David Olusoga and Alan Lester – The Truth About the British Empire

15 Sep 2024 – 6:30 pm - 7:45 pm BST
Royal Geographical Society
Royal Geographical Society
1 Kensington Gore
David Olusoga and Alan Lester join us to reveal the dark realities of the British Empire, and reflect on the importance of historians amid the culture wars and resurgence of nationalism.
About the book

The Truth About Empire comes from expert historians who believe that the truth, as far as we can pinpoint it, matters; that our decades of painstaking research make us worth listening to; and that our authority as leading professionals should count for something in today’s polarised debates over Britain’s imperial past.

In the culture wars, the public’s understanding of colonial history is continually distorted by wilful caricatures. With their fight to highlight Empire’s horrors, communities whose voices once went unheard have alienated many who would prefer a celebratory national history. The backlash, orchestrated by elements of the media, has produced a concerted denial of British imperial racism and violence—a disinformation campaign sharing both tactics and motivations with those around Covid, Brexit and climate change.

From Australia and China to India and South Africa, this essay collection is an accessible guide to the British Empire, and a shield against the assault on historical truth. The disturbing stories told in these pages, of Empire’s culture, politics and economics, show why professional research matters, when deciding what can and cannot be known about Britain’s colonial past.

About the editor

Alan Lester is Professor of Historical Geography at the University of Sussex and Adjunct Professor of History at La Trobe University. He has written eleven books on British colonialism, most recently Ruling the World: Freedom, Civilisation and Liberalism in the Nineteenth Century British Empire; and Deny and Disavow: The British Empire in the Culture War (co-authored; 2nd edition).

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