British Empire in Colour

British Empire in Colour

2002, History  -   48 Comments
Ratings: 7.67/10 from 60 users.

British Empire in ColourFollowing the success of the Second World War in Colour series, TWI/Carlton have produced this documentary charting the history of the British Empire.

Notwithstanding the fact that perhaps a better title would have been the British Empire in the twentieth century or The Fall of the British Empire, this is a wonderful addition to the imperial historian's library or to that of anyone interested in this fascinating period of history.

The programme is divided into three different parts, starting at the height of the empire when Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India to the handing back of Hong Kong in 1997. The rise and fall of the greatest empire is portrayed with all of its contradictions and shows how Britain today has become a multi-cultural society as a result.

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48 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Ed L

    Surprisingly, viewers are in disagreement over the "meaning" of this particular, subjective rehashing of history. There is only one history: theirs.

  2. Johnty Dee

    The more this 'documentary' goes on the more twisted is its rubbish. Britain might have invaded Egypt because of Suez but Israel's reason for doing had nothing to do with Britain's imperial interests. Egypt had been conducted terror raids on Israeli civilian installations on its border with Sinai for years and the world did nothing about it. That was Israel's motivation for the Sinai campaign, France and Britain served their imperial interests that excluded any concern for murdered Israeli civilians by Egyptian terror. Furthermore arab complaints about palestine were completely specious. The arabs got 99.9% of Ottoman possessions but their grievance was that the Jews got the other 0.01%. Absurd and ridiculous. Britain, arabs and the producers of this propaganda are nothing but anti-Semitic and systematic, lying trash. The more this 'documentary' goes on the more lies that are propagated.

  3. Johnty Dee

    This 'documentary' is a pack of lies. It describes the UN partition of palestine in 1947 as not being accepted by anyone. A flagrant untruth. The Jews accepted partition (and not for the first time that their territory was reduced) whilst the arabs did not. Also it whitewashes British perfidy and the fact that the British did not promise the arabs anything 'West of the precinct of Damascus' and British business in Palestine was solely for the purpose of fulfilling the Balfour Declaration that was in the treaty pre-amble of Sveres and signed unanimously by all League members and Turkey and the arabs into International Law and further confirmed by the treaty of Lasaunne in 1925. The British encouraged illegal arab infiltration into palestine, disarmed Jews and armed arabs, fomented unrest because it wished to hold onto the territory in order to control the Suez Canal and its gulf oil interests.

    British soldiers were kidnapped by Zionists because the exasperated Jews saw that Britain refused to honour its international obligations, worked against legitimate Jewish interests and encouraged arab terror and murder. This 'documentary' is a mockery and a revision of British historical malfeasance and criminality regarding British conduct in post war palestine and not worth the film it is recorded on.

    1. marilyn katz

      As a jew familiar with the history of the middle east from the time when wars were between tribes to the Sykes-PIcot agreement and the partition, Johnty dee your view is rubbish. Both the Palestinians and the Jews have historic claims on the land (and in fact are so closely genetically related that they were probably all tribes before there were "jews" -or CHristians or Muslims. And there were few Jews in Israel before partition - even after the holocaust began - only in 48 when more than 1 million arab residents of the land called palestinian (called that for centuries and lived in continuously by a large arab and very small jewish population) were driven out by the sophisticated european armaments of the various Jewish armies, did jews even become a potential majority.

  4. Attila

    On another note, if the British Empire was so oppressive and racist, I wonder why citizens of former colonies (like India, Pakistan, Nigeria, etc.) are scrambling to get admitted to the country of their former oppressors instead of enjoying independence back in their home countries (a rhetorical question) :)!

    1. David Dieni

      Because you raped them, bled them dry and then left. Pakistan was Mounbattens doing BTW. I am white, and I have had with stupid whites....make me sick

  5. Attila

    A highly educational documentary on the demise of a great empire that had brought civilization and culture to many savage corners of the world (just consider the fight against slavery (an endemic practice) in India or the crackdown on thugees and widow-burners in India. The symbolic question of "what have the Romans ever done for us" has nowhere else been more relevant than in former British colonies.

