Empire (2012) s01e05 Episode Script

Doing Good

1 It's the early 19th century.
In India's north-eastern states, more than 400 women a year are burned alive on the funeral pyres of their dead husbands.
This Hindu ritual is known as sati, and for years it's been tolerated by the country's British rulers.
But no longer.
In 1829, the British decide it has to stop.
When some Hindus protest to a British general, he says to them, "You say it is your custom to burn widows.
"Very well.
We also have a custom "that when a man burns a woman alive, "we tie a rope around his neck and hang him.
"You follow your custom, and then we shall follow ours.
" For many British people, the empire was all about doing good.
By force, if necessary.
Some believed they had a duty to bring light into the world.
Others, that they had a right to rule it.
We really did know best.
Both beliefs fundamentally changed the nature of the modern world and they changed our sense of Britain's place in it.
In the second half of the 19th century, the British Empire reached from Canada in the west to Australia in the east.
The last phase of expansion was about to begin, and many of these empire-builders believed their work was ordained by God.
In the summer of 1861, a small party of white men found themselves travelling up the river Shire in what is now Malawi.
To Europeans at that time, Africa was simply the Dark Continent, a place of ignorance and superstition.
They had come here to change that.
The men sang hymns as they travelled.
Lead, Kindly Light was a particular favourite.
Their leader was already a legend in Britain, a man who had come to embody the Victorian purpose in Africa.
His name was David Livingstone, a dour, fanatically determined Lowland Scot.
He was the first white man to have crossed the continent of Africa.
He had come here as a missionary to save African souls for Christ, but what he found appalled him.
Britain had abolished slavery in the empire decades before, but Livingstone found Africans still being captured and sold to Arab and Portuguese slavers all over East Africa.
Now he and his companions dreamed of sowing the seeds of a new world here.
One based not on African superstition and slavery, but on two Victorian obsessions - Christianity and free trade.
This river would become God's highway into the heart of Africa.
Down it would come African cotton and wheat and ivory and ostrich feathers, and up it, in exchange, would go clothes and tools and machinery made in Glasgow or Manchester.
Livingstone had a slogan for it, "Christianity and commerce.
" This would be the empire's new civilising mission.
Bible in hand, he was going to unlock the Dark Continent.
Such was the dream.
The reality was different.
The place chosen by Livingstone to build his mission turned out to be hostile and dangerous, a malarial death trap.
- Perfect.
Thank you very much.
- You're welcome.
Thank you.
One by one, Livingstone's followers succumbed to hunger and disease.
And this is all that remains.
It's the grave of one of the missionaries, Henry de Wint Burrup.
His name's even misspelt on his tombstone, poor chap.
He died of exhaustion and diarrhoea in February 1862.
An eyewitness said that he had shrunk to half his normal size and had turned a horrible shade of yellow.
One of his last acts had been to write a letter to the rowing clubs of Oxford and Cambridge, asking them to raise money to buy a steamer to go up the Shire River to stop slavery.
Then, in 1865, after years of exploring the interior, the most famous missionary in the world vanished.
Nothing was heard from him for an entire three years.
It was a worldwide mystery.
The New York Herald sent a journalist, Henry Morton Stanley, to Africa.
"Find Livingstone," were his orders.
"By any means necessary.
" Very strong man, eh? Very strong! And find him he did, in what would become one of the most celebrated encounters of the Victorian age.
Stanley was a chancer, so we must take his account of the meeting with a pinch of salt, but here's what he says happened.
"As I approached, I noticed he was pale.
"He looked weary.
"I would have embraced him, but he being an Englishman, "I wasn't sure how he would receive me.
"So I walked up to him deliberately, "took off my hat, and said, "'Dr Livingstone, I presume?"' But Livingstone was still in the grip of a passion to explore.
For almost two years he drove himself on, sick with cholera and dysentery.
He'd even extracted his own teeth.
He died in Africa.
He was alone, thousands of miles from home.
They found him in his hut, kneeling, it was said, in prayer.
Two faithful servants, one of them a former slave freed by Livingstone, gathered up his body and carried it all the way to the coast.
There they loaded it onto a ship bound for London.
His heart, though, was buried in Africa.
