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The Empire

15 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 20 June 2013

The one hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World war looms on the horizon. 1914 is a date forged into the British consciousness, just as it's carved into monuments the length and breadth of the UK and many places beyond. With that awareness comes an understanding that it was the war to end all wars, shocking the culture, politics, and societies of Europe, but particularly Britain, out of their comfortable progress and reshaping everything.
But in this series Michael Portillo challenges that notion. Looking at a series of themes, the suffrage movement, the Irish question, the decline of the liberal party and the arts, he argues that to a large extent Britain was already in a state of flux by 1913 and many of the developments we think of as emanating from or being catalysed by the war, were actually in full flow.

In today's programme Michael turns his attention to The Empire. There's now a vivid understanding of the price in war dead, paid by India, Canada, Australia and South Africa amongst others. It clearly put a huge strain on relations with the mother country. But as Michael discovers, the tensions were already well matured by 1913, in spite of the flag waving of Empire Day and the spectacular celebrations of the Delhi Durbar in 1911.

Producer: Tom Alban.



  1. Image for 1913: The Year Before

    1913: The Year Before

    The forgotten history of Britain before the First World War, with Michael Portillo.

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