Was Churchill a hero or villain? Watch

This discussion is closed.
Aberystwyth University Guest Lecturer
Badges: 5
Rep:
?
#1
Report Thread starter 4 weeks ago
#1
Winston Churchill has been described both as genocidal white supremacist and the saviour of the free world? In recent weeks a ferocious debate about Britain’s wartime premier has ranged across social media, on television and in the newspapers. When asked if Churchill was a Hero or villain, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell answered uncompromisingly “villain”, sparking a ferocious reaction. "I think my grandfather’s reputation can withstand a publicity-seeking assault from a third-rate, Poundland Lenin,” fumed Lord Soames. Most people have heard about the role Winston Churchill played in helping defeat the Nazis in the Second World War. However, Churchill’s imperialistic view of the British Empire, India, and Britain’s other colonial holdings is very problematic and has led to some people denouncing him as a national icon.

Join the discussion on Winston Churchill’s legacy. Led by Warren Dockter, this conversation will examine various aspects of Churchill’s career and re-examine them from a modern perspective. Warren hopes to help facilitate this discussion because ultimately how we see Churchill reveals more about our society today than it does about Churchill role in history or Britain’s in the past. Understanding how we view this towering figure will help inform how we understand modern issues like Brexit.

________________________________ _______________________

Dr Warren Dockter is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and gained his PhD at the University of Nottingham in July 2012. He has taught at the University of Exeter and the University of Worcester and was an Archives By-Fellow at Churchill College and Junior Research Fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge. He joined the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University in 2016 and has published three books on Winston Churchill including, Churchill and the Islamic World (2015). Warren presented Channel Four documentary ‘Churchill’s Secret Affair’ and was research assistant to Boris Johnson’s book 'The Churchill Factor’ (2015).
2
AperfectBalance
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#2
Report 4 weeks ago
#2
There has never been a greater force for good in the world compared to the British Empire, Churchill did very few bad things, and many of the 'atrocities' that are quoted as being his fault were either neccesary evil or grossly misrepresented.
5
tenacity
Badges: 12
Rep:
?
#3
Report 4 weeks ago
#3
What is often omitted from this conversation is that Churchill was a Liberal MP for twenty years, and as Chancellor under Lloyd George was an early architect of Britain's welfare state. As Michael Shelden and others have written, his initiatives included unemployment insurance, old age pensions, and the tea break. On many issues, such as homosexuality, Churchill was decades ahead of his time. On others, such as Islam and votes for women, his attitudes changed for the better over the course of his career in spite of the continued backwardness of many of his colleagues and constituents.

The accusation that he was 'genocidal' is too ridiculous to take seriously. Whether he was a white supremacist in any meaningful way is less obvious. The argument that he was a man of his time has become cliched, but for good reason: it's true. Most people had views which we find appalling today. In this context he was, or at least became, remarkably progressive for his time, and has suffered not because he was especially unpleasant but simply because he has, arguably, been more closely scrutinised than any other Briton since his death.

It is unquestionable that without Churchill we would have arranged a peace with Nazi Germany in 1940. With the possible exception of Napoleon I, he is in this respect the greatest asset to Great Man History that we are ever likely to have.

Despite mediocre academic performance in his younger years, his incredible capacity for industry led to him writing more than Shakespeare and Dickens combined, which culminated in being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953.
Last edited by tenacity; 4 weeks ago
5
Alexty28
Badges: 16
Rep:
?
#4
Report 4 weeks ago
#4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4m_BwYeIRo
1
EndlessCuriosity
Badges: 3
Rep:
?
#5
Report 4 weeks ago
#5
If History is judged by today's context, most historical figures would be denounced for their "radical" views. It is both difficult and perhaps dangerous to judge Churchill's view by today's standard because the political-era and society's attitudes in general were very different back then. He was a fighter and like it or not, he led and WON the fight against Nazis which, FUN FACT: ALL PEOPLE THOUGHT WERE BAD AT THE TIME! (Though that clearly doesn't seem to be the case now!!!!). Of course, not all actions can be excused by time (e.g. slavery and racial/religious persecution) but people often forget context and judge things the way THEY think that things should be judged.
4
Fullofsurprises
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#6
Report 4 weeks ago
#6
The genocidal thing is based on a book about the 1943 Bengal Famine by an Indian academic who wildly misrepresented sources and fabricated elements of the story, particularly around Churchill's involvement in decision making. That said, it is true that there was considerable indifference by Churchill (and other British and Allied war leaders) to the plight of the Indian population affected by famine and a reluctance to prioritise saving civilians in the famine above military transport needs. This kind of attitude prevailed throughout WW2 and in all major war participants, so it wasn't unique to either Churchill or India. It wasn't by any stretch a calculated genocide, but it was pretty awful.

Churchill as white supremacist is a more realistic charge. He shared a bunch of attitudes commonplace amongst Europeans and Americans at that time - which included everyday racism of all kinds. It was part of the regular discourse of his upbringing and the people around him. He seems not have been a particularly worst colonialist racist than many other defenders and members of the British imperial ruling class, but not particularly better either. Classifying him as a white racist is mainly an anachronism.

