There are many conflicting opinions about Winston Churchill out there, with advocates of each closing their ears to the other side's view. This partisan stance from society towards Winston Churchill is no-doubt earned from his life and actions. I never studied him at school, apart from when we briefly covered the second world war, and I didn't know much more than a few quotations, the fact he liked cigars, and that he died long before I was born. A recent story came to light when a group of activists wanted to have his statue removed from parliament square. This being due to his imperialist ideologue and a few snippets from his various written works that seem to define him as a racist and white supremacist. Why is he treated as a saint when he carries such a large shadow? I read this book in order to get a better idea.
It begins as many biographies do with Churchill's early years. Born into money within a traditional and states-person central family, a future of great things seemed to already be laid out for him. He lived in India when he was young and enjoyed playing polo most of the time, although he was a stationed officer of the British army. Never did he cook his own food or make his own bed, he had a servant that took care of all his everyday needs. When the first world war broke out, he went off to the trenches like everyone else, yet still managed to sip champaign, have his meals cooked for him, and he employed someone to keep his quarters tidy.
Joining the Conservative Party as a fresh civilian once the war was over, a career in politics soon blossomed. Clearly with no idea about the daily struggle of ordinary people, he could only seem the world through the eyes of a person who never felt the pang of hunger or the sleepless nights worrying if you'll be able to pay the essentials when other people expect so much as well. It was during this early time as a fledgling politician that Churchill made most of his famous imperialist quotes. He subscribed to eugenics theory in which only high achievers should be allowed to reproduce. He also said that white English people are morally bound to take care of lesser races.
It was only until after the second world war that he recanted most of these views. Frightfulness is not a remedy found in the British pharmacopoeia as he rightfully said. It seems he didn't realise how frightful some of his early ideas were. But what about the thing that made him famous? If it wasn't for the defeat of Nazism then he'd have likely been a faded face on a photograph hardly anyone notices. Why did he become the figurehead of freedom and victory?
His war tactics were arguably flawed, the bombing campaigns intended for pure terror and without any viable war targets led to the deaths of hundred of thousands of non-combatant Germans and the destruction of hundreds of British planes filled with the brightest and bravest of all of us. Most of Churchill's air tactics would be deemed war crimes in today's world. It was only through the combined efforts of Britain, Russia, The USA, and the resistance fighters in their native lands that Nazism was defeated. The rubble left behind by British carpet bombing gave the Nazis one last defence against the oncoming armies.
So why do we iconise Churchill as the face of bravery and freedom? He has become synonymous with certain human qualities and flaws. He makes war seem moral and right. If you can liken your cause to the allies against Nazism and identify yourself with Churchill, people will rally behind you. Like a modern day Abracadabra, if you can summon the ghost of Winston Churchill then you can persuade people to fight. When this happens, a lot of money is spent in nearly every sector. So by keeping Churchill famous and by silver lining his shadow the big powers can continue to use his famous ideas to push their own agendas.
The fact that I can recount this all to you in one go is pretty good evidence towards the quality of this lengthy but worthwhile book.
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