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We Need to Talk About the British Empire

Written by: Afua Hirsch
Length: 3 hrs and 45 mins
Categories: History, World
4 out of 5 stars (18 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Making sense of the British Empire's legacy... through the stories of people who lived through it. 

Through six intimate conversations with a new generation of writers and historians - journalist Afua Hirsch tries to break through old cliches, and unpick the true legacy of this complicated and difficult inheritance. 

She speaks to leading figures in British culture today - from poet Benjamin Zephaniah to actress Diana Rigg, broadcaster Anita Rani to novelist Nadifa Mohamed - discovering vivid family stories of the people who made the Empire what it was. And she hears how its ripples continue to shape our lives, and sense of collective identity today: our attitudes and cultural values, the multicultural, multiracial population of the British Isles today, and the relationships that Britain has with other parts of the world. 

A Somethin’ Else Production. 

This is an Audible Original Podcast. Free for members. You can download all 6 episodes to your Library now.

©2019 Audible, Ltd. (P)2019 Audible, Ltd.

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What listeners say about We Need to Talk About the British Empire

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Excellent

Brilliant narrative well laid out to understand the Empire and its pros and cons great job

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  • Tom moran
  • 28-02-20

Extremely one sided.

Was really interested to listen to this. I do genuinely think we do need to talk about empire. However I think the author has a very anti-British sentiment in her questioning.
Throughout the whole series she fails to mention what these countries were like before Britian had colonised them. For example India was not this unified peaceful country but bands of different states and mini empires.

I particularly found the Somalian girls story of her birth to be laughable. “I was born in a hospital with no lights. The legacy of empire” bearing in mind this was a full 20 years after Britain disbanded this part of the empire. How many hospitals did Somalia have before the British empire?

Another point I must make is when they talk about the horrific causalities that occurred during partition. Which of course was awful, but hearing the author you would think that Britain killed these people in a holocaust like manor, when it fact the victims and perpetrators was all Indian/Pakistani themselves.

I feel that this victim hood agenda/culture that is around us now is just making excuses for other nations own short comings and although we must talk about good and bad this kind of narrative will only divide and create bitterness in Britain today.

We should talk about empire and there were many atrocities that occurred. Most of them at the start on the colonising. Subsequently we should also talk about the lack of war within these nations once the empire was in place as I suppose they all had a common enemy. Lots of these now countries would of not been unified before British rule but would of been micro states and kingdoms.


321 people found this helpful

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  • west
  • 25-02-20

truths people need to hear

i am a white british male,poor as far as britain and the north goes.most my family were either miners and military.I found this not eye opening as i always knew that the worlds history was a sad affair in most cases,if not all.But i belive its a subject that all those who call themselves british citizens need to hear...i just hope that there are plans for a second series..maybe touching on lets talk about the british empire again.so much to say and so little time to say it.
Anyway truly enjoyed it great narrative subject and deserves a 5 star for effort well done guys😁

134 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 16-02-20

Important and well balanced

As someone who has no direct links to the empire but is affected by Brexit, the rise of nationalism and curious about areas of conflict and turbulence in the world today, I found this a fascinating listen. We need more of this; women and men from different backgrounds who are able to respectfully and share knowledge and perspective.

94 people found this helpful

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  • Angus
  • 18-02-20

Very very interesting perspective

Beautifully compiled and so many important and very differing views. One is compelled to listen to each and every one of the six stories to get a balance.
It would be interesting to compare it to other collapsed empires.... Certainly Britain's legacy of trying their best to introduce law and order as fairly as possible (agreeably to their advantage initially) should be somewhat respected and not all ex colonials should be seen as greedy plundering ex slave traders.
I'm a third generation ex African colonial and I am proud of what my grand parents and parents achieved and stood for... Yes they had adventures and yes they had loyal proud staff but life was certainly no bed of roses and they did a thousand times more good for Africa than bad. Like Ms Rudd we are welcomed with open arms when we visit our old home bases to meet our old staff and their children. When are we coming back? Is the question most often asked.
The sad thing is that a relatively small proportion of Brits still treat a third generation Brit Jamaican in the same way he treats a proud Brit descendent who comes home!
Where is the pride gone?
Do we need another world war to pull the Commonwealth together? Hopefully not....and I tell my youngsters and their partners.....Oh but look ...you live in perhaps the world's most inter racial and amazing multi cultural country in the world..... But still you blame your forefathers and want everything on a silver plate handed out by your collapsing cash strapped social services departments......
Perhaps when we are all speaking Chinese we will look back and say.... Maybe the old generation Brits weren't so bad after all!?
Anyway..... I remain hopeful for Britain and the future and really hope this forum continues and we hear some more of the other varying stories of our old Empire. ...positive and negative!

