How will these resources help you? 

The British empire and its legacy is a controversial topic and many teachers are wary about how to approach it in the classroom. The legacy of the empire can be found in the controversy surrounding Brexit and in the national debate about teaching ‘British values’. These resources aim to help teachers feel equipped to manage discussions and deliver effective lessons on this topic. 

The last gasp of the empire

Rule Britannia: Brexit and the End of Empire

by Danny Dorling and Sally Tomlinson, published by Biteback Publishing, (2020), 9781785905995

This book offers a good foundation about what the empire actually means in Britain today. It brings the discussion right up to date with arguments on the legacy of the empire, including the impact of Brexit and COVID-19. 

How the British empire changed what it meant to be British

Empire: What Ruling the World Did to the British

by Jeremy Paxman, published by Penguin, (2012), 9780670919598

This book focuses on how the empire profoundly changed Britain and the British people, and how the effects of those changes are still with us today. The book would broaden students’ understanding of a British view of the empire. 

Debates on the empire while it was in existence

The British empire’s hidden history is one of resistance, not pride

by Priyamvada Gopal, published by The Guardian, (2017)

This article highlights some of the debates people were having about the empire while living within it, and it would offer students a historical perspective. 

The effect of the empire on Modern Britain

Empireland: How Imperialism Has Shaped Modern Britain

by Sathnam Sanghera, published by Penguin, (2021), 9780241445310

Sathnam Sanghera explains Britain's complex historical relationship with its empire and why it is still important today. The book ties together why Britons are spread around the world and how the empire affects the UK itself today, discussing topics such as Brexit and ideas such as Britishness. Students will be able to take these modern topics, with which they are likely to be very familiar, and explore their links to the British empire to highlight how the effects of the time are still being felt today. 

Audiovisual clip

A Timewatch Guide - Shifting historical opinions on the British Empire

published by BBC, (2017)

David Olusoga explores the shifting historical opinions on the British Empire and its legacy.

Podcast episode

RETEACH HISTORY - Katie Amery and Simon Beale on Making the Curriculum Inclusive


Katie Amery, Head of History in Liverpool, and Simon Beale, Head of History and Politics in London, join host Carmel Bones to discuss how they've used Reteach to redesign their curriculum offer to be more inclusive and representative. They share practical tips and real-life case studies on approaching 'hard history' topics that are often tricky to tackle. looting, Nazi Germany, the legacy of the British Empire and finding new perspectives to engage KS3 and KS4 students.

Further Materials

Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala, published by John Murray Press, (2019), 9781473661233 Find this book
Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging by Afua Hirsch, published by Vintage, (2018), 9781784705039 Find this book
The British Empire: Sunrise to Sunset by Philippa Levine, published by Routledge, (2019, 3rd edition), 9780815366232 Find this book
The Noisy Classroom: Developing Debate and Critical Oracy in Schools by Debbie Newman, published by Routledge, (2019), 9781138496927 Find this book
Christopher Terry is a former Head Teacher and former academic lead for Teaching and Learning in various British and International Schools, and he has been a teacher of History for 15 years. He works as an examiner and also delivers ITT History Teacher Training in the North West of England and Internationally. He also has been a specialist advisor to OFQUAL for History and has been recognised by the Historical Association as an outstanding practitioner. 

Text © Christopher Terry, 2021.