The British Empire in Colour

A new television series using film material from
the British Empire & Commonwealth Museum


The British Empire in Colour is a major 3-part series from the innovative team that produced The Second World War in Colour and the BAFTA award-winning Britain at War in Colour.

Recently discovered original colour film and personal letters and diaries capture the complexities and contradictions of life in the British Empire.

Transmission: Sunday 8th/15th/22nd September 2002, 10pm, ITV

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Series Introduction

In 1947 Britain still ruled over the largest and most populous empire the world had ever seen, but the next few decades saw virtually every British colony ­ over 50 ­ become independent nations. In 1997 when Britain returned Hong Kong to China after 155 years of colonial rule, the very idea of a vast territorial empire sounded strangely fictional and at odds with the dawning twenty first century.

Through recently discovered colour film and contemporary accounts, TWI/Carlton's compelling new three part television series The British Empire in Colour tries to tell the story of the twentieth century end of empire without the fictional gloss. The series charts the imperial legacy; a multicultural and multiracial welfare state growing phoenix-like from the ashes of empire; a global lingua franca ­ English; the Commonwealth; the second largest international organisation after the United Nations and, sadly, enduring racist attitudes.

This new documentary series from the makers of the BAFTA winning Britain at War in Colour includes a treasure-trove of early colour movies filmed before 'technicolour' transformed film making in the 1930's. Unique colour footage of the Edwardian splendour of 1906 British India, soldiers of the First World War and class divided Britain in 1926 as seen for the first time by a modern visually sophisticated audience. The British Empire in Colour brings history alive to twenty first century viewers who expect pictures with every story and for whom a picture substitutes for a thousand words of explanation. Unlike the usual imagery of the period ­ dramatic re-constructions, Hollywood films and televised 'costume' dramas ­ this series broadcasts real life, real events and real witness testimonies to an empire which more than any other decided the form, for better or worse, that the modern world would take.

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