‘I Don’t Think I’m Wrong About Stalin’: Churchill’s Strategic And Diplomatic Assumptions At Yalta

Richard Toye

Cross-posted from History Matters

On 23 February 1945 Churchill invited all ministers outside the War Cabinet to his room at the House of Commons to hear his account of the Yalta conference and the one at Malta that had preceded it. The Labour minister Hugh Dalton recorded in his diary that “The PM spoke very warmly of Stalin. He was sure […] that as long as Stalin lasted, Anglo-Russian friendship could be maintained.” Churchill added: “Poor Neville Chamberlain believed he could trust with Hitler. He was wrong. But I don’t think I’m wrong about Stalin.”[1]

Just five days later, however, Churchill’s trusted private secretary John Colville noted the arrival of:

“sinister telegrams from Roumania showing that the Russians are intimidating the King and Government […] with all the techniques familiar to students of the Comintern. […] When the PM came back [from dining at Buckingham Palace] […] he said he feared he could do nothing. Russia had let us go our way in Greece; she would insist on imposing her will in Roumania and Bulgaria. But as regards Poland we would have our say. As we went to bed, after 2.00 a.m. the PM said to me, ‘I have not the slightest intention of being cheated over Poland, not even if we go to the verge of war with Russia.”[2]

At an initial glance, there seems to be a powerful contradiction between these different sets of remarks. In the first, Churchill appears remarkably naïve and foolish, putting his faith in his personal relationship with a man whom he knew to be a mass murderer. In the second he seems strikingly, even recklessly bellicose, contemplating a new war with the Soviets, his present allies, even before the Germans and the Japanese had been defeated.

Surprising though it may seem, the disjuncture is not as large as it appears on the surface. Relations with the USSR and the future of Poland were not the only things that were at stake at Yalta. The Big Three took important decisions regarding the proposed United Nations Organization, and the post-war treatment of Germany, and even Anglo-US relations were not uncomplicated. In this post, however, I want to focus on the Polish issue and the broader question of how Churchill viewed the Soviet Union and its place in international relations more generally. I will outline three key assumptions that governed Churchill’s approach and which explain the apparent discrepancies in his remarks upon his return. Continue reading “‘I Don’t Think I’m Wrong About Stalin’: Churchill’s Strategic And Diplomatic Assumptions At Yalta”

Decolonising the curriculum: A conversation

Nandini Chatterjee and Richard