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tv   Echoes of Empire  BBC News  August 22, 2020 12:30am-1:01am BST

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the opposition leader, alexei navalny, to be flown to germany for treatment. they had earlier insisted he was too ill to be moved. his supporters suspect he drank poisoned tea, and accuse authorities of trying to cover up a crime. more than 12,000 firefighters are battling over 500 separate blazes in central and northern california. the state governor says lightning strikes over the past 2a hours have ingnited several hundred more wildfires in the region. more than 100,000 people have been evacuated. thousands of british holiday—makers are racing to get back to the uk before new government coronavirus quarantine restrictions come into force. in a few hours‘ time, anyone returning from croatia, austria, or trinidad and tobago will have to self—isolate for two weeks because of a rise in infections. now on bbc news, it's time
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for echoes of empire. the british empire was the largest the world had ever known. at its height, it ruled around 20% of the earth's population. the legacy of that empire is now the subject of passionate debate. issues of exploitation and brutality have come to the fore thanks to the black lives matter protests. in bristol in the southwest of england, the statue of the slave trader edward colston was torn down amid angry protests. clive myrie has been to bristol and reflects now on the struggle of remembering. clive myrie: who owns history? who dictates memory?
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is it always the victor? what would you think about coloured people coming to work on the buses? i don't like the idea very much. what about the others? those marginalised, like the windrush generation? you know, i was willing to fight for my country — well, i thought was my country. and obviously, it's not. the city of bristol is a place where different memories vie for supremacy. but why can't there be a past we all can embrace? i'm a proud northerner — born in bolton ofjamaican heritage. but it could be argued bristol is the place where i came of age. where i got my firstjob in journalism — the only career i've ever known. like many west indians and their descendents living in the uk, my lineage stretches
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back to africa — and the trade in human bondage involving ports like bristol. ships loaded with goods would sailfrom here down to west africa. they'd then be exchanged for slaves, that human cargo would go across the atlantic to the caribbean. there, they'd be exchanged for cotton, sugar and tobacco. that would then sail back to the united kingdom. the triangular trade — and slavery underpinned great wealth. and it's that wealth that helped build cities like bristol. the legacy of slavery and the ships that sailed from here is a fractured past for me. this is true for all britain's west indians, the children of empire. asher craig grew up to became bristol's deputy mayor. i'm searching. i want to know who i am, and i may take the dna test too. i need to pass this legacy down to my own children so that when they're ready to have
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children, they can pass on that legacy. now, the end of their journey is near. what will they find in the land they regard as an el dorado? slavery had obliterated one part of their history. now, west indians were being encouraged to create another, asked to help rebuild britain after the war. mike lord was a schoolboy — a little too old to be carried over england's threshold — when he arrived in 1960, one of the windrush generation. the new arrivals were construction workers, bus drivers, theyjoined the nhs. mike arrived on his godparents‘ passport with no other paperwork. years later, when he was forced to prove he had a right to live here, he couldn't. i felt like a leper. you know, like i had a tag on my back saying, "i'm not british". because no one will accept it because the government made it not to employ you if you've got
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no proof of paperwork to prove who you are. slavery, windrush — toxic legacies of empire. history written by the victors. but this empty plinth tells a new story — that the marginalised have had enough. cheering the statue of the 18th—century slave trader and philanthropist edward colston was toppled in the heart of bristol. now, he awaits restoration. but the graffiti is to be preserved. symbol of the new understanding that the experience of victor and vanquished are part of the same story. well, this is one history that's been brought low, covered in mud by people who were hoping to create a new history. but the fact is both our faces represent bristol. i think nobody owns history.