  6. Sid

    Well Euro/Anglo/imperialism is not dead, it is just taking a longer time to realize. There are and will be continuing, not so subtle changes as the 'Project for the New American Century' comes to fruition. The western banking cartel as long since been established and now has direct control of the finances and also the laws meant to regulate it.

    Militarily it started with 9/11 and then two wars which were preemptive invasions of sovereign nations all on the pretext of an imaginary but useful war on terror to first, establish western control over 70% of the world's oil. We are seeing the beginning of the 4th Reich in America with the creation of Homeland Sec and the Patriot act, which is called that to cast anyone who a traitor.

    The idea of world empire is not dead at all, it has just changed its address and now has the single most powerful navy and military ever built with its power and funding expanding exponentially. (more than doubled since 9/11) That is the plan for the 21st century and it's geopolitical goals are just getting started.

  7. stephen

    Great footage, but the spin was very anti-British

  8. Kyle Bruce Davies

    not even a looker in the bunch,English are ao ugly

    1. PAndeten

      not saying these are the same as the racism of the past but merely highlighting a theme and part of the cause.

  9. Alex Edmunds

    One cannot dismiss a contruct on the grounds it was socially constructed. Rape's socially constructed but it doesn't follow it's not wrong. A concept once conceived is often very real in sense. I passionately disapprove of racism as I do all hierarchical conceptions of social structure and believe it's very useful to understand the development of our language (and thus ideas). Why not take this all a step further though and divorce ourselves from all forms of social hierarchy. By this I mean to say, divorce ourselves from the idea that one 'group' - itself a social construct may I add - is of higher status than another. There are many examples of inter group conflict other than racism resulting from this. Religion, age, gender, cults, education, city, are all dividing lines. Of course, I'm no fool and the state monopolises violence and protects the liberties of all these parties so to be clear, I'm not saying these are the same as the racism of the past but merely highlighting a theme and part of the cause.

  10. Elle Jones

    In reply to Racism:
    Race is a social construct and has nothing to do with biology, whatsoever. Race only began when whites began to explore and found/saw persons of non-white skin tone and referred to them all or many of these people as either of the terms, "Black", "Brown", "Yellow" or "Red". That's how race was constructed and from there on has derived a very negative connotation due to its practices to hold persons of color out of very vital parts of society and its well being. Racism equals power. Speaking as a multiethnic woman that has studied race for the greater part of my educational career, I have read and researched the exact causes of racism and I know who can and cannot be racist. White people, in the US as well as the UK, hold most of the political power as well as structural power, so racism only applies, when something harshly prejudicial is spoken or happens, to whites. However; persons of color; African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian/Pacific Islanders, Multiracial and all persons associated with color, can only be prejudice. Is it wrong to hold prejudices? Yes, by all means. But can persons of color be racist? No, they cannot.

    1. MacCaroline

      The bible speaks in terms of races.. the idea of race didn't come from us. Get out of here with your leftist nonsense.

    2. David Dieni

      I am a white male, and you are spot on. Gook, spick, keffer, slant eye, spook, nigger, etc, are all words of white imperialism used to vilify the conquered as somehow, morally or intellectually deficient and in need of the civilizing stability of the "christian west". A practice that has continued for 500 years, as the west continue to wage imperialist war of plunder against 'evil muslim terrorism' whites live in infantile denial of their past and present and swallow any BS they are told as a result.

  11. Papa Giorgio

    bible prophecy full-filled by Jehovah's word the two headed dragon us & uk
    living in the last days !the last human empire on the face of earth

  12. observer1950

    Panders to what educated people are supposed to think of "Empire" these days. The documentary doesn't mention the good things that the British did for India -- the historians, linguists,educationists, ethnographers, geographers, and yes, those who gave India a modern government -- these and many more were British.

    1. Samuel Rowley

      Actually a lot of documentaries these days glorify the Empire for its successes, I liked this one because it identified through many primary sources just how bad it really would have been. I am fed up of this country hiding behind its "glorious" past. Yes you are right it did do many good things and the world we know today would not have been possible without it. Still it is nice to watch something about the Empire that looks toward its darker side for a change.

    2. David Dieni

      What rubbish, as if western governments are anything but institutions of ruling class despotism. While the average wage in India fell by 68% between 1820 and 1870 ' not to mention the famines caused by British intervention.