65 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 15-02-20

essential listening

absolutely compelling listening, I will recommend this podcast to everyone I know. Thank you for telling these stories. As a product of empire myself, they have been healing to hear.

38 people found this helpful

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  • Georgia Di Pietro
  • 15-02-20

high quality documentary

A good variety of people interviewed and fascinating reflections on the impact, in so many ways, of the British empire.

33 people found this helpful

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  • C
  • 01-05-20

1-sided summary from toxic journalist Afua Hirsch

I was disappointed by this book from the very beginning.

The Empire is rightly a subject of scrutiny, and I was hoping for a balanced study on what is an important topic -- the legacy of the British Empire and the way it is regarded in modern Britain. I should have known better given the author is Afua Hirsch.

Hirsch has built a career on race-baiting, polarisation and toxicity that notably included a call to topple Nelson's Column.

As any academic or journalist knows, to offer a balanced account you need to gather the data and come to your own conclusion. Hirsch starts with a conclusion and only presents evidence to back up her point.

In this case, Hirsch's starting point is simple: the British Empire was utterly, totally, unredeemably evil. From the outset, she seeks to find only evidence that supports this hypothesis. She shies away from any topic that might counteract this premise (e.g. the Empire's role in stopping the worldwide slave trade, abolition of Sati in India, the spread of democracy and ultimately its destruction in order to defeat of a genuinely evil empire -- the Third Reich). This makes her account more of a rant than a study.

We DO need to talk about the British Empire, but Afua Hirsch isn't interested in talking about it. She is interested in making HER point, and hers alone.

28 people found this helpful

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  • Kates
  • 26-02-20

everyone should hear this!

This is a history that should be shared across the British nation. Why is it not part of the National Curriculum?

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  • M. Bellamy
  • 20-02-20

A brilliant series

I found this a fascinating series that covered the way that the British Empire impacted on the lives of so many people. It contained a variety of personal stories that reflected the diversity of the Empire. It did not hold back from showing the overt racism, cruelty and stratification of the colonies. It covered the slave trade as well as the tragedy of the chaotic and disastrous partition of India in 1947.
It taught me a lot of history that was never covered in school.
Thoroughly recommended.

26 people found this helpful

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  • Arnold Seivwright
  • 09-03-20

no never know

I never thought about the effects of colonialism, I download this series because the way my brother talks about the british empire annoys me, even angers me, but I never understood why, although ignorant myself I knew there was something large and multifaceted about the British empire and its residual effects on current society's around the world, I now feel like I have a foot hold on this long climb up, well worth a listen, worth talking about and sharing.

21 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-04-20

meh.<br />

And by "meh," I most definitely do mean "meh."
The valid & important points being presented are buried in the kind preachy scolding that's anathema to all but rabid sjws. A wasted opportunity.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 20-04-20

A fantastic and thought provoking production

Insightful and poignant, particularly in our current environment. History is written by the 'victors', but it's high time we started telling the stories of those on the other side of history. These are some of those stories. Well worth the listen by anyone, anywhere

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  • Rob d bishop
  • 05-06-20

Left wing propaganda

Only worth listening to if you want to experience true delusion. Interesting to see how far they can twist the facts.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 27-05-20

Definitely need to talk about the British Empire!

Very eye opening and engaging! I learned a lot from this series. Has inspired me to research and learn more on my own. Thank you for putting this series together.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-04-20

I needed to hear this.

A handful of valuable perspectives that are somewhat rare these days. Thanks for presenting this.

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  • Elizabeth Sceneay
  • 05-06-20

Really engrossing

learnt a lot about empire and it's results on the colonised. Some very sad stories.

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  • Ants32
  • 19-03-20

Out Of Order

Please re-arrange episodes into their correct order.
Otherwise, a very thought provoking podcast.
Thankyou. :)