Churchill and empire: portrait of an imperialist
A genuinely new biography of Churchill, focusing on his contradictory and lifelong relationship with the British Empire.
As a young army officer in the late 19th century, Churchill's first experience of the Empire was serving in conflicts in India, South Africa and the Sudan. His attitude towards the Empire was the stereotypical Victorian paternalistic approach - a combination of feeling responsible and feeling superior. Conscious of his political career ahead, Churchill's natural benevolence towards the Empire was occasionally overruled for political reasons, and he found himself reluctantly supporting - or at least not publicly condemning - British atrocities. As a politician he consistently relied on the Empire for support during crises. He held racist views, feeling that some nationalities were superior to others, but not regarding those positions as fixed. His relationship with America reflected that view. This outmoded attitude was one of the reasons the British voters rejected him after the Second World War, when it was universally felt that he had led the country brilliantly. His attitude remained Victorian in a world that was shaping up very differently. It would be a mistake to consider Churchill merely as an out-dated soldier. He grasped the problems of the Cold War immediately, believing that immature nations prematurely given independence would be more likely to be sucked into the vortex of Communism. This view chimed with American foreign policy, and made the Americans rather more realistic about their demands for self-governance for Empire countries.
Lawrence James has written a fascinating portrait of an endlessly interesting statesman - and one that includes tantalising pieces about his penchants for silk underwear and champagne.
Hard cover, photographs, 464 pages.