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Empire with Michael Portillo   

Series 1: 4x60 | HD | 2020
Production Company
Transparent TV
Primary Broadcaster
Channel 5

A century ago Britain dominated a quarter of the planet, ruling over a staggering 400 million people, with an empire that stretched across five continents – the largest the world has ever seen. In this new series we ask, how on earth did a small island nation on the edge of Europe end up ruling the world?

From India to the Caribbean, Africa to the Australia, British colonial rule stamped its mark on every corner of the globe with extraordinary buildings that embodied the nature and awesome reach of British power. Today, many of the palaces, prisons and plantations where the intrigues of empire were played out lie crumbling, boarded up, forgotten.

Michael Portillo unlocks their doors to reveal the astonishing story of Britain’s Empire – the evolution of a superpower and a legacy that changed the world. 

Episode 2: Jamaica

In this landmark series Michael Portillo tells the extraordinary story of how a small island on the edge of Europe built the biggest empire the world has ever seen. In the second episode Michael travels to the Empire’s Caribbean capital, Jamaica, to uncover how Britain amassed the wealth to conquer the world. In the mid-17th century, the undisputed global superpower was Spain, which controlled the Americas and Caribbean.

Episode 1: India

Michael visits India, the Jewel in the Crown of Empire. Here he uncovers how the British East India Company built an Empire becoming the world’s first multinational corporation, using a private army to subdue this massive country. But how did such a small number of colonists rule over such a vast, diverse area? Michael charts the exploitation, greed and brutality that led to the splendour of the Raj, and how these same traits led to Britain’s downfall in the subcontinent.