, we sometimes find it hard to believe just how many people
migrated, willingly or unwillingly,
across huge distances to carve out the Empire and make it work.
And the consequences are still with us.
This is Nairobi in Kenya.
No-one planned Nairobi as a capital city. It just happened.
It happened because it was a railway stop
on one of the most ambitious lines in the entire British Empire,
the Lunatic Line.
For the Empire in 1900,
making yourself at home meant building a railway.
The line ran 600 miles
from the coast, through Nairobi
all the way to Lake Victoria.
It was built to bring British goods to the interior
and raw materials out to ports on the coast.
It would encourage British farmers to come out here and settle.
There was plenty to merit the title "The Lunatic Line."
There was the cost, £534 million in today's money.
There was the engineering required
to allow a train to climb from sea level into the mountains
and then to plunge down into the great rift valley,
and to construct 1,200 bridges along the way.
But it wasn't the British who built the railway.
It wasn't even the Africans. This remarkable feat
was the work of 32,000 labourers, craftsmen and engineers
brought in by the British from India.
They knew how to build railways there.
Soon, the Lunatic Line
was carrying coffee and tea, sisal and wheat
from the settler's farms to the coast.
The building of the railway was a staggering feat
but it came at a staggering cost in human life.
2,500 workers were killed during its construction
by malaria, accidents,
or man-eating lions.
What was the attraction for someone like your great-grandfather
and his brother when they came here?
Well, I mean, to be honest,
I don't think you were very well off back at home, OK?
Cos, I mean, why would you want to leave the comfort of your home
to come to this wilderness?
Harsh African conditions, vegetation,
a strange land to them.
It wasn't very easy cos water was scarce,
especially when they were going
across the Tara desert, towards Salvo.
They didn't have water for showering for weeks.
They would just get enough water just to drink.
And what my great-grandfather told me is,
when the carriage would come for drinking water,
they would pretend to be clumsy drinking their water,
basically, they'd go, scoop it out and pretend to be clumsy about it
and in the process have a little shower, you know,
literally throw the water on them.
-And dangerous, dangerous.
Wilderness, wild animals, out in Salvo.
Salvo's a place?
Yes, that's man-eaters.
I've read accounts of these attacks by the man-eating lions
and they talk about men being dragged from their tents,
and their colleagues being able to hear them
-as they're eaten alive by the lions.
Horrifying, isn't it?
Let me ask you a political question.
The fact that your, you and your community
are now a very, very long way
from where naturally you came from, and you're in this alien culture,
was what the British did in bringing you here
a good thing or a bad thing?
That's a good question.
To be honest, I have no regrets for being here
and when people ask me, you know, "Who are you?
"Where are you from?" You know?
I say Kenya's my home, and I have no regrets for coming here.
The Indian workers who built the Kenyan railway
were part of a bigger Empire story,
the shifting of populations around the globe
to meet the Empire's need for labour.
In the 18th century, Africans were taken as slaves
to the sugar plantations of the West Indies.
Their descendants now inhabit those islands.
In the 19th century, Tamils from South India were sent
to pick tea on estates in Sri Lanka
or to tap rubber in Malaya.
All had to make new homes in Britain's ever-growing Empire.
The world still lives with the consequences
of these great population shifts.
But what happened to these people
as the Empire began to recede?
In the 20th century,
Indians came to play a vital part in the Kenyan economy
as shopkeepers and professionals.
Then, on the 12th of December 1963,
Kenya gained independence from Britain.
Now, Indians in Kenya were seen as unwelcome relics
from the days of British rule.
Many of them feared for their future
and turned to their former colonial masters to provide a new home.
NEWSREEL PRESENTER: The Asian community prepare to leave.
Britain was their destination.
The Kenya government did not pull its punches in telling the British-passport-holding Asians
they were not wanted.
Asian shopkeepers had little alternative
but to wind up their businesses and seek new roots.
Many Kenyan Asians chose to settle in the Midlands,
in cities like Leicester.
In the process, they transformed the face of urban Britain.
The Empire was coming home.
The legacy of the British Empire
still affects millions of people across the globe,
in sometimes surprising ways.
The British introduced many parts of the world
to their favourite obsession...
For the British, sport was part of the civilising mission of Empire,
the gift of the mother country to her colonies.