  13. urafunny1

    so thats where all the tigers went

  14. cdnski12

    Most Historical International Empires last about 200 years. Americans take note ... all empires ultimately fail. Many Empires have failed in much shorter timespans.

  15. Brian Stoll

    only white people aren't allowed to be "racist" but when other races act the same it's "normal"

    1. Winston Smith

      No such thing as 'race' -at least not in the provincial and outdated way you're using the word. What we used to call different races turned out to be nothing more than the results of local adaptation to environmental conditions over countless generations..

    2. Terry Beaton

      I'm sorry you're not allowed to be 'racist'. It rreally is unfair, isn't it.

    3. geno

      It's ok, you can be a racist if you want. Nobody cares what you think anyway.

  16. unhappy

    I am so tired of all of this white racism talk. Ask your average Chinese citizen what they think of African people. Ask your average Indian what they think of Arabs. Ask any Black man what they think of white people. Ask any race what they think of another race and inevitably you will be met with racism. If you think the East is the way forward to an era of tolerance and prosperity you have a rude awakening coming. Could things be better than Western domination? Definitely!! Will things be better when the corrupt and race dominated politics of the East regain world power? Absolutely not!! Look at virtually every country of Asia and you will find oppressed ethnic minorities or religious minorities. Western society isn't perfect but we are trying to improve, the East has no intention of changing its ways. Ask the Uyghur people of China, the Karen or Burma, the hill tribes of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Wake up and open your eyes to reality and stop with the glorification of Eastern society. There is a reason that hundreds of millions of Asians apply for western residence every year!!

    1. Valentina Rose

      Sorry, but your talks indisputably show your white superiority. You have a stereotype view of the East and other races, looking only at one side of the issues you talked about. If you could "wake up and open your eyes" to the reality and open your heart to learn more about the whole world and colored races, you might turn to happy from unhappy.

    2. unhappy

      Just to set the record straight, I am of mixed white and native american ancestry so white superiority is very far down the list of my priorities. I do however appear to be white to most people which means that I have a very clear knowledge of what it means to be hated as a white man. I have lived in 32 countries throughout my life and have experienced daily life with hundreds of friends of various races. At this very moment I am in a cafe in Vung Tau Vietnam with several of my Vietnamese friends. I am by no means a white supremacist but I am not a blinded liberal spouting brean dead peace and love slogans while the entire rest of the world is going with life as usual. I speak fluent Mandarin Chinese, Vietnamese 4 other languages and I can tell you that in daily life i am insulted at least 2-3 times by locals in Asia. I base my opinions on experience and knowledge. You base your opinions on what you see on tv as the happy eastern societies. Maybe you should get out into the real world and experience these "happy" cultures for yourself and then maybe you can make an educated argument. Until then, you are just another idealist that has no real life experience. Come on over to Vietnam and I'll translate as the locals call you names and insult your race, then you tell me how free and open their society really is in comparison to ours. Educate yourself before you insult others!!

    3. unhappy

      After thinking about my last post I have to add that race plays no part in my opinions but culture very much does. In suppose you could legitimately call me a culture supremacist because I have lived in Asia for enough decades to know that foreigners never have the same rights as locals, most countries will never allow a foreigner to become a citizen, foreigners cannot own land or businesses in most of Asia unless through a local partner. Does this sound like an open and accepting society to you? One of my Vietnamese friends sitting beside me right now is ethnically hmong, who fought along with the Americans during the war. Due to his ethnicity he is not allowed a passport and he is not allowed to work for any government agency even though he was born long after the war. I could go on all day about with examples like these. I have never seen an effort to stop these practises in China, Vietnam, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria or any of the other places where I have lived and worked. As I said before, if you think a country like that should lead the world politically and economically then you deserve the horrible treatment that you will get if it ever really happens!!

  17. 1davideo_kidd1

    Well worth watching for some excellent footage from around the world, much of which I've never seen before. Some sad scenes - death, destruction, children crying - some amazing plummy British accents and terrible racism - war dances - cavalry displays - pomp and ceremony.

    In Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World (2011: Bodley Head, London) Nicholas Shaxson shows how Britain only appeared to relinquish its colonial holdings, but actually kept financial control through various methods.