On the 18th of February, 1874, a great outpouring of grief gripped London.
The mourners stood on the streets thousands strong, many of them weeping to watch the body of David Livingstone pass by.
His funeral would be held at the resting place of Britain's elect, Westminster Abbey.
This was no ordinary mortal they were burying.
David Livingstone had become more than an explorer, more than a missionary.
He had become a myth.
His brave life and lonely death reassured a people busy conquering the world that the empire was about more than greed and domination.
It was about sacrifice and justice and doing good.
All around the Abbey were elaborate monuments to the great conquerors of empire.
Livingstone's memorial was a more modest affair.
"For 30 years his life was spent in an unwearied effort "to evangelise the native races" It's a simple slab of stone, but it lies right at the heart of Westminster Abbey because to many British people, what David Livingstone was trying to do lay at the heart of the British Empire.
The tears of the nation had hardly dried when Livingstone's diaries were published, heavily edited to remove evidence of his frequent failures.
In his entire life, he's said to have made only a single convert.
But the diaries would help him become almost a patron saint of empire.
Where Livingstone blazed a trail, other missionaries followed, though in slightly more comfort.
Well into the 20th century, thousands of them set out across the empire to bring Christianity to the heathen.
They often brought with them education and modern medicine.
When Africans came to demand freedom from their colonial masters, they dismissed much of this foreign do-gooding as destroying native culture.
Yet almost 100 years after Livingstone, much of the missionary legacy is alive and well.
Very good, class.
Now say, "Management.
" Management.
- Again.
- Management.
- Again.
- Management.
As I am here, I'm managing this class.
Everybody is quiet because I'm here, I am managing the class.
Today, the work started by Church of Scotland missionaries has, as all over Africa, become a local, African activity.
More? Another? Yes? The Nkolokoti Primary School was founded in 1935 in what was then the British colony of Nyasaland.
The school now has almost 8,000 pupils.
Some walk for hours to get here.
Such is the demand, they have to be taught in shifts.
Missionaries have come in for a lot of stick for providing an excuse for flag-planting and land-grabbing.
But the fact of the matter is that without missionaries, this school wouldn't exist.
And so 8,000 children would get no education, and come to that, no breakfast either.
Mine's thicker than yours.
Today, the school is funded by the Malawi government, although the porridge comes courtesy of a Scottish charity.
You know, we start very early in the morning.
Some leave very early without eating.
When they come here, they find porridge, they fill their stomachs.
Now, what do you feel about the missionaries who started this school? They did a great job.
And they assisted this area very much.
Just imagine, it was established in 1935.
Up to now, we are still benefiting.
Is it a religious school? It is a religious school.
- So you teach them about Christianity.
- Yeah.
We have a subject, Bible knowledge.
- Yeah.
What do you hope they will learn in your school? Uh, they learn to be good citizens.
We teach them to love each other, respect each other, respect elders, that's what we teach them.
David Livingstone's vision of Christianity and commerce was, in a sense, fulfilled.
Where the missionaries led, the traders followed.
They came to grow coffee or tobacco or cotton.
Their African workers, so went the plan, would be influenced towards Christianity.
This was the headquarters of the African Lakes Company, set up in 1882 to trade in ivory and cotton.
To many Victorians it seemed a marriage made in heaven, but too often, commerce and Christianity turned out to make extremely unhappy bedfellows.
In 1893, a Scotsman came out to manage a huge cotton estate outside Blantyre in Malawi, named, incidentally, after David Livingstone's birthplace.
The manager, William Jervis Livingstone, was a distant relative of the missionary.
But this Livingstone had rather different ambitions.
He was here to make money.
Like other settlers, William Jervis Livingstone ran a harsh regime on the plantation.
Floggings were said to be common.
Resentment ran high.
But then one man decided he wasn't going to take it any more.
And here he is on the Malawian 100 kwacha bank note.
He's also on the 500 kwacha, in fact he's on every Malawian bank note, because the Reverend John Chilembwe is a national hero.
He wasn't then, of course.
To the colonial authorities, he was nothing but a dangerous nuisance.
John Chilembwe had been educated in a Christian mission.
He'd even been ordained a Baptist minister.
And he liked to dress like a European gentleman.
