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Study of the British Empire or the causes and effects of British imperialism are topics covered by most A-level syllabuses, with options also extending to British Empire in US history and African history.


The recent BBC Timewatch Guide prompted us to have a search for material currently available from ERA Members to support teaching this subject and  we have rounded up a selection some excellent video and audio clips and programmes.


A Timewatch Guide: British Empire Heroes and Villains   available now on BBCiPlayer

David Olusoga presents this fascinating examination of how the British Empire has been portrayed on British television over the last 70 years.

Drawing on decades of  BBC Archive material, he investigates how film-makers have ‘represented the actions and legacy of Britain’s period as the world’s superpower.



This 2012 BBC series presented by Jeremy Paxman features in the Timewatch  Guide and while whole episodes are no longer available, the programme’s webpage provides a number of really useful clips including:

The Legacy of Empire

Cecil Rhodes Dream of Conquest 

 Empire’s opium trade


Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners  BBC2

This documentary broadcast on BBC2 in 2015 looks at the abolition of slavery in Britain and the extraordinary choice by the government of the day to compensate slave owners for their loss of ‘property’. There is a good selection of clips still available which illustrate the realities of slavery and the slave trade including

Whitewashing slavery

in which David Olusoga examines James Hakewill’s sanitised vision of slavery. The images were used by British slave owners in their vicious propaganda war to defend their trade.


Witness  BBC Worldwide

There are some great clips on the BBC Worldwide Witness website including collections on Indian and African history and featuring archive eyewitness accounts.  Of particular interest might be,

The Amritsar Massacre

This 9 minute clip includes eye-witness testimony from the time.

The Last Viceroy of India   

This Witness special looks at the transfer of power in India in 1947

The Boer War

The story of the struggle between Afrikaaners and the British Empire in South Africa, using archive recordings



Finally, the BBCiWonder Guide on the British Empire contains a wealth of information together with clips including an audio excerpt of Harold MacMillans 1960 ‘Winds of Change’ speech.