I see OP is American and continues to spread the American view (popular before and during WW2) that Britain (and by extension, its leaders) were wholly motivated by old fashioned colonialist imperialism, something that only the democratic Americans could see through and critique. We are invited to ignore the subsequent decades of grotesque US imperialism that followed the replacement of the UK by the US as world master in the 50s. :rolleyes:
10
barnetlad
Badges: 19
Rep:
?
#7
Report 4 weeks ago
#7
Churchill as leader in WW2 definitely saved the UK and should be remembered for that above all else. There are other things he did which were bad even by the standards of the day, but perhaps these should not detract from his leadership in WW2. The Conservative Party was it must be remembered divided in 1940 over what to do next, and there was a school of thought about agreeing to peace with the Nazis.
3
londonmyst
Badges: 18
Rep:
?
#8
Report 4 weeks ago
#8
He saved Britain from the Nazis and was one of the most high profile opponents of the appeasement of fascism in europe.
Most sane people and non-fascists appreciate the two facts.
As reflected in the BBCs Greatest Briton vote.
1
Taz554:-)
Badges: 15
Rep:
?
#9
Report 4 weeks ago
#9
"I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place." said from his mouth after he massacred them in the millions. Yall believe your history books and not the native Indians and Aboriginals being driven to their thousands due to the 'hero'
8
tryingtostudyuh
Badges: 5
Rep:
?
#10
Report 3 weeks ago
#10
Coming from an Indian background myself, I believe that Churchill was vile. However, for the british he was an excellent leader. But one must not forget the atrocities that occurred during his rule and the pain that he caused. He shouldn't be celebrated, rather the public should be informed both about the good and bad things that he did during WW2. He was definitely NOT a man of peace!!
5
the bear
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#11
Report 3 weeks ago
#11
Mr Churchill did much worse things than shouting at his girlfriend. But because of his heroic behavior in the struggle against the Germans he has achieved undying admiration from normal British people.
2
Prussianxo
Badges: 16
Rep:
?
#12
Report 3 weeks ago
#12
both
Posted on the TSR App. Download from Apple or Google Play
1
Aberystwyth University Guest Lecturer
Badges: 5
Rep:
?
#13
Report Thread starter 3 weeks ago
#13
(Original post by AperfectBalance)
There has never been a greater force for good in the world compared to the British Empire, Churchill did very few bad things, and many of the 'atrocities' that are quoted as being his fault were either neccesary evil or grossly misrepresented.

I take your point and it is very easy for those of us in the UK and the West to see Churchill through rose coloured glasses but your perspective might be different if you were from India or Africa. He was a very complex historical figure and I would argue that it in fact pays him tribute when we truthfully examine his legacy warts and all.
Last edited by Puddles the Monkey; 3 weeks ago
0
Aberystwyth University Guest Lecturer
Badges: 5
Rep:
?
#14
Report Thread starter 3 weeks ago
#14
take your point and it is very easy for those of us in the UK and the West to see Churchill through rose coloured glasses but your perspective might be different if you were from India or Africa. He was a very complex historical figure and I would argue that it in fact pays him tribute when we truthfully examine his legacy warts and all.
1
Aberystwyth University Guest Lecturer
Badges: 5
Rep:
?
#15
Report Thread starter 3 weeks ago
#15
I completely agree with most of this post. Firstly, Churchill's time as a liberal was probably far more important and influential than some biographers would leave you to believe. Moreover, I agree about the notion of him being 'genocidal'. I would argue that while he was certainly racist toward Hindu Indians but there is little comparison between the Bengal famine and something truly genocidal such as Stalin and the Ukrainian famine. However there are historians who might disagree such as Madhusree Mukerjee.
0
Aberystwyth University Guest Lecturer
Badges: 5
Rep:
?
#16
Report Thread starter 3 weeks ago
#16
I think you raise an interesting issue around retroactively applying today's standards and ethics to previous times. Typically, though not always I agree with you on this that retroactively applying social mores can have the trappings of poor scholarship. It becomes important then to measure Churchill against his contemporaries. For instance, many in the press and several of his friends thought his idea about India were hopelessly outdated and imperialistic in the 1930s. When he called Gandhi a half-naked fakir, many in Britain and India condemned Churchill's position.
1
Aberystwyth University Guest Lecturer
Badges: 5
Rep:
?
#17
Report Thread starter 3 weeks ago
#17
The historian you are talking about is Madhusree Mukerjee and I tend to agree that Mukerjee did not get the decision making process correct in the analysis of the Bengal famine. But it is still a legitimate point of view to discuss, though I personally disagree with it for the reasons you outlined. I am pretty impressed with your answer actually.
0
Aberystwyth University Guest Lecturer
Badges: 5
Rep:
?
#18
Report Thread starter 3 weeks ago
#18
There is an interesting dimension I think you touch on here. That is to say, just because Churchill did lots wrong that should not take away from the good things he did. I think that as historians, this is our challenge. Not to try to count points about good vs evil etc but to try to understand Churchill and his motivations warts in all as they say. Sure Churchill Led Britain and Allied to victory in World War Two but also had some horrific views about Indians etc. It is perhaps an historic irony that many of his speeches which went to inspire hope among the British and Americans went on later to influence people like Nelson Mandela.
0
Aberystwyth University Guest Lecturer
Badges: 5
Rep:
?
#19
Report Thread starter 3 weeks ago
#19
Of course Churchill helped defeat the Nazis and this was an amazing achievement but this must also be taken with the questionable issues around him as well.
0
Good bloke
Badges: 19
Rep:
?
#20
Report 3 weeks ago
#20
(Original post by Aberystwyth University Guest Lecturer)
I take your point and it is very easy for those of us in the UK and the West to see Churchill through rose coloured glasses but your perspective might be different if you were from India or Africa.
You have yet to make a case for we Britons to view him through a foreign lens.
1
X
new posts

University open days

  • Aberystwyth University
    Undergraduate Open Day Undergraduate
    Sat, 14 Sep '19
  • Aberystwyth University
    General Open Day Undergraduate
    Sat, 14 Sep '19
  • Aberystwyth University
    Undergraduate Open Day Undergraduate
    Sat, 12 Oct '19

Are cats selfish

Yes (126)
60.29%
No (83)
39.71%

Watched Threads

View All
Latest
My Feed

See more of what you like on
The Student Room

You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

Personalise