top of page

Empireland by Sathnam Sanghera

Read as part of my continued participation in The History Teacher Book Club on Twitter. And again, another excellent read. Notes are below:

Don't give a damn comes from India. A damn was the lowest coin in Indian currency.

New Amsterdam was traded to the British in exchange for the Indonesian Island of Run (the world's best nutmeg producer, a crop with a 32000% price mark up when taken to Europe). The Brits were not impressed that they'd been forced into this concession by the Dutch and so it inspired Oliver Cromwell to re-issue the Royal Charter for the East India Company, so now they were licensed to not just trade, but also to be able to hold and control land - with an eye to ensuring no future Runs were lost. The birth of empire with a Cromwellian pen stroke.

A reminder of the two phases of Empire. Sugar (Caribbean and North America) which came to a close with the War of Independence and then the age of Spice (my phrase) when they went for India and Africa and which was dominated by the EIC.

When it comes to returning artifacts Britain hosts 90%ish of these artifacts in storage, not on public display. We are also significantly behind France and Germany in returning items. A very successful and respected museum in Senegal shows how African nations can be entrusted with their own histories! Putting paid to the lie of "they're safer in our hands".

"Britain has long struggled to accept the imperial explanation for its racial diversity. The idea that black and brown people are aliens who arrived without permission, and with no link to Britain, to abuse British hospitality is the defining political narrative of my lifetime."

-- "Surviving Roman inscriptions often mention residents with African backgrounds, and a skeleton discovered in Greyfriars monastery in Ipswich is believed to be that of a slave brought to Britain from Tunis during the Crusades in 1272."