Monday, May 30, 2011

Your hero, Chruchill

"In a period that saw historians like Niall Ferguson recommend the British Empire as a model for the exercise of American power abroad, the connection between Churchill’s imperialism and his racial prejudice became another major problem. It was most thoroughly addressed by Richard Toye in “Churchill’s Empire” (2010), which fair-mindedly explored the reasons Churchill’s “humanitarianism did not imply a belief in racial equality.” Toye often writes admiringly of Churchill, but does not shy away from the ugliness of some of his views — like his confession that “I hate people with slit-eyes and pig-tails,” or his nostalgia for the empire’s “jolly little wars against barbarous peoples.”  More serious than racist remarks is the charge leveled at Churchill in a book by Madhusree Mukerjee, Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India During World War II (Basic Books, $28.95). Mukerjee lays responsibility for the Bengal famine of 1943, which resulted in the deaths of some three million people, right at Churchill’s doorstep. She sharpens her point by drawing provocative analogies between the English and the Nazis. At the height of the famine, she writes, some relief kitchens in Bengal were offering the dying just 400 calories’ worth of rice a day, “at the low end of the scale on which, at much the same time, inmates at Buchenwald were being fed.”"