Sathnam Sanghera’s bestseller Empireland focussed on how our homeland has been “shaped” by imperialism. its sequel, Empireworld, opens with an African proverb: ‘Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” Thereafter, Sanghera goes global and takes a nuanced look at how British imperialism has shaped the world.
Empireworld is meticulously researched, with a hefty bibliography and notes section to back up its author’s balanced analysis. Plenty of books written on the legacy of the British Empire have placed greater focus on its negatives than Sanghera does: Empireworld recognises that the history and legacy of empire is a contrary or antithetical minefield in which policies have created both good and bad outcomes, often at the same time. (For example, while education was ‘supercharged’ in Nigeria, illiteracy was allowed to thrive in Iraq.)
Within these pages, then, the contradictions go on and on, with the empire helping to spread disease while miraculously finding cures. Empireworld takes Sanghera as far as Barbados, India and Nigeria – a chapter whose main focus is on West Africa, titled ‘Reaping The Chaos’, is quite the eye-opener in its depiction of policy disarray. Altogether, a book which helps pave the way for – at the very least – some serious discussion or reasonable debate regarding legacy.
Empireworld, Sathnam Sanghera (Viking)
Price: £20/£9.99 Ebook/£14 audiobook. Info: here
words DAVID NOBAKHT