Whether it involved chasing a ball,
smashing it with a racket...
..or whacking it with a club.
The sporting gospel was carried
to the farthest-flung corners of the Empire.
Wherever in the Empire sport was played,
it was supposed to bind subject peoples to their colonial masters.
But the spirit of fair play and the interests of Empire
would eventually clash head-on.
The West Indian island of Jamaica
had been a British colony since 1655.
The British introduced cricket to Jamaica in the 1830s.
It soon seemed to enter the bloodstream of the island.
He's got a good eye, that boy in the yellow shirt, hasn't he?
Who's the best cricketer here?
You're the two champs?
But there was a problem here.
How could a game which prided itself on fairness
work in an empire divided between rulers and ruled,
and therefore very obviously unfair?
Cricket in the West Indies would become not a unifying force
but a symbol of oppression.
In 19th-century Jamaica, white people owned the land,
black people worked on it.
While cricket was supposed to be good for subject races,
at that time, black and white rarely played together.
It's a practise day at Sabina Park,
the home of Jamaica's Kingston Cricket Club.
When it was formed in 1863,
it was a place for white men to play the game.
Even when black and white began to play on the same side,
racial tensions in the game remained.
No black player was ever selected to captain the national team.
Whites were chosen to bat,
while blacks were relegated to bowling or fielding.
It wasn't quite the done thing
for white men to do a lot of running around in the tropics,
besides which there was a distinction
between brawn - bowling,
and brains - batting.
Batting was for white men.
Change had to come.
It arrived in the person of Frank Worrall, who in 1960
became the first black player
to captain a West Indies team for an entire series.
When Worrall brought his team to England,
they showed they could play the game rather better than their hosts.
'The Oval can never have known a scene like this.
'Victory in the series by three matches to one
'confirms the West Indies as the most powerful side in the world.'
It was generally inferred that here is the right person at last
to lead a West Indies team
because I think, before, there wasn't that unity
based on who was appointed captain, who was appointed vice captain.
Now it was felt that the players have a captain they can fight for.
So I think it was greeted with cheers throughout the Caribbean
and I think many people were saying,
"At last, we have the right man to lead."
-Like a Mandela moment!
-It certainly was, that's why I said that.
-Free at last, free at last.
-Free at last, at last, at last!
England taught the West Indies cricket
and there was a grand opportunity
for the students now to reverse that process
and in the mind of many of the West Indian players,
this was, you know, the turning point, I think, for everyone.
Sort of like sweet revenge.
In the end, the British idea of fair play
undermined the very notion of empire itself.
If a black cricket captain, why not a black prime minister?
In 1962, Jamaica became the first Caribbean island
to gain independence,
and through the 1960s, all over the Empire,
from the West Indies to Fiji,
the Union Jack came down.
The Empire brought blood and tears
and dispossession to millions of people,
but it also brought roads and railways and education.
There is no simple judgement
to be made on three turbulent centuries of history.
The Empire was certainly cruel, unjust, and unjustifiable
if you were a slave on a plantation in the 18th century.
But it was benign, if you were rescued from a slave ship
by the Royal Navy in the 19th century.
For good or ill,
much of the world is as it is today because of the Empire.
From the way it looks...
..to the sports people play.
From the religion they practise
to the language they speak.
It has changed the very genetic make-up of Britain.
If only we can look at it clear-eyed,
it can tell us a lot about who we are.
It's a story that belongs to all of us.
We've been through pride,
we've been through shame,
mostly nowadays we seem to be in denial,
but if we really want to understand who we are,
it's time we stopped pretending the Empire was nothing to do with us.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Jeremy Paxman travels the world exploring different aspects of the British Empire. He sets off in search of the extraordinary characters, burning ambitions and surprising principles which created an empire four times the size of ancient Rome. Explorers and businessmen, soldiers and visionaries, missionaries and crooks play their part in a story that spans three centuries and five continents.
This special version made for the Learning Zone contains a number of films of two- to six-minute durations.
Each film explores a specific question, including: Why does the empire matter? How did the British gain control of India? What were relations like between rulers and ruled? How did Victorian values affect life in the empire? Why was India so valuable to the empire? What was the role of money and trade in the empire? Was the empire a force for good? How did the empire affect migration? What can cricket tell us about the empire? What traces has the empire left behind?