Produced by the innovative team behind the BAFTA Award-winning 'Britain At War In Colour' and the Peabody Award-winning 'Second World War In Colour' and narrated by Art Malik, this unmissable production uses original colour film - much of it previously unseen - to chart Britain's imperial path, from the zenith of the Indian Raj to the eventual disintegration of the Empire.
The series does not purport to tell the whole story of the British Empire in the 20th century. Instead, the footage is accompanied by personal diary extracts, letters and contemporary speeches to give a true flavour of what it was like to live under the British Empire, either as one of the rulers or as one of the ruled.
The video will be released as a double pack comprising three episodes - 'A Tryst With Destiny', 'The Wind Of Change' and 'Legacy' plus an exclusive 26-minute 'Making Of' documentary. Available in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, the single DVD will also feature the documentary along with written biographies on eight key figures (Lord Mountbatten; Mahatma Gandhi; Jomo Kenyatta; Kwame Nkrumah; Muhammad Ali Jinnah; Jawaharlal Nehru; Robert Menzies and David Ben Gurion); five classic posters; maps; five letter and diary extracts; stills gallery and timeline.
100 years ago, Britain was the most powerful nation in the world and the British Empire ruled over half the people on earth. All the pomp and pageantry of imperial rule is encapsulated in this first episode. Remarkable and rare film captures as never before such glorious occasions as the 1906 Trooping the Colour in London; the 1911 Delhi Durbar in India and a World War One victory parade in Paris in 1919. But as the century gets into its stride, the cameras are also there to record less magnificent events, among them the General Strike of 1926, which highlighted the social divide in post-war Britain. Even in India, the power of British rule is fading, as nationalism gains strength under Gandhi and Nehru. Although the Second World War temporarily unites the colonies and dominions in battle, victory ironically spells the beginning of the end for the Empire. In a new world order of American and Soviet power, India finally achieves her independence and Britain is left exhausted and fearful of the future.
British fears are realised as they abandon a turbulent Palestine, become embroiled in a Communist insurgency in Malaya and are humbled in the Suez Crisis. The dismantling of the Empire continues as the winds of change start to blow across colonial Africa, from the peaceful rise of Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana in 1957, to the bloodshed of the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya. By the 1960s, much of the Empire has been handed back to its people.
The coronation of Elizabeth II herald a new era, as the old Empire becomes the new multi-cultural Commonwealth. As emigrants flee the hardship of post-war Britain, tempted by the promise of Australian and Canadian riches, West Indian immigrants flood into Britain. The 1960s herald a time of changing racial attitudes and while Britain adjusts to its growing multicultural society, her dominions - Australia and Canada - strive for a new understanding with their own unhappy indigenous populations. In Rhodesia, the last painful pangs of the Empire are felt, as white and black nationalisms clash. In a rapidly changing world, the peoples of the former British Empire begin to realise the legacy of their imperial heritage.
According to Producer Stewart Binns, the making of 'The British Empire In Colour' was a monumental task. "First of all, the subject matter covered almost a hundred years of modern history and involved events as diverse as the Mau-Mau Uprising in Kenya and Partition in India. But, apart from their scale and diversity, many of the issues were, and still are, hugely sensitive."
Added Series Producer Lucy Carter: "The British Empire, in our case the decline of the Empire in the 20th century, is an enormous subject, made up of many complex political and social chapters. But we were restricted to those areas for which we could find enough colour film. Luckily for us, there exists incredible colour archive of some of the most important and evocative stories - the Partition of India, the abandonment of Palestine, the Malayan insurgency and the war in Southern Rhodesia.
"An extensive team of researchers scoured archives and private collections all over the world to find the film, letters and dairies which feature in the series. Together they present, if not a comprehensive chronology about the end of the Empire, at least an informative, entertaining and certainly visually stunning representation of what it was like to live in the British Empire."
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