Segments in this Video

Doing Good by Force (02:28)


19th century colonialists objected to sati, the Hindu ritual of burning widows on funeral pyres; when Indians protested, the British deem it a criminal act. Some in the British Empire felt a moral duty to impose civilization; others believed it their divine right to rule.

Expansion Ordained by God (02:54)

In 1861, David Livingstone led a group of white men up the Shire River in Malawi. British missionaries brought Christianity and free trade to Africa—seen as the "Dark Continent" full of superstition and slavery by European imperialists.

Spreading Christianity and Commerce (03:15)

British missionary David Livingstone embodied the Empire’s new civilizing mission, using Malawi's Shire River to export natural resources and to import Victorian ideals. Already abolished in Britain, his followers found the slave trade abhorrent and appealed to England for funds to intervene. Many early explorers succumbed to hunger and disease.

"Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?" (01:47)

When the British missionary disappeared in East Africa, the New York Herald sent journalist Henry Morton Stanley to locate him. Their encounter became a celebrated event in Victorian England. Despite suffering from cholera and dysentery, he continued spreading Christianity and commerce until his death two years later.

A British Missionary's Legacy (04:06)

David Livingstone explored East Africa until his death. Buried in Westminster Abbey in February 1874, he symbolized the Empire's moral conscience and legitimized its civilizing mission. Although he was said to have converted only one person, his posthumous diaries elevated him to a divine hero in public opinion.

Retaining the Colonial Education System (01:32)

British missionaries brought education and modern medicine to Africa into the 20th century. Livingstone's legacy continues today as a local activity, demonstrated in village schools.

British Influenced Education in Africa (03:00)

A Malawi primary school was founded by British missionaries in 1935. 8,000 students attend today; breakfast is welcome by children who walk miles to class. Head Teacher Esther Pondelani incorporates the Christian values taught under the Empire into lessons.

Tensions between Trade and Religion (02:29)

Christian ideals upheld by British missionaries contradicted reality for East African colonial subjects. Greedy for profits, Malawi plantation managers often flogged workers in the 1890s. Reverend John Chilembwe stood up to the Empire against unfair treatment.

Malawi Uprising (03:19)

Educated in a Christian mission, Reverend John Chilembwe led a campaign to free Africans from colonial rule. In January 1915, he called locals to arms and executed plantation manager W.J. Livingstone. Livingstone's granddaughter Deirdre describes the scene.

Malawi's National Hero (Graphic) (03:01)

After having killed a plantation manager, Reverend John Chilembwe promised his people freedom from British rule. Colonial authorities executed him and destroyed his church, but his message of equality lives on today. Reverend Macford Chipuliko explains his mission was to establish an African church with Western ideals.

A Scientifically Predetermined Destiny (02:12)

The British tried to explain the Empire's rapid advance across the world. In 1863, London Anthropological Society founder James Hunt held a controversial lecture arguing that African people were inferior to whites. Although the English had abolished slavery, his ideas struck a chord among empire builders.

European Racial Superiority (01:18)

British imperialists used Darwin's theory of evolution to argue that whites had evolved to rule over other races. David Livingstone had preached that colonizers had a duty to help those "less fortunate" but his idea was misconstrued into subjugating the colonized.

Cecil Rhodes (03:07)

The British imperialist believed in European racial superiority and saw it as his God-given right to exploit Africa. He made his fortune in the diamond business in Kimberley, South Africa.

Exploiting Africa for the Empire (02:08)

Cecil Rhodes conceived of a plan to bring the entire "uncivilized" world under British rule. His first step was to conquer South Africa—in the name of profits, rather than religion. Prime Minister Lord Salisbury encouraged him to take all the land and resources he could.

Founding Rhodesia (Graphic) (01:33)

Through false treaties, bribery and arms Cecil Rhodes carved out an area of Africa now known as Zimbabwe. He would later become Prime Minister of South Africa, implementing racist policies that led to the apartheid regime—reflecting his goal of Europeans ruling the “uncivilized” world.

Running an Empire (02:17)

By the end of the 19th century, much of Africa belonged to Britain. District officers managed colonial regions into the 20th century. In the 1940s, the population was estimated at 40 million yet administered by only 1200 officials through a "bluffing" policy.

“Bluffing” with Indirect Rule (05:06)

Across the Empire, local African rulers were bribed, threatened or persuaded to work for the British. Jeremy Paxton interviews former colonial officer Ted Alleyne in his home outside Nairobi. He defends the imperial government as necessary for trade protection and points out it brought education and public health services.

Resentment of European Land Grab (02:22)

By the middle of the 20th century, the world had turned against the idea of imperialism. The struggle against British rule in Kenya began with the Kikuyu, a displaced tribe whose prime agricultural land was claimed by white farmers.

Mau Mau Uprising (05:16)

Members of Kenya's Kikuyu tribe displaced by white settlers formed a resistance movement. In March 1953, they massacred Lari, a village loyal to the British. Jeremy Paxton interviews Alice Kariuki who led the attack. She says it was necessary for independence—but admits the colonial education system has been beneficial.

Losing Control over Empire (Graphic) (01:33)

Colonial authorities in Kenya rounded up suspected Mau Mau resistance fighters into internment camps. The international public questioned Britain's claim to be "doing good" for its subjects.

Uhuru (Freedom) (02:25)

As the 1960s dawned, Kenya and other colonies demanded independence, dismantling the British Empire in two decades. It brought bloodshed and dispossession but it also brought transportation and education systems. Once a source of pride, many in the modern era view the colonial period as shameful.

British Empire's Legacy (01:40)

For better or for worse, the colonial era has shaped the modern world, including architecture, religion, sports and language and immigration. Jeremy Paxton urges viewers to acknowledge its role in history.

Credits: Doing Good: Empire—A British Chronicle (00:42)

Credits: Doing Good: Empire—A British Chronicle

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Doing Good: Empire—A British Chronicle

Part of the Series : Empire: A British Chronicle
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As idealistic as it sounds, many argue that a desire for conquest can become a mission to improve the welfare of humankind. This program explores that notion, especially how it has played out in Africa, despite the myopia of an unquestioned belief that Britain could and should rule the world. In Central Africa, viewers travel in the footsteps of David Livingstone, who, though a failure as a missionary, became a legendary figure—the patron saint of empire who reshaped English attitudes toward the so-called “Dark Continent.” In South Africa, the film tells the story of Cecil Rhodes, a man with a different sort of mission, who believed in the white man’s right to rule the world, laying down the foundations for apartheid. The journey ends in Kenya, where conflict between white settlers and the African population brought bloodshed, torture, and eventual withdrawal. Produced by the Open University. A part of the series Empire: A British Chronicle. (59 minutes)

Length: 60 minutes

Item#: BVL51985

ISBN: 978-0-81608-778-5

Copyright date: ©2012

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