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The Forgotten Empire

(W/T) 4 x 60 BBC2

A new landmark series presented by historian David Olusoga.

It was under Queen Elizabeth I that Tudor England took the first steps towards building what was to become the British Empire. It was under Elizabeth II, four centuries later, that the last British colonies were granted independence.

The British Empire is the biggest story in our national history; the story of how a small island created the biggest empire the world has ever seen. Yet today much of that history remains forgotten. In The Forgotten Empire, Historian David Olusoga embarks on a visually rich journey to unearth an eye-opening account of Britain’s place in the world, looking beyond the Victorian clichés to reveal new aspects of the imperial story and encounter forgotten communities across the globe with whom we have a shared history.

In Panama he meets the Congos people whose ancestors fought side-by-side with Sir Francis Drake during raids on the ‘Spanish Main’. In India he meets the descendants of the Chinese tea experts who were smuggled out of China in the 19th Century to grow tea for Britain in the mountains of the Himalayas.

Uncovering new stories David travels to Guyana to reveal the forgotten labour system the British invented to replace slavery and in Uruguay he discovers how Britain’s economic power became so extensive that even nations that were never formally part of the empire were drawn into the ‘informal’ British Empire – an empire of money and investments run from the City of London rather than Westminster.

Read BBC article.