But John Chilembwe's upbringing had given him radical, even subversive, ideas.
The notion, for example, that all humanity was equal before God.
His mission church, next to Livingstone's estate, became the centre for a movement which took as its motto, "Africa for the Africans".
On the afternoon of Friday, January the 22nd, 1915, John Chilembwe announced, "The time has come at last to fight back against our oppressors.
"You go out to fight as African patriots for the whole black race.
"Freedom is the cry of Africa.
Our blood will mean something at last.
" Chilembwe hoped to unleash a new kind of race war, black Christians against white settlers.
One of his chosen victims was his neighbour, William Jervis Livingstone.
What was your grandfather growing here? He was growing tobacco, coffee, cotton, rubber.
Deirdre Livingstone is the granddaughter of William Jervis Livingstone.
What was this room? This was my grandparents' bedroom, and this is where they slept.
The bed was just about there.
And they would go out on the veranda and have all their parties next door, in the dining room.
Tell me what happened that night.
The 23rd of January, 1915, that was the night when Chilembwe's men decided to rise up against the white man.
My father was a tiny little baby, six months old, being bounced on the bed, and my grandmother was actually in the bath, having her evening bath.
It was about 9:00, so it was a completely normal family scene at night.
And then suddenly armed men with spears, the natives came in and rushed into this room.
They went to attack my grandfather and speared him.
Where was he speared? What part of his body? He was speared here.
So she went over to try and get some port wine or brandy, the usual things that they resuscitated people with in those days, and then suddenly the other natives came in and the whole bunch of them literally came in and they cut off his head in front of her.
- They cut his head off? - They cut his head off.
What was absolutely desperate was my father, at six months old, was obviously just lying on the bed.
And then I had my Aunt Nyasa, who was five years old, she was seeing the whole scene, because she was actually sprayed with the blood from the severed head of my grandfather.
It was an absolutely desperate scene.
On the Sunday morning, John Chilembwe preached a sermon in his church.
He told a packed congregation that better times were ahead.
"The kingdom of God is at hand," he said.
"You will hear the bugles sounding.
" Beside him in the pulpit, as proof, was the head of William Jervis Livingstone.
The revenge of the British authorities was, as so often, swift and merciless.
Chilembwe's church was dynamited.
As for Chilembwe himself, he was hunted down, shot, and buried in an unmarked grave.
Today, his hometown is a shrine to the struggle against the British.
But his missionary message still rings out from his rebuilt church.
Like many Malawians, the congregation of the church he founded looked on John Chilembwe as a hero.
John Chilembwe wanted to establish a church with African origins, but yet with a Western education.
But to kill someone, to cut their head off, this is not the sort of behaviour you expect from a religious minister, is it? It is a terrible thing.
But when you look at the killing side, we also look at the other side.
What did it do for him to kill? Because there is a cause to everything.
You can kill, too.
When you reach a certain stage, say, when I want to take your family, I want to kill your family, you can kill too.
So we don't know what happened.
- It's just a mystery.
- And you admire him? Yes, we do admire him in Malawi.
But we admire him because of his teaching when he established his church.
Because he wanted people to be self-sustaining.
Work hard.
He brought that idea.
The march of the white race, led by Britain, across the globe in the late 19th century, was astonishing to behold.
So astonishing that people began to search for explanations.
An idea took hold among some people that this must be a scientifically pre-determined destiny.
In 1863, the members of the Anthropological Society of London gathered to hear what was billed as a scientific lecture.
It was a momentous and, as it turned out, hugely controversial occasion.
The speaker was the president and founder of the association, Dr James Hunt.
The title of his paper was, "The Negro's Place In Nature".
"I propose to discuss the physical and mental characteristics of the negro, "with a view to determining not only his position in nature, "but also the station he should occupy.
"I shall also dwell on the analogies between the negro "and the anthropoid apes.
" What followed was over an hour of racist nonsense, dressed up in the pseudo-technological language of scientific observation.
"His skull is very hard and unusually thick, "enabling negroes to fight or "carry heavy weights on their heads with pleasure.
" There were hisses and boos from the audience.
Some considered he was justifying slavery, which the British were proud of having abolished.