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no one race, no one group owns history. and i'd like for us to start thinking about history in a collective sense, as a british history. and i think that will encourage people to feel british, feel that they have a stake in british society. british colonialism defines who we all are. it's left a family album of different peoples and races. it is our story. every single moment. britain's first attempt at colonization was much closer to home — across the irish sea in ireland. i grew up in the province of munster, listening to stories of english conquerors fighting irish rebels. i've gone back to munster to see what a modern generation feels about the legacy of empire. these days, history
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is a beautiful tourist trade. here, where empire took root in the fields of munster. there are traces everywhere of that long—ago conquest, when the energy of elizabethan england overpowered its enemies. the irish were not made slaves, but there was massacre, dispossession, and assault on gaelic culture. catholic ireland, with her continental allies, was a threat to protestant elizabeth. but also an opportunity for english adventurers. this part of ireland saw some of the worst atrocities carried out by men regarded as heroes in britain. and they would take the tactics and methods of colonial conquest, and export them from here across the world. men like sir walter raleigh, who took vast land holdings after the destruction of the native lords. the great poet edmund spencer
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was among those who defended starving civilians to deny food the rebels. thousands died in the famine which swept munster in the 1850s. -- 15805. i'm going back into the landscape of the munster conquest, along the river blackwater, to meet a leading expert on the elizabethan era here. it's good to see you, man. how ruthless was the imposition of colonial rule by these men? whatever it took. i mean, they killed men, women, and children. that's very much part of how the british empire emerges. it's forceful seizure and occupation. but go to the town of yowell at the river mouth, and walter raleigh is a tourist attraction. raleigh left ireland for other
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colonial adventures, but others prospered, settled, and rest in ornate tombs. in a stable modern republic, their legacy can be studied, not fought over. it's much better for us to try to understand what happened, why it happened, how perhaps raleigh or these other individuals could treat irish people particularly badly — they do so because they considered them to be almost a different species of humanity. all: "grim houses beckoned in the swelling gloom of munster fields, where the atlantic night fettered the child within the pit of doom. and everywhere, the going down of light. " memories of oppression became embedded in our culture. but historic acts of reconciliation are helping to heal old wounds. ifeel the hand of history upon her shoulder, in respect to this.
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i really do. and i just think we need to acknowledge that and respond to it. with the benefit of historical hindsight, we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently, or not at all. history throws up complexities. thousands of irish served as imperial soldiers and civil servants. i had relatives who fought the british and others who benefited from and served the empire. but i wanted to hear what some younger people in munster felt about the colonial past. we want to sew both kinds, to put people in the shoes of the participants of these events in the past. you know, history is very complicated. but we try to give them the facts and let them decide their own opinions.
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i know some people would really love an apology but, for the likes of us, we just want to learn about it. and not to make those mistakes again is better than getting an apology. you look at people of your generation who are black british, black american, and they're looking back at the history of the empire. they feel real rage and anger over what happened to their ancestors. you don't feel that? we don't suffer injustice as much as they do. we live privileged lives, like, we aren't being injusticed every day like they are. their roots were taken from them, so i can understand why you'd be so angry. like, i'm very proud to be irish and i love my heritage, and i love my roots. so i can't imagine having that taken away from me. history is no longer a gaping wound in munster. the colonial past is distant. it really is the past. india was the so—called jewel of the imperial crown. but the role of the british — specifically wartime leader winston churchill, in one of the great
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tragedies of modern india, the bengal famine of 1943 — is coming under ever—sharper scrutiny. yogita limaye considers the view in india of the decisions taken by churchill during the turmoil of war. yogita limaye: in london, he stands tall. for millions here, winston churchill is a hero and one of the greatest britons of all time. but in a colony he once presided over, many point to a dark legacy. he might be an icon in britain. but in india, he is seen actually as the precipitator of mass killing because of the policies that he activated and the policies that he followed in bengal in 1943. at the heart of the anger against him,
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a famine in bengal. it was triggered by a cyclone and flooding. but many blame winston churchill and his government for making the situation worse. it's a painful chapter in india's colonial history. only a few surviving images show the horror of hunger. those who didn't die in villages went to cities in search of food. every day, bodies had to be removed from the streets. at least three million died — more than six times the british empire's casualties in world war ii, raging at the same time. chitta kumar has lived through it.
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british troops had been forced to retreat from burma by the japanese and, fearing they could also invade bengal, anything that could aid the enemy — like food stocks and boats — were seized or destroyed. british officers in india sent a telegram after telegram describing how grave the situation was. but for months, mr churchill's government turned down requests to urgently export food that could've saved lives. they feared it would reduce stockpiles in the uk and take ships away from the war effort. he felt more could be done
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by local to help the starving. viceroy to india, archibald wavell, called the bengal famine "one of the greatest disasters to have befallen people under british rule," and said the reputational damage was incalculable. during one government discussion about famine relief, secretary of state for india leopold amory recorded mr churchill saying that any aid sent would be insufficient because indians bred like rabbits. it is a man—made famine because of global conditions during the war. but i don't think we can blame churchill for causing it. what we can say is that he didn't alleviate it or send relief when he had the ability to do so. we can blame him for prioritising white lives and european lives over south asian lives. when a fraction of the food supplies asked for finally came, they were carried over this bridge.
