Coolies: How Britain Reinvented Slavery

Coolies: How Britain Reinvented Slavery

59 minutes 7.39/10 based on 33 votes

The slave trade was officially abolished throughout the British Empire in 1807. This documentary reveals one of Britain’s darkest secrets: a form of slavery that continued well into the 20th century – the story of Indian indentured labour.

Coolies: How Britain Reinvented Slavery tells the astonishing and controversial story of the systematic recruitment and migration of over a million Indians to all corners of the Empire. It is a chapter in colonial history that implicates figures at the very highest level of the British establishment and has defined the demographic shape of the modern world.

Combining archive footage and historical evidence the programme includes interviews with Gandhi’s great-grandaughter, Uma Dhupelia-Mesthrie, about Gandhi’s campaign to end indentured labour and David Dabydeen – author and academic – whose great-grandfather was an indentured labourer in British Guyana.

Coolies: How Britain Reinvented Slavery traces family stories through epic voyages across South America, the South Pacific and Africa, as descendants investigate their past and trace the last surviving witnesses.

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7.39/10 (33 votes)

Discuss This Documentary

5 responses to “Coolies: How Britain Reinvented Slavery”

  1. anand wagholikar says:

    wonderful in-depth study…..i posted it on my fb for my guyabnese friends. i was working with Guyana Times, Georgetown as editor/gm for Guyana Time…where my interest for this subject grew.
    i am very fond of watching BBC features. i find them very informative and educational.

  2. Free Dalits says:

    The only thing the British are better at than creating, diseminating and ensuring the continuation of ignorance is exploiting it. .
    The Indian people are not guilt free here, they have similar a penchant for taking advantage of ignorance and are similarly well versed in its creation and disemination. The Caste system is not held in place by magic, people have to act to perpetuate it.
    Let us not forget that upwards of 150 Million Indian people are held in virtual slavery on the subcontinent in conditions far worse than Jim Crow America and subject to regular violations of every human right with impunity. I wouldn;t be surprised to learn that the idea for the coolie system was derived from the Indian Hindu Caste system which has permeated every religion and apsect of non Hindu culture across much of Southern Asia.

  3. Anil Bhikhai says:

    Powerful history….I shed tears for humans……often….for the things we do to each-other…..but in the smile of a child there is hope…

  4. Aleem S-k says:

    All wave, bow and declare allegiance to the Queen and her future heir Prince William as we do in Canada! God Save our glorious Queen! Even to this day and age stupid people still do this and they do not fully teach the truth of Indenture ship even where the the descendants of indenture ship live especially in Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana.

  5. David Subran says:

    It is reckless to associate Indian indentureship with slavery. Many Indentured Indians in Trinidad and in Guyana were able to purchase their own land and build homes during their indentureship. They signed contracts and were paid. Their descendents now enjoy greater social mobility than they would have experienced in India where the caste system is proving difficult to remove, despite laws against discrimination. The film is emotive and lacks balance to the extent that it could be deemed to be propaganda.

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