cover image Churchill's Empire: The World That Made Him and the World He Made

Churchill's Empire: The World That Made Him and the World He Made

Richard Toye , Holt/Macrae, $30 (448p) ISBN 978-0-8050-8795-6

Not a conventional biography, this is a probing and thoroughly enjoyable life focusing on the contradictions and dilemmas of Churchill's imperialism. British historian Toye (Lloyd George and Churchill: Rivals for Greatness) stresses that Churchill (1874–1965), a Victorian aristocrat, assumed white superiority but regularly proclaimed that nonwhites deserved equal rights and, eventually, independence once they discarded their primitive ways and achieved European levels of culture. Few British politicians disagreed, but whites in the colonies furiously defended their superior status; Churchill did not always sympathize but avoided making waves. By the 1930s, his imperialism was no longer mainstream. When Parliament debated Indian self-government, his violent objections angered party leaders as much as his attacks on appeasement of Germany before WWII. He was the apostle of freedom during the war, yet he exempted British colonies from that right, which caused persistent friction with Roosevelt, disorder throughout India, and failed to influence postwar leaders who lacked Churchill's romantic attachment to empire and disposed of it with only modest complaints from the electorate. Even veterans of Churchilliana will find plenty of fresh material, recounted with wit and insight into a man whose values were shaped by an age that no longer existed. (Aug.)