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it's borne silent witness to history. remnants of india's colonial past remain in printed on it — but do they matter today? at independence, india was a nation born in hunger, some have said. and so immediate priority trumped any introspection about british rule. but today, a generation of indians more confident about our place in the world are questioning why there hasn't been more widespread condemnation of the dark chapters in our colonial history. judging leaders of the past through the lens of the present might leave the world with no heroes at all. but there's likely to be little progress on equality without accepting the full truth of their lives. land — the whole question of who lost it and who took it is central to the debate about colonialism. and nowhere is this more true than in kenya, where white settlers took
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the best land available. anne soy has gone back to the rift valley where she grew up to look at the legacy of colonial land policies. anne soy: the highlands of the rift valley — where i was born and raised. it's here that the colonial administration faced one of the fiercest resistance movements to their settlement in east africa. at the turn of the 20th century, british settlers arrived here and found conditions perfect for agriculture. rich, volcanic soil, constant rainfall, and high altitudes suitable for growing tea. these fields have supplied britain's breakfast staple for over a century. but it came at a huge cost — 15 years of resistance by the kalenjin ethnic group, then led by the talai clan. translation: the settlers used
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divide—and—rule tactics. they turned the community against us. they convinced them that the talai were evil people. you see, they had guns and bombs, and all we had were arrows and spears — and we fought against them for more than ten years. so they said we were evil. once they had subdued the locals, laws were created in nairobi and london allowing them to push the locals to the fringes, and the best land was divided up amongst a handful of settlers. they also introduced taxes. and, because the locals did not have money, they had no choice but to work in the settler farms to make money to pay the taxes. that subjugation lasted about five decades. in the 1950s, resistance was growing again across the country and continent. closer to the colonial seat of power in nairobi was the mau mau movement. they fought for freedom from colonialism and to get land back. many were rounded up,
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detained, and tortured. the official death toll is disputed — some historians estimate that more than 20,000 died. at midnight, the unionjack was lowered for the last time, and kenya ceased to be a colony and became independent. 1963 — statues of colonial leaders were removed and later replaced with kenyan faces. good luck to kenya in her new role as an independent nation. and, decades later, as statues of leaders of colonialism and slavery are brought down across the world, some kenyans are now questioning how deep the change here really went. we just changed the face of the monuments. we were conned at independence. we were handed over to the people who were, you know, subservient to the colonial authorities. the biggest beneficiaries of independence, they say, were those who worked
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for the colonial administration and fought against their opponents — controversial views in kenya today. what have i done? they landed activist mutemi wa kiama in trouble with authorities last month. police raided his home and arrested him. i do a lot of social media activism, and my premise is that kenya has never gotten independence. the thread that i did before they arrested me, i traced these colonial chiefs to the current political elites, and their etymologies and linkages, their business linkages, and that kind of thing. and kenayns could now see and actually connect the dots. and i guess they weren't comfortable with that. the elites grabbed the independence and ran off with it. and the mau mau were left landless. nothing had changed. and, in the rift valley,
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the talai are today some of the poorest people living here. translation: when land was being subdivided among the locals, we asked for some — but we got nothing. they said we were the evil ones. for decades, this was a detention camp. they were not allowed to interact with other communities. the colonial government attacked them an "evil clan". and even after independence, that tag remained. the lasting legacy of colonialism in this village. a lot of the land in kenya is now owned by locals, and tea remains one of the country's biggest exports. but the inequalities created during colonial times and adopted at independence persist. there may be no precolonial statues here, but this is a country still ill at ease with its past. imperialism and slavery are fatefully intertwined. it was an active british parliament in 1833 that
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abolished throughout the empire. but it was also the british who first imported african slaves to north america. aleem maqbool looks now at the effect on that early traffic in human lives on american society. aleem maqbo0l: it was here on the coast of virginia that an english ship brought, against their will, the first 20 africans to what was already a british colony. and so began the horrific legacy of slavery here, from which more than 400 years on, some of the greatest ills in american society can be traced. there are those who feel some people in britain looked at americans with contempt during the recent race troubles that need to acknowledge their own role. britain put its stamp on america from the beginning. if you claim that america
