The British Empire

With more than a fifth of the world once living under it, you can see why the British Empire left a vast cultural and lingual legacy. From the many countries that Britain conquered, we took and applied influences as our own. It seems this amalgamation of varying cultures, visuals and thoughts has clouded the origins of British values and the meaning of What does it mean to be British?

The mass colonisation has shown the convenience and consequence of power. Throughout this time and towards the end of the empire attitudes towards Britain and it’s methods were questioned. Many documents recording the atrocities and violence that occurred were hidden or destroyed, one of many reasons why negativity surrounds the subject.


This became a study of how the colonisation of societies has since affected and responded to the changes (particularly how European nations overtook ‘third-world’ countries. The general theory around post-colonialism is said to occur in three stages:

  1. An awakening in the realisation of being in a colonised state, resulting in social and psychological inferiority.
  2. The battle for political and cultural independence
  3. The growing understanding of hybridity and cross-culture exchange

Artworks created around the empire depict the truth of it’s unmoral history, a dangerous offence, considering the injustice and lives given by the colonised?

Barker, Thomas Jones; 'The Secret of England's Greatness' (Queen Victoria presenting a Bible in the Audience Chamber at Windsor); National Portrait Gallery, London;

Barker, Thomas Jones; ‘The Secret of England’s Greatness’ (1863)

This painting depicts Queen Victoria handing over the Bible to an African diplomat. He questions the secret to Britain’s success, to which she responds by giving him the Bible; a disguise to exploit the further colonisation.

“When asked by a diplomatic delegation how Britain had become powerful in the world, ‘our beloved Queen sent him, not the number of her fleet, not the number of her armies, not the account of her boundless merchandise, not the details of her inexhaustible wealth … but handing him a beautifully bound copy of the Bible, she said ‘Tell the Prince that this is the Secret of England’s Greatness’.”

(, 2016)


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