Cruel Britannia: The British empire exposed in all its viciousness

Priya Satia and Padraic X Scanlan expose the lies behind many Britons’ pride in empire

Protesters throw a statue of slaver Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally in June 2020. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Protesters throw a statue of slaver Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally in June 2020. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

It was no surprise that UK government ministers were quick to boast that theirs was the first country to have a vaccine for Covid-19. For this country has always been keen to advertise its exceptionalism, as attitudes to empire and slavery show. Opinion polls have found that, compared with other Europeans, more Britons see the empire as a good thing and superior to all other empires.

There is also much pride that on slavery the British occupy the moral high ground, having done more than any other country to abolish the practice. These two books go a long way to show what a farrago of nonsense such views are.

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