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has its foundational culture based on england, then you've got to take it all. and that includes slavery. that includes the systemic racism in our laws, in our practices, and in our culture. why's you kneeing on her neck? policing in the southern united states traces its origins to slave patrols set up under the british, who also passed laws which regard black people as inferior. the policing that we see that automatically assumes that a black person is a criminal — that starts from, really, the founding of our country that viewed africans as systemically different as people. but americans of course have to shoulder responsibility, too. they won independence, but then there was civil war, with the confederate south
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fighting to keep slavery. many british elites backed the south. but their side lost and slavery was banned. but decades later, statues to confederate leaders were put up here to rewrite history and remind black people of their place. we were told, "don't look up at them." we were told, "keep walking straight. keep driving straight. you don't have to look up to that white man. they made it that big so you would have to hurt your neck to look up to them." and we're done with that. in fact, we're now going to create a space that's just comfortable us to be around. statues in the former confederate capital of richmond have now been daubed with graffiti or torn down. including one of former confederate presidentjefferson davis, who died utterly unrepentant about his role in fighting his own country over slavery. but some of his descendents say we need to look past that detail. none of the individuals that
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are being attacked today were were solely slave perpetuations. they had an illustrious history that was associated with many more acts that may preclude that scenario of slavery. britain may have brought slavery here, but some americans are still commemorating its legacy. remarkably, there are 11 confederate statues that still stand in the us capitol building. the question is, what message does it send african—americans when some people whose fame, notoriety is derived from the fact that they defended — and even fought to keep the institution of slavery — are celebrated here in the most exalted corridors of american power? there are now moves to take away the statues. but progress towards a more complete representation of america's past is slow. the debate over imperialism and its discontents isn't new. but it's been revitalised
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by black lives matter — and by the emergence of a new generation of historians and writers determined to put the experiences of the enslaved and the oppressed at the forefront of history. confronting that history can be deeply uncomfortable, but it's an essential part not just of facing the injustices of the past, but the challenges of the presence. hello there. the last few days has brought some very windy weather across many parts of the country. on friday, we had winds well over 60 mph here in the southwest of wales,
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also the southwest of england. and we saw those very strong winds pushing through the english channel as well, leading to some very dramatic weather watcher pictures ta ken early on in the day. now for the weekend, it won't be as windy — that's because the deep area of low pressure that brought those unseasonably strong winds is moving into the norwegian sea, so already winds are dropping. but we will continue to see some sunshine and showers during saturday. there could be some heavier ones moving down into scotland for a while, actually some longer spells of rain for northern ireland, and those showers pushing in england and wales. driest and sunniest weather likely to be across southern counties of england and into east anglia. but for england and wales in particular, it's still a blustery day — not as windy, but still those gusts of 35—40 mph taking the edge off the temperatures, which may be a bit lower than we had on friday, with the top temperature 22 celsius there. further north and west, quite a few degrees cooler than that. those heavy showers continue into the evening before fading away overnight, and the wind continuing to drop, as well.
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as we head into the second half of the weekend, there's a brief sign of this ridge of high pressure from the atlantic — but all it's doing is changing the wind direction to a cooler northwesterly. again, the winds continuing to drop, though, on sunday with lighter winds for much of the country, some sunshine and showers for scotland, the heavier ones for northern ireland, pushing it in northern and eastern parts of england with the risk of some thunderstorms, too. our top temperature will be 21 celsius in the southeast on sunday. but quite a bit cooler than saturday across scotland with those northwesterly breezes. into the early part of next week — first of all, we have a weather system coming in from the atlantic. it's quite a weak affair, really, and the winds are light on monday, but we're looking at a lot of cloud to move its way eastwards and some patchy rain, too, maybe a little bit heavier for a while across southern parts of england and wales. dryer whether in the northeast of scotland, but it's only 13 celsius in aberdeen and around 19 celsius in cardiff. then for tuesday and wednesday, we have another deep
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area of low pressure heading our way, threatening to bring some more very strong winds across the uk. a spell of rain probably will be followed by some sunshine and some showers.
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this is bbc news, i'm aaron safir. our top stories... russian opposition leader alexei navalny has been driven out of hospital in siberia and is expected to travel by air—ambulance to germany — he remains in a coma — the governor of california says lightning strikes have sparked several hundred more wildfires including some of the biggest ever seen in the state. a human chain across the capital in belarus, the latest protest against the president, as the opposition leader tells the bbc she won t give up. we have no right to step back now because — if not not, we will be slaves. and — swift's gift — why a london student is celebrating her taylor—made donation.


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