28 Sept 2023
On Saturday 29 September 1923, the Palestine Mandate became law and the British Empire now covered a scarcely credible quarter of the world's land mass, containing 460 million people.
It was the largest empire the world had ever seen. But it was beset by debt and doubts. This book is a new way of looking at the British Empire.
It immerses the reader in the contemporary moment, focusing on particular people and stories from that day, gleaned from newspapers, letters, diaries, official documents, magazines, films and novels: from a remote Pacific island facing the removal of its entire soil, across Australia, Burma, India and Kenya to London and the West Indies. In some ways, the issues of a hundred years ago are with us still: debates around cultural and ethnic identity in a globalised world; how to manage multi-ethnic political entities; racism; the divisive co-opting of religion for political purposes; the dangers of ignorance. In others, it is totally alien.
What remains extraordinary is the Empire's ability to reveal the most compelling human stories. Never before has there been a book which contains such a wide spread of vivid experiences from both colonised and coloniser: from the grandest governors to the humblest migrants, policemen and nurses.