The decline of the British Empire

These are the slide from our lesson on the end of Empire.

First of all, here’s perhaps the best-known take on British imperialism from a ‘native’ perspective, the brilliant 1958 short novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe who died a few years ago. If you haven’t read it, definitely consider giving it a go – you’ll never forget its brilliant, terrible protagonist Okonowo, the greatest wrestler in the nine villages!

There’s quite a few books on the end of the British Empire – I like this one by Peirs Brendon, which also covers the Victorian heyday of empire. He tends to cover one country or area per chapter so if you’re particularly interested in one particular place, this might be a good choice.

Jan Morris, soldier, historian, journalist (she covered the Suez Crisis), published the final book in her trilogy on the British Empire in 1978. It’s called Farewell the Trumpets – highly recommended.

I really enjoy the British Empire in Colour documentaries – this episode concentrates of decolonisation: here it is on YouTube.



The British Empire in South America

Barry Sukhram was born in British Guyana but has lived in Britain since the 1960s. This 2013 book explores the UK’s inglorious gradual withdrawal from its South American colony. It’s a brisk run-through of how the Churchill government turned a democratically-elected government out of office to maintain control – and how the policy impacted independence politics.

Imagining the Britain’s future in 1945

Here are the slides for our first week.

Ernest Bevin, the larger-than-life Foreign Secretary for most of Attlee’s 1945-51 government and the man who did as much as anyone to shape British foreign policy after WW2, is the subject of a very good biography by Alan Bullock.

The same writer also produced a shorter book that concentrates solely on Bevin’s time at the Foreign Office.

There’s a review here of book on Clement Attlee himself which covers foreign affairs.

Finally, there’s a book about Churchill and the Empire here – by going through his own personal history as a roving reporter and then in politics it gives a good insight into where his imperial enthusiasm came from.