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The empire and I

The British imperial story ended with the Hong Kong handover. What did it all mean for a Birmingham boy born during its final chapter?

By David Cannadine   May 2001

For anyone who is interested in Britain’s imperial past, 1997 was the most important year for historical reflection since the bicentennial of the American Declaration of Independence in 1976. It marked the centenary of Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee, when imperial consciousness (although not imperial dominion) was probably at its zenith, and when the British displayed their empire to themselves in London in an uncharacteristic fit of imperial presence of mind. But it also witnessed the 50th anniversary of the end of the British Raj in India. This was an intrinsically momentous event, as the keystone of the imperial arch, the…

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