As the Churchill anniversary approaches

Posted by Helen Thursday, January 22, 2015

Sir Winston Churchill, one of the best known politicians (or so people think) in this country, a man of many talents and of many flaws, a man who worked hard to create his own myth that has survived better than most others, died on January 24, 1965. The fiftieth anniversary is nearly upon us and, this blog is happy to acknowledge, a discussion is taking place in parallel to the usual mythological pronouncements.

This evening, as we have mentioned before, Professor Vernon Bogdanor is giving a talk at the Museum of London on Churchill's legacy. I shall go along, with pen and notebook at the ready, as I am intrigued by what Professor Bogdanor might say on the subject. I imagine there will be more than the usual personal mythology though that, too, is the great man's legacy.

On the other side, we have Professor John Charmley, unquestionably a conservative historian but not a great fan of Churchill's, writing about what he considers to be the ten greatest controversies of the latter's career. The piece is well worth reading though on some of the issues we could argue that there is no point in imposing our point of view on that of the past period. But, as Professor Charmley shows, even at the time there was severe criticism of Churchill's attitude to Jews, his use of poison gas and, above all, his ridiculous appearance during the Sidney Street siege.

I would add some more controversies as well: Churchill's catastrophic act, as Chancellor of Exchequer, of returning this country to the gold standard, his stance on the question of making India a Dominion (he was against it) and his stubborn support for Edward VIII and Wallace Simpson through attempted manipulation of the press and speeches in the Commons, during the last of which he was shouted down.

No doubt the debate will continue. Let us hope so, anyway. We cannot be silenced by people who prefer sugary mythology to historic arguments.

ADDENDUM: I did not get in to the lecture though I together with many other people arrived in time but the hall had filled a good deal earlier as some people had queued since quarter to five for a six o'clock start. Ah well.

On the subject of Churchillian controversies, a reader of this blog reminded me of Gallipoli, a disaster and a controversy if ever there was one. I replied with Norway though, as that, despite being Churchill's idea, led to  him becoming Prime Minister in 1940, would probably be considered to be a good thing by many people.

Let the debate rage on.

2 comments

  1. dfordoom Says:
  2. Charmley's piece on the ten greatest controversies of the Churchill's career is fascinating. I have to say that I think Churchill was spot on in his views on Gandhi and on unions.

     
  3. Helen Says:
  4. But not on the question of India's status. Sadly the law was passed too late and was too complicated to be implemented before the war.

     
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