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OU on the BBC: Empire

Updated Monday, 20th February 2012

Jeremy Paxman tells the remarkable story of the British Empire and how it shaped life today in the UK, the Commonwealth - and beyond.

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Jeremy Paxman Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Dave Williams Jeremy Paxman Empire is a major five-part series presented by one of British television’s most distinguished broadcasters, Jeremy Paxman. It tells the story of the British Empire in a new way, tracing not only the rise and fall of the empire but also the complex effects of the empire on the modern world – political, technological and social – and on Britain.

Jeremy travels to India, the Middle East, Canada, Africa, the Caribbean and the Far East in search of the extraordinary characters, burning ambitions and surprising principles which created an empire four times the size of Ancient Rome’s.

Taking the form of a personal essay, Empire will tell the story of the British Empire in five programmes looking at a single key idea in each.

Episode guide

A Taste for Power looks at the many different ways in which Britain took and held power in the Empire – from naval might to the use of local troops to a calculated display of imperial pageantry and the cult of monarchy.

Making Ourselves at Home looks at how the British created a particular idea of home wherever they conquered and settled; and how many of the millions affected by imperial expansion learned to see Britain as their home.

Playing the Game describes the growth of a peculiarly British type of hero – adventurer, gentleman, amateur, sportsman – and a peculiarly British type of obsession: sport, the Empire at play. Britain spread the gospel of sport through its public schools and throughout the Empire, laying the foundations for almost all the major sports of today.

Making a Fortune looks at how the empire began as a pirates’ treasure hunt, grew into an informal empire based on trade - and slavery - and grew into a global financial network.

Doing Good tells the extraordinary story of how a desire for conquest became a mission to improve the rest of mankind, especially in “darkest” Africa – and how that mission shaded into an unquestioning belief that Britain could - and should -rule the world.

Empire can be seen on BBC One England, Northern Ireland and across the UK on BBC One HD on Monday nights from 27th February 2012 at 9.00pm. For full broadcast details, and links to watch episodes available online, visit

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