Was Churchill a hero or villain?Watch
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).
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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.
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.
Most sane people and non-fascists appreciate the two facts.
As reflected in the BBCs Greatest Briton vote.
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.
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.