    In his own words: "How colonialism left through the front door, and came back in through a side window" (p1)

    Incidently, as an antidote to empire, in my recent book, DOG Sharon: The Future is Female (paperback and E-book - see Amazon) I argue that we need to move away from traditionally male perspectives of competition, conquest and domination and adopt what are usually thought of as femine values of nurturing, cooperation and support for the weakest.

    I will be publishing a Womanifesto shortly and hope to discuss these ideas with some of the filmmakers contributing to this brilliant site.

  18. adilrye

    Oh god. Get over it people. What is done is done. The British did what every European power did at the time, stop looking at their actions through a 21st century context and pretending as if your "superior" for recognizing the faults of the British Empire. As if, back in 1850, you would have not supported it. What is important to do when looking at history is NOT TO input your contemporary values into analysis of a time very different from our own.

    1. J J

      Get over it?! please explain to us how one can get over IT? The nerve you have to state that 'what is done is done' that is the epitome of condescending arrogance and misplaced sense of entitlement. The wealth of the British was and is garnered from pillaging of the so called third world. I can equate that to telling a person molested by a priest to get over it, except in this case a vast number of peoples have been decimated and exterminated. GET OVER IT? me thinks not

      Specifically to those from the raped regions, one needs to understand their real history and not that peddled by the arrogants, it is up to you to find out for yourself, I gaurantee that you will end up with the conclusion I have i.e. to gain any respect in this world, one needs to own the biggest and most advanced GUN.

    2. adilrye

      So, what do you propose? India invades Britain to get back at them for something each ones ancestors did to one another? Put a country/government on trial for crimes conducted in a completely different international system?

      I don't understand the logic behind that. What SHOULD happen? What CAN happen? So should all historical vendettas be settled? Should Mongolia be charged with the genocide of Chinese kingdoms in the 13th century? That's basically what this equates to.

      When you look at history, don't criticize or condone, because what is the point of that? Because then, you're acting as if they should have been acting like a 21st century person, when it was completely different from our time.

    3. lostcause76

      Get over it probably is a bit simplistic. But when grievances are passed from one generation to the next ad infinitum for centuries this is ultimately self destructive for the people involved and becomes totally nonsensical.

      You can look at any region of the world and examine a local group of people and their history and you will find issues like this where something happened in their past and the grievance is passed on leading to conflict with their neighbours or further afield.

      This is part of human nature and our tribalistic tendencies. In some cases if the grievance is acknowledged by the perpetrator and and accepted by the people involved and this helps to heal old wounds. As has happened to some modest degree in Ireland. But in many cases both sides feel they are the victims and the other side is completely to blame so resolution becomes very difficult.

      We need to learn from History and not pass judgement so easily. Many of these events occurred so far in the past they are beyond living memory and the perpetrators are long dead. So it is a bit rich to feel such animosity towards their descendants for the crimes of their ancestors.

      I am quite sure if you looked at the history of anyone's ancestors you will find something they did at some point that would seem completely wrong to you or me. So shouldn't we therefore all be wearing sackcloth and apologising from dawn to dusk to everyone we meet?

      You cannot look back into the past and shoehorn modern values on people from those times. Their values and principles were completely different and should be examined in context.

    4. kevtheiceman

      well said the yank's forget about the expansion plan which led to the war of 1812 which they conveniently forget ?

  19. omg_wtf_bbq

    The atrocities and superiority-complex of the british is the legacy that has caused many wars in the post second world war world. For the same they have never felt the need to apologize.
    Now that we see the so-called "First-World" descending into poverty the tables have turned and a new world order has come around from the ashes of the 20th century and its blood-bath.
    The so-called "colored" races will be soon running the world and it would be a peaceful time and perhaps another golden age when the europeans descend to their dark ages and East recovers it place as the leaders of peace, prosperity and unity.
    What really happens in the Middle-East is anyone's guess, but it surely wont be the "Anglo-Saxon" world they imagined.
    Unless we as a species realize that color and race is not the defining factor we will not survive. Perhaps the Fallout3 will be our sad reality.

    1. adilrye


      That final point is quite ironic, considering you JUST wrote that "the so called colored races will soon be running the world and it would be a peaceful time and perhaps another Golden Age when the Europeans descend to their Dark Ages and the East recovers its place as the leaders of peace, prosperity and unity."

