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KEV67

Churchill

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I am reading Churchill by Andrew Morten. It's massive. It has already surprised me a bit. I watched Young Churchill the film, so I knew about him fighting the Talib, your Sudanese tribesman and your Boer. I didn't know his mother was such a slapper. I was a bit surprised to learn his political opinions were so moderate. He believed in free trade.He supported home rule for Ireland. He did much to stop the House of Lords' right of veto. He was not in favour of armament for armament's sake.

 

The thing that really worries me is that I have previously read a book called Churchill's Secret War by Madhusree Mukerjee, which said he was complicit in the Bengal Famine in 1943, in which 3 million Indians died. That is a pretty black mark.

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I am still plodding through Churchill. He was a strange mixture. I got to my favourite citation:

 

we found a big crowd, male and female, young and old, but all seemingly very poor. One might have expected them to be resentful against the authorities responsible for their protection; but, as Churchill got out of the car, they literally mobbed him. 'Good old Winnie,' they cried. 'We thought you'd come and see us. We can take it. Give it 'em back.' Churchill broke down, and as I was struggling to get him through the crowd, I heard an old woman say 'You see, he really cares: he's crying.'

 

 

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If you're interested in Churchill I strongly recommend The Splendid and the Vile by Eric Larson who is brilliant at narrative non-fiction. It's about Churchill and the beginning of the war. It's told almost in real time, on a day to day basis, so everything feels immediate and sometimes very tense.

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There are probably more books connected with Churchill than any other historical figure except Jesus Christ. I am a fan, but the only thing that concerns me is the Bengal Famine, and how much he was to blame for the 2.9 million deaths. I am not bothered about other controversial stuff he was involved with: Gallipoli, the partition of Ireland, Sidney Street, suppression of the General Strike, even trying to keep the Gold Standard. The Bengal Famine occurred in 1943, and I have not got to that bit yet.

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Still ploughing through Churchill by Andrew Roberts. I find it heavy going, so I do not read it every day. It is nearly 1000 pages long. Andrew Roberts does not blame Churchill for the Bengal famine in 1943. Personally I find it difficult to believe he deliberately allowed 3 million Bengalis to starve like Mukajee claimed. Churchill could be ruthless, but he was not when he did not have to be (in his judgement). I think the devolved governments in India deserved much of the blame, but Churchill should not escape his fair share. He made many other contentious decisions, e.g. area bombing of German cities,; returning Russian Nazi collaborators to Russia where they were all executed; the Dardanelles campaign (although that might have worked if resourced adequately), trying to keep the Gold Standard, breaking the General Strike, partitioning Ireland,, partitioning other countries. The only issue that bothers me was the Bengal Famine.

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