As Others See Us: new Radio 4 series reveals world's opinion of UK

Neil MacGregor, presenter of A History of the World in 100 Objects, will explore how other countries see the British

From World Cup victory in 1966 to Monty Python in the 1970s or the Falklands War in 1982, Britain’s reputation is constantly being remade by much more than diplomacy and trade: that is the message of a new BBC radio series starting in January.

Sir Neil MacGregor, the Glasgow-born former director of the British Museum who wrote and narrated A History of the World in 100 Objects, is to deliver an often more unpalatable message when he presents his next Radio 4 series, As Others See Us, which starts in January.

MacGregor found while making the programmes that the country’s image, for good or ill, is shaped by cultural and sporting events as much as by politics and international conflict.

“For several hundred years, the United Kingdom has been closely connected with every part of the world, as the British travelled and traded, conquered and settled in every continent,” said MacGregor. “We found a quirky but extremely well-informed mix of affection and admiration, irritation and bewilderment. And whether they were for or against, everybody had a very clear view about the decision to leave the EU.”

In a year that promises great change for the UK, MacGregor, 72, explores what five countries – Germany, India, Egypt, Nigeria and Canada – think of Britain. Using historical events and cultural objects, he examines the significant part that Britain has played in the history of all five nations.

MacGregor, who now directs the Humboldt Forum in Berlin, visits each country to talk to leading political, business and cultural figures and find out how they view his native land, asking whether the nature of their relationship with Britain can be traced back to key influences.

“We found it was often the smaller stories that had really affected what people feel,” said producer Paul Kobrak. “The first countries were chosen because of their close links with British history, but we have a another series coming in September that will look elsewhere.”


Vanessa Thorpe Arts and media correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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