24 Feb 2012

Jeremy Paxman traces the remarkable story of the British Empire in a major new five part series

At its peak, the British Empire was the largest in history and its influence stretched all over the world.
Written and presented by Jeremy Paxman, and produced by the Open University and the BBC, the series, called simply Empire, will trace not only the Empire's rise and fall, but also explore the complex effects it had on the modern world – political, technological and social – and equally the effects of the Empire on Britain.

Travelling across the globe, Jeremy goes in search of the extraordinary characters, burning ambitions and surprising principles which created an empire that has so influenced the shape of the world we see today.
From India to Canada, the Far East to Africa, he finds out how the Empire began as a pirates' treasure hunt and grew into the largest global financial network the world had ever seen; how the British created a particular idea of home wherever they conquered and settled; how Britain spread the gospel of sport, laying the foundations for almost all the major sports of today; and at the many different ways in which Britain took and held power in the Empire.

Karl Hack, Senior Lecturer in History at The Open University and academic consultant on the series comments: “This series tackles the really big themes of imperialism – power, trade, identity, settlement and culture. Yet it does this in a way that makes you feel you are there in person – talking to a settler; hearing the views of an old Mau Mau anti-colonial fighter who is still proud of her struggle; frequenting the clubs, trading floors and playing fields of Empire.”
The series begins on BBC One on Monday 27th February at 9pm.

The Open University is offering the chance to continue exploring the story of the Empire via OpenLearn, its free, interactive study site. The site offers free courses, a free poster on “Selling Empire” with historical and contemporary maps, and the opportunity to create a personalised empire-themed party invite.

A free Open University wall chart with a map of the British Empire can also be ordered from www.open.ac.uk/openlearn/empire or by telephone on 0845 366 8021.

For those interested in taking the learning journey further, The Open University offers a number modules that link to the series, including ‘Empire 1492 -1975’,’ Understanding global heritage’, ‘Exploring history’, ‘Voices and texts’, ‘The arts past and present’ and ‘Making sense of the arts’. Details of which can be found on the OU website www.Open.ac.uk.

Empire is a partnership between The Open University and the BBC. The Executive Producer for the BBC is Basil Comely, and the Series Producer is Julian Birkett. The Open University academic consultant for the series is Dr Karl Hack and the Media Fellow is Dr Derek Matravers .

back to All News stories

back to previous page

back to top