In 1922 the British Empire was at it’s height. It covered a quarter of the Earth, stretching from Canada to India, from Australia to Nigeria, from the Caribbean to South Africa and was the most powerful nation on earth, holding sway over 458 million people, one-third of the world's population. Never in history did one voice count for so many, in determining the future destiny of Mankind.
To celebrate that, I plan to make a series of documentaries featuring Mr. Jonathan Sayers (History and Politics teacher at Stowe School) and take him around our former colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories to tell the story of the British Empire by talking to the people who live their today.
The Viceroy’s Tour of India
Our first documentary will be about India (‘The Jewel in the Crown’) as seen through the eyes of a child in the 1800’s. To achieve this, we have been fortunate to secure the services of Lord Bruce, as two of his ancestors actually ran India; the 8th Earl of Elgin, who was Governor-General after the Indian Mutiny (1862-63) and the 9th Earl, who was Viceroy (1894-99).
But get this, whilst rooting through the Bruce family archives at Broomhall in Scotland we discovered a diary which was written by the 9th Earl of Elgin’s daughter and in it she recorded her day to day experiences as she followed the Viceroy on his tour around India and it’s her journey that we want to tell for our documentary. How delightful is that?
We will also try to answer why are India poised to become the third biggest economy and a world super power after the US and China’ a mere 70 years after leaving the British Empire and what lessons could we learn from India as we too are unshackling ourselves from what is effectively the ‘European Empire’ today?
India (believe it or not) hasn’t actually got a proper history. As pre-Partition in 1947, India was less of a nation state, but more of a cultural union, comprising of hundreds of Princely States, which can be sub-divided again by four main religions: Christianity, Hindus, Sikhs and Islam (each having their own version of history), plus their were hundreds of gods (who also had their own story to tell) and so the only official history of India was by the British, post 1947.
History of course is written by the winners, whilst the losers account gets obliterated. So whilst Britain’s imperial history records a ‘version’ of events, we aim to counter that by visiting places of historic interest and to establish a more balanced account for modern times and we will do this by talking to those people who were their and still remain. Who know what we will actually find?