      And then, you say, oh yeah but we should totally stop defining the world by race...right after the colored races take over.

    2. lostcause76

      Here's the problem. Its not their fault,its our fault ! Human beings. It is in our nature to be tribalistic. We naturally tend to wish to be among people who look like us, talk like us and share our cultural and world views.
      We are typically suspicious of people who look different, talk different and have a different culture and blame foreigners or immigrants for all the worlds ills.
      You will find these types of views anywhere in the world towards outsiders.
      Some places are much worse than others however and fortunately there are many people who realise what a total pile of garbage these kind of views are.

      If were are going to survive as a species we are all going to have to realise this!

  20. Karenator

    It's simply fascinating to watch people compare the British empire to that of America's. There is NO comparison. How history has failed our younger generation is so depressing for me.

  21. lostcause76

    The bigger picture is much more interesting.

    We are now seeing the decline of the the American empire ( an empire in all but name ) created during the cold war. Where pro american dictators were propped up eg the Shah in Iran leading to the Iran revolution as well as american support of Israel creating the huge tide of anti american feeling we see today throughout the middle east.

    Personally I am pro american but you take your poison and accept the consequences. The US has always had good intentions but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The British are all to aware of this.

    As a N. Ireland citizen i am well aware of the issues within the UK I and Scotlands upcoming referendum.

    The British during the Boer wars invented the concentration camp. not something to be proud of. I think you misunderstand my position . I am not proud of what the British did during the years of Empire. I simply believe that they followed the views of the time and that our ancestors were all to blame because of their racist views . If it had not been the British it would have been some one else and we are luckty it was not the nazis or the Japanese of the 1940s.

    1. John T

      I don't disagree with your comments , but some I do.

      Firstly I was born in England quite some years ago, and now live in one of the so called "colonies"

      Although it would appear that anytime of my choosing I can fly in to your country , take up residence and seek genine full time employment, no hassles, so far!

      However getting to the point one big reason why England lost its so called Empire is beacause of its stupid class system , ie workers , and so called the "upper crust" .

      Now thats between "whites" how the hell the "black fellers" are going to feel?

      Its a pity I was born in that counrty , not saying all but an awful lot of ****-heads over there esp in Goverment past and present

  22. panthera f

    Empire day.... pathetic.

    1. a_no_n

      Empire day.... pathetic.

      But when else can i get away with putting Star wars Imperial march on repeat and blast it out the window all day?

  23. lostcause76

    Its always been so easy to blame everything on the British but unfortunately many of the issues reflected the racist attitudes of the era. Our ancestors of whatever nation were racist and believed these attitudes were acceptable but any logical person has moved on. Britain realised before many of the other colonial European nations that the empire was no longer viable and had to be dissolved. Britain led the way in this regard.

    The Slave Trade Act was passed by the British Parliament on 25 March 1807, making the slave trade illegal throughout the British Empire, Wilberforce also campaigned for abolition of slavery in the British Empire, which he lived to see in the Slavery Abolition Act 1833. After the 1807 act abolishing the slave trade was passed, campaigners switched to encouraging other countries to follow suit, notably France and the British colonies.

    People need to wake up and accept the fact that problems in their own societies are not he fault of some bogey man from their past and are due to the human condition and deal with the issues they see around them and move on.

    1. Guest

      Your idea about Brittany (which still is not a coherent state(see northern Ireland and the ongoing process of Scotland actually disconnecting)) paving the way is incorrect. How about the Boer wars in South-Africa (scorched earth anyone?), the opium wars in china and the state of Israel and other consequences in the middle-east. Who was Mahatma Gandhi and why did he and his compatriots suffer?

      During the first world war (early 20th century) Germany decided expand their to establish or extend their colonial empire to fight Brattain on what they though was the most important front. All because of British imperialism. Slavery was just a part of it, but horrible enough. I think below, we were talking about the bigger picture.

  24. Justin_Funski

    Many international problems today descend directly from the break-up of the British Empire. Their snobbery of the and lack of understanding of the "heathens" they governed lead to the creation politically unstable borders guaranteed to generate discontent and conflict well into the future.

    1. Guest

      Shouldn't diminish the actions of others but these guys were the perverts of perverts. Messed up the whole damn thing.

    2. rodrimax

      and what about sex DISCRIMINATION