Monty Python, Michael Palin & the British Empire
Monty Python's Flying Circus, a television comedy sketch show first aired on the BBC on October 5th 1969. Today we're looking at the Pythons' 40th anniversary, Michael Palin and the British Empire, a slightly wild combo, you might say.
I enjoyed Monty Python with my children. Cat has had to work a bit harder to enjoy them - see Comedy, the Spirit of Love. Meanwhile Michael Palin, founding member, actor and writer of Monty Python skits, has moved on.
He has become an explorer, writer and presenter of travel documentaries and was recently named the president of the Royal Geographical Society. In his first interview he could not resist sticking his hand into a nest of vipers.
As you know Palin's journeys have taken him around the world - from Pole to Pole; around the Pacific Rim; in the steps of Ernest Hemingway through the United States, Europe, Africa and the Caribbean; across the Sahara; into the Himalaya; and around Central and Eastern Europe.
In an October 2009 Geographical interview, "From Python to President", he plotted his new course. The interview is for members only, but it has been quoted. Michael says this about the British Empire -
"If we say that all of our past involvement with the world was bad and wicked and wrong, I think we're doing ourselves a great disservice.
Exactly right. The truth is a whole, not black or white. Surprisingly, Monty Python made the same subversive point about the Roman Empire in The Life of Brian.
The British Empire did wrong and right -
Abroad it abolished the slave trade, built railways and urban sanitation and treated previously incurable diseases. It introduced the English language and popular team sports, parliamentary democracy, Common Law, an independent judiciary and an honest civil service. The British Empire also kept trade safe from pirates on the high seas, educated millions and protected women’s rights. That ought to count for something.
A brief excerpt from Michael Palin's trip to Machu Picchu -