But his ideas struck a chord among more fanatical empire builders.
Because the empire had been such a huge success story, they began to talk about how they had, and this phrase was pretty widely used, "a genius for empire".
But what was this genius? It got muddled up with Charles Darwin's ideas about evolution.
The champions of empire argued that the British had evolved naturally to rule over others.
So that they were now, in fact, a superior race.
"Everywhere we see the European as the conqueror and the dominant race, "and no amount of education will ever alter the decrees of nature's laws.
" David Livingstone had preached that colonisers had a duty to help the unfortunate.
But what was the difference between unfortunate and inferior? A conviction took hold that helping meant ruling.
One man who felt this new aggressive sense of mission more keenly than any other, came to southern Africa in 1871.
His name was Cecil Rhodes, and you'd need a fistful of adjectives to describe him.
He was bold.
He was buccaneering.
He was brilliant.
But he was also brash, brutal, and bigoted.
He added great tracts of Africa to the empire on the principle that, as he put it, "We are the first race in the world, "and the more of the world we inhabit, the better it is for the human race.
" The empire was built, or stolen from others, by mavericks.
And Rhodes was the mavericks' maverick.
He did as he pleased, and only told the politicians in London afterwards.
He made war.
He created colonies off his own bat.
Rhodes called the English, "God's chosen instrument in carrying out the divine idea.
" It could almost have been David Livingstone talking.
But where Livingstone saw his duty as being to serve, Rhodes had other ideas.
"Africa lies ready for us," he told his supporters.
"It is our duty to take it.
" Livingstone's treasure was in heaven.
Rhodes's was on earth, or under it.
He made his fortune in a diamond town.
Today it's been recreated to give a flavour of what it was like in the 1880s.
A place of high hopes and low living, where desperate men came to get rich, or die trying.
Then it was known simply as New Rush.
The colonial secretary, Lord Kimberley, thought the name New Rush was altogether far too vulgar, and as for the Dutch name, Vooruitzigt, well, frankly, it was just about unpronounceable.
So a grovelling official said, "Would the name Kimberley be acceptable?" "Most acceptable," said his Lordship.
Rhodes's power base was the Kimberley Club, where southern Africa's business elite gathered.
They said you could find the five richest men in Africa at this bar.
But Rhodes was actually less interested in money than he was in power.
And specifically in realising what he called, "My idea".
That idea, he said, was the bringing of the whole uncivilised world under British rule.
And he knew his own part in it.
Rhodes sketched out his dream on this very map.
It is of British territory running right down the spine of Africa.
In pencil he drew the proposed course of a railway line that began at the cape at the tip of southern Africa, up through South Africa, through what is now Zambia, on into Uganda, into Sudan, and then to Cairo on the Mediterranean.
He believed that this would create a territory fit for white men, that would be bigger and more populous than the United States.
Here in the Kimberley Club, Rhodes planned the next stage of the conquest of southern Africa.
And he would be its leader, not as a soldier, but as a businessman.
His irregular army of so-called pioneers were sent north in search of new territory.
"Take what you can," said the British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury, "and ask me later.
" Rhodes's aim was, as he put it, "To set up mining companies, "cultivate the land, and preserve peace and order.
" In other words, to invade.
Through a combination of treaties, which later turned out to mean not quite what they seemed to mean at the time, bribery, and liberal use of the machine gun, they carved out a huge swathe of Africa, now known as Zimbabwe, but then named Rhodesia, after their leader.
If ever there was a country founded on blood and greed, Rhodesia was it.
Rhodes would become Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, later South Africa, the nation that gave the world apartheid.
"These are my politics,"he announced.
"The native is to be denied the vote "and treated as a child.
" This was what Rhodes's great dream, the duty of the white race to civilise the earth, came down to.
Rhodes's triumphalist vision of empire was partially fulfilled.
By the end of the 19th century, the lion's share of Africa belonged to Britain.
But the business of actually running the world's untidiest empire was a rather more humdrum affair.
Well into the 20th century, huge areas were governed by handfuls of white men, thrown in at the deep end and told to get on with it.
A British District Officer.
For much of the year, he's on tour, visiting the remote villages of his district.
His arrival at a village is a great occasion.
Elders and councillors come down to the water's edge to meet him.
A Mr Todd, although only 24, rules over some 20,000 people with far greater authority than that wielded by any civil servant here at home.
They were called district officers, but they usually had dozens of jobs.
Magistrate, tax collector, coroner, chief of police.
In the 1930s, the population of British Africa was reckoned at about 43 million.
It was administered by a mere 1,200 officials.
One of those officials, looking around and seeing how one young man with perhaps six native soldiers, might be in charge of 100,000 people, remarked, "Britain's entire position rests upon bluff.
" One of the ways this enormous bluff worked was through a rather British invention called indirect rule.
All over the empire, local rulers were persuaded, bribed, or threatened into throwing in their lot with the British.
The British pulled the strings from behind the scenes.
And if there wasn't a ruler, they just invented one.
District officers in Africa were, therefore, supposedly ruling alongside the local chief.
It could be a lonely job, but then, you weren't supposed to hang around at home very much.
You had to be out and about in the hills and farms and villages, sorting out trouble with a handful of locally recruited police officers.
As for preparation, well, if you could survive a British public school, you could survive anything.
"I was head of my house," recalled one young district officer.
"I was deputy head of school, I was captain at rugger, "I was Sergeant Major in the Officer Training Corps.
"So when, eventually, I found myself alone in the bush, "I wasn't afraid in the slightest.
" Quite often it worked pretty well.
One European writer travelling through British Africa was certainly impressed.
"Never, since the days of Ancient Greece, "he said, "has the world been ruled by such sweet, just, boyish masters.
" Right, thank you.
Will you ask the defendant what he has to say about it, please? One of them still lives just outside Nairobi, in Kenya.
Though, inevitably, no longer quite so boyish.
- Jeremy.
- How do you do? - Very good to see you.
- Come in.
- Thank you for having us.
- You're more than welcome.
When you look at it, there were such small numbers of people making the empire work.
How did they get away with it? I think it's fair to say they trusted us.
And we trusted them.
Mutual respect, mutual trust.
And they did what was required of them.
We did what was required of the government.
You say you would do what was required of you, and they would do what was required of them, but what right did you have to require them to do anything? They were the heads of their tribes, the government needed to exist.
I think we all agree, governments, good or bad, are necessary.
And they found it probably as satisfying as we did.
Did you ever wonder what you were doing, "What am I doing here?" Well, our basic raison d'être, if you like, was to maintain law and order.
But, of course, in the face of lots of armed well-armed and large gangs, it wasn't so easy.
Did you ever question what the empire was for? No.
It was there and one accepted it.
Some people say the empire was an unjustifiable mistake, an imposition on the rest of the world.
What would you say? In order to maintain safety for trade, it needed government.
So one followed the other.
It had to.
- Did you think you were doing good? - Yes.
There was a great deal of satisfaction in getting advancement, you know, schooling and public health, health centres.
They may not have liked us.
I'm I still To this day, when I go down to Kilifi, where I have a little house on the beach, they'll sometimes see me in the town and greet me very warmly.
So, um it can't all have been bad.
But good or bad, by the middle of the 20th century, there was a new force abroad.
The world had turned against the very idea of imperialism.
Nowhere would the struggle for freedom be more bitter than in Kenya.
It sparked a conflict that would shatter the empire's claims to moral authority.
White settlers in Kenya had done well for themselves farming the fertile highlands.
They developed the country, they felt they had a claim to it.
Many native Kenyans, especially those Kikuyu who'd been displaced, felt otherwise.
The issue was land.
As one Kikuyu explained to a visiting British politician, "When someone steals your ox, "it's killed and roasted and eaten, you can forget.
"But when someone steals your land, you can never forget.
"It's always there.
Its lakes, its streams, it's a bitter presence.
" The division of the spoils in Kenya was not exactly equal.
A mere 3,000 white farmers occupied 12,000 square miles of prime land.
By contrast, over a million Kikuyu lived on just over 2,000 square miles.
But the settlers were tough characters and they were in no mood to compromise.
Are you afraid of what might happen to the settlers' position if the Africans move more towards self-government? No, I don't think so.
We've always stood on our feet before, I think we can do it again.
Do you think your property is likely to go? Do you think you'll be in a difficult position? Not without being fought for.
- Would you fight? - Definitely.
I've done it all my life.
Soon came rumours of a secret Kikuyu resistance movement called Mau Mau.
Their goal was freedom from British rule, and they were prepared to use terror to achieve it.
Mystery and fear were part of what the Mau Mau were about.
Deep in the forests of the Aberdare mountains, they conducted initiation ceremonies in which naked young people drank goat's blood and swore to drive out the white invader.
In European circles, these became known as orgies in which babies were torn from their mother's womb and eaten alive.
One colonial official even claimed to detect the horned shadow of the devil himself.
This Mau Mau is a lawless and savage organisation.
Of course, the situation in Kenya is still full of danger.
The stage was set for a violent showdown.
Native Kenyan troops working for the British were drafted in to confront their own people.
Some settlers decided to get out while they could.
But while the whites felt under threat, the people who really suffered were other Kikuyu.
Those who chose to stay loyal to the British.
On the night of March the 26th, 1953, the area of Lari, here on the edge of the Great Rift Valley, was attacked by the Mau Mau.
The people here were largely loyal to the colonial government.
It was the middle of the night, so most of the villagers were asleep.
The Mau Mau came to their huts, blocked the entrances, set fire to them, and then went to work with axes and machetes.
These pictures arrive from Kenya.
They show the charred remains of the village of Lari, only 30 miles from Nairobi, where over 120 loyal Kikuyu were massacred by Mau Mau terrorists.
Men, women, and children perished in a night of savagery almost beyond description.
An entire village was turned into a smouldering funeral pyre.
Alice Wanjiru Kimani, or General Alice, as she then was, lead the Mau Mau raid on Lari.
She's now aged 81 and still lives and farms near the village.
Good morning.
You're Alice.
- Hello.
Oh! God.
- Nice to meet.
That's a heck of a handshake.
Thank you.
Did you kill anybody? Was there no other way to get your freedom other than killing? What do you think about the British now? What do you think about the time that the British were here in Kenya as the colonial government? Would the country have been better if they hadn't been here? Talk about a mixed verdict.
But imperialism's time had passed.
The struggle for uhuru, freedom, grew more intense.
The authorities rounded up Mau Mau suspects thousands at a time, herding them into vast internment camps.
Nearly 500 suspects were detained for questioning.
Over a hundred of them were identified by survivors as having taken part in the massacre.
Will you ask her, Inspector, why she pointed this man out? He is the one who killed my mother.
Imprisonment, torture, massacres.
Somehow this temperate paradise had become a sort of hell.
The world looked on and wondered, was this the empire that claimed to be doing good in the world? Britain was losing the stomach for empire and the ability to sustain it.
Much to the disgust of many farmers in the white highlands, Kenyan nationalist leaders were summoned to London for negotiations.
Uhuru was finally within their grasp.
At the Uhuru Stadium, the articles of independence were handed by the Duke to the country's Prime Minister.
Joyful citizens of the new state celebrate their independence in the most African of all ways, by dancing till they're ready to drop.
As the 1960s dawned, one colony after another demanded and got independence.
The sun had most definitely set on the empire.
It had taken centuries to accumulate, it was gone in a couple of decades.
The empire brought blood and tears and dispossession to millions of people.
But it also brought roads and railways and education.
There is no simple judgment to be made on three turbulent centuries of history.
Once, the official line was that, apart from the odd blip, the empire was a good thing.
Not just for Britain, but for the world.
But the British grew ashamed of the empire and tried to wipe it from the national memory.
The empire was certainly cruel, unjust, and unjustifiable if you were a slave on a plantation in the 18th century.
But it was benign and humane if you were rescued from a slave ship by the Royal Navy in the 19th century.
For good or ill, much of the world is as it is today because of the empire.
From the way it looks, to the sports people play, from the religion they practise, to the language they speak.
It has changed the very genetic make-up of Britain.
If only we can look at it clear-eyed, it can tell us a lot about who we are.
It's a story that belongs to all of us.
We've been through pride, we've been through shame.
Mostly nowadays we seem to be in denial.
If we really want to understand who we are, it's time we stop pretending the empire was nothing to do with us.