There can be few more contentious subjects than the empire, and few artistic legacies more explosive. Now, Tate Britain is to hold the first major British exhibition of masterworks from the colonial period – and the results are revealing - William Dalrymple writes
From his time in Cairo, Lawrence was aware of the extravagant promises the British government had made to Hussein in order to raise the Arab Revolt: full independence for virtually the entire Arab world..............His first act of sedition — and by most any standards, a treasonous one — was to inform Faisal of the existence of Sykes-Picot.....The True Story of Lawrence of Arabia . Previously and Previously
At first sight the search for peace and stability in Iraq, and the search for physical and mental fitness in the extreme contortions of modern Yoga seem to have absolutely nothing in common. But curiously they do. Both the terrible structural problems and distortions that underly Iraqi society today, and the strange, contorted poses that millions of people perform every day in things like Bikram's Hot Yoga, actually come from the fevered imagination of the British ruling class one hundred years ago. As they felt Britain's power declining they wanted desperately to go back into the past and create a purer and more innocent world, uncorrupted by the messiness of the modern industrial world - a new Eden forged both by strengthening and purifying the human body and by inventing new model countries round the world. And we are still suffering from the consequences of that terrible nostalgia. BODYBUILDING AND NATION-BUILDING
World War I in Color is a documentary designed to make the Great War come alive for a 21st-century audience. The events of 1914-18 are authoritatively narrated by Kenneth Branagh, who presents the military and political overview, while interviews with historians add different perspectives in six 48 minute installments annotated within. [more inside]
Mau Mau to Midnapore: Confronting the brutality of empire There are certainly some Britons, including academics, journalists and human rights lawyers, who are aware of the realities of colonialism. However, in the society as a whole and in the media in the UK there are still far too many who seem strangely reluctant, even after so many decades after the end of the British empire, to come to terms with the true nature of colonialism or learn from the perspective of former subjects who had rebelled against it.
Of all the countries in the world, the British have managed to invade or attack all but 22 (Torygraph), making the US look like absolute pikers. Somewhat inflated by the fact that the authors of the study counted everywhere British forces attacking, including pirate attacks on silver ships in the Spanish Main, not just those places where the UK planted a flag.
The Foreign Office’s “guilty secret” revealed Thousands of documents detailing some of the most shameful acts and crimes committed during the final years of the British empire were systematically destroyed to prevent them falling into the hands of post-independence governments. Those papers that survived were flown back to Britain and hidden for 50 years in a secret Foreign Office archive in breach of legal obligations for them to be transferred into the public domain. The Guardian details some of those papers released earlier this week. [more inside]
Who was the greatest foe the British Empire ever faced? George Washington, according to the UK's National Army Museum.
"Seventy two specimens of castes in India". This illustrated manuscript made in southern India in 1837 consists of 72 full-colour hand-painted images of men and women of the various castes and religious and ethnic groups found in Madura, India at that time. Search or browse (recommended) all the images, in very good resolution, from Yale's Beinecke Library. [more inside]
900 caricatures of noted Victorian and Edwardian personages from British society magazine Vanity Fair which ran from 1868 to 1914. Among those pictured are Oscar Wilde, Benjamin Disraeli, Herman Melville, Alfred Dreyfus, Teddy Roosevelt, Gustave Eiffel and Charles Boycott (from whose name comes the word). A couple are mildly not safe for work, a few quite racist, as was the prevalent attitude of the time, and at least one is both.
Physicist Howard Wiseman has a hobby, history. On his website he has three history subsites, filled with lots of information: 1) Ruin and Conquest of Britain 2) 18 Centuries of Roman Empire 3) Twenty Centuries of "British" "Empires". Especially informative are his many maps. As he says himself: "Drawing historical maps of all sorts has been a hobby of mine since my mid teens. Now I can do it digitally, and inflict it upon the world!"
The 25 largest empires. The influential British were first, of course. But the original Axis of Evil never beat the Mongols, and Canada holds more territory than Rome at its peak. Watch some amazing animations of the rise and fall of the Mughals in India. (or other examples). Only one official empire remains today, but speculation on new candidates abound.
Damn your eyes, Harry Paget Flashman lived through and thrived in spite of his involvement in almost all of the sticky and and unpleasant incidents involving agents of the British Empire from the late 1830s to the beginning of the last century. Although a fictional creation, his tales seem to ring as true as anything written about any other Victorian Gent, whether he got his V.C., took a jezail bullet, or even knew 'little Vicky' herself.
The British Empire in Colour -- a three-part documentary series from the producers of the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) award-winning Britain at War in Colour will air this month. The series is supposed to include "a treasure-trove of early colour movies filmed before 'technicolour' transformed film making in the 1930s. Unique colour footage of the Edwardian splendour of 1906 British India, soldiers of the First World War and class divided Britain in 1926 as seen for the first time by a modern visually sophisticated audience." Apparently, it also includes Horrifying footage of last days of Raj.