Ruling the Waves – Episode 6 – ‘An Imperial People?’

imperial biscuits

Stefan Piotrowski
Against the Current Productions

These six chapters were originally parts of a single film which sought to explore whether, during the nineteenth century, the Empire allowed Britons to transcend their other differences and embrace a shared sense of national identity. (The title of this three part series is Britishness: In Search of a National Identity – you can find part one Fragile Beginnings online) The preceding five chapters have laid the groundwork for the argument advanced in this final section, featuring Bernard Porter, John Mackenzie, Andrew Thompson, and Duncan Bell.

The subject of the film and the position I have taken in it have brought me into the middle of what has been an often quite heated debate. Rather than present a simple introduction here I have tried to sketch out the contours of this disagreement and my response to it. In very reductive terms, on one side of the argument there are historians who say that imperialism was a core ideology providing Britons with a shared worldview and sense of unique mission, and on the other side historians who say that it wasn’t. Continue reading “Ruling the Waves – Episode 6 – ‘An Imperial People?’”