Segments in this Video

Creating a Home away from Home (01:54)


At its height, the British Empire controlled a quarter of the world's population. From Canada to Africa and India; traders, settlers and missionaries recreated their lifestyle across the globe—shaping both the colonies and England.

Pioneers of Empire (04:37)

17th century British traders in Calcutta embraced Indian culture. East India Company spice exporter Charles Stuart became known as "Hindu Stuart" for encouraging Europeans to adopt native dress and customs, including mustaches.

Early Empire Interracial Marriages (04:44)

British East India Company traders took Hindu wives and mistresses such as Sir David Ochterlony, who boasted a harem of thirteen women. Children from these relationships were called Anglo-Indians, numbering 150,000 in India today. Members of the insular community are proud of their mixed blood heritage dating to the colonial era.

Imposing British Values (02:54)

Victorian England’s Christian revival was spread throughout the Empire by missionaries and colonial wives—known as memsahibs. Experiencing culture shock in Indian cities, they escaped the summer heat in hill settlements where they upheld formal upper class customs.

"A Version of Surrey" - Upholding Victorian Values (05:02)

Colonial wives attempted to recreate British society in hill settlements such as Ootacamund in South India, a process described by Rudyard Kipling as "separating us from them." They imposed their lifestyle on Indian servants whom they saw as inferior to Europeans, demonstrated in a housekeeping guide.

Mortality in Colonial Settlements (02:33)

Death and disease ravaged the British in India; particularly women and children. However, adversity didn't deter further 19th century imperial expansion.

Cricket in Singapore (04:01)

In 1819, the British founded a trading post in the South China Sea that developed into a commercial metropolis attracting Malay, Indian and Chinese residents. Victorian colonizers started an exclusive sports club as a retreat from native culture—a common practice throughout the Empire.

Preserving the British National Identity (02:28)

Since mixing with natives was frowned upon in the 19th century; Victorian colonialists entertained themselves with theater, games and parties as well as sports. Two members of the Singapore cricket club explain its attraction as a "home away from home."

Settlers in Canada (03:26)

In winter of 1831, Scottish lawyer Adam Ferguson traveled across Ontario searching for a place to establish a community, eventually creating the town of Fergus near Toronto. He was one of many who saw the British Empire as an opportunity to start a new life.

Recreating the Familiar (04:09)

Pioneer settlements across the Empire retained British culture through architecture and customs. Fergus, Canada celebrates its Scottish heritage today with highland games and a shop selling old country imports. In some colonies, native people were forced off their land or subjected to European diseases.

Land Grab in Africa (03:27)

European powers carved up the continent in the 19th century. British settlers attracted to Kenya's favorable climate forced the local Kikuyu tribe to give up their land. Tension led to violence on both sides, detailed in an English lieutenant's account from the early 1900s.

Pride in the Empire (04:35)

British settlers in Kenya started plantations and built Edwardian houses to remind them of home. Some stayed after independence from colonial rule in the 1960s. Tony Seth-Smith feels his family had a right to the land they took from natives.

Kenya's Lunatic Line (05:57)

Nairobi became a capital city due to its location on a British railroad running from the coast to Lake Victoria. It was built by 32,000 Indian laborers, many of whom perished from malaria, accidents and lions. Feisal Malik discusses his grandfather's experience as a worker.

Shifting Populations for Labor (01:09)

The British brought colonial subjects from one part of the Empire to build another—from African slaves working on sugar plantations in the Caribbean to Indian railway workers in Kenya. Human resource management often resulted in permanent settlements.

Empire Comes Home (02:16)

In the 20th century, Indians played a vital role as shopkeepers and professionals in the Kenyan economy. After independence in 1963 they were no longer welcome and emigrated to England, transforming modern Britain. Today, a quarter of Leicester's population has South Asian heritage.

Supporters of Empire (02:58)

Jeremy Paxton visits an Indian family who immigrated to Leicester from Kenya after the colony gained independence in the 1960s. They appreciate the opportunities they had as a result of British rule in East Africa.

Making a Home in Britain (01:04)

35,000 people attend Leicester's Diwali celebration—the largest outside India and evidence of immigration from former colonies.

Credits: Making Ourselves at Home: Empire—A British Chronicle (00:41)

Credits: Making Ourselves at Home: Empire—A British Chronicle

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Making Ourselves at Home: Empire—A British Chronicle

Part of the Series : Empire: A British Chronicle
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To conquer and possess other lands is only one part of the empire-building equation—the other part is to make those lands (and their peoples) conform to the dominant culture. This program shows how traders, soldiers, and settlers spread the British way of life around the world, and in particular how they created a very British idea of home. Viewers learn about early phases of the English presence in India, in which traders wore Indian attire and took Indian wives—until Victorian constraints put a stop to that. Visiting a Canadian town in which the inhabitants are still fiercely proud of their Scottish heritage, the film also travels to places where there is more ambivalence surrounding the history of colonization: a club in Singapore where British colonials often gathered and a Kenyan village where the descendants of white settlers are prominent. Produced by the Open University. A part of the series Empire: A British Chronicle. (58 minutes)

Length: 59 minutes

Item#: BVL51982

ISBN: 978-0-81608-775-4

Copyright date: ©2012

Closed Captioned

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