In this programme we discover how a few thousand British people ruled over India, a country of more than 250 million people and the centre point of the whole British empire.
Niall Ferguson demonstrates the vital role played by the Indian army both within India and beyond, and the role of British technology in developing the army and modern Indian cities. Modern-day footage of the hill station at Simla gives us a glimpse of colonial life in late 19th century India.
From the early 19th century an elite class of well-educated Indians was encouraged, with men like JN Bose becoming successful lawyers and administrators. In fact, the British administrators were so few in number that it was essential to involve Indian people in their own government.
Yet by the end of the 19th century the White Mutiny threatened to end this liberal attitude and ultimately led to a genuine Nationalist movement.
Looking at the Caribbean in the same period, Niall explores the conditions for black people after the abolition of slavery and the treatment of respectable black religious leaders such as George William Gordon.
About the Series
Historian and presenter Niall Ferguson takes us on a fascinating journey in both time and space to explore the impact of the British empire on the modern world.
From the earliest British settlers in Virginia to the decline of the empire in the aftermath of the two World Wars, positive and negative aspects of the empire are illustrated through key events and players.
Niall Ferguson uses a wealth of original sources such as quotes, documents, film footage and photographs, as well as taking a contemporary look at key locations and drawing parallels with recent history, such as the USA's war against terrorism.
The documentary series is highly entertaining, informative and thought-provoking, and provides an excellent and balanced overview on the history of the British empire and its continuing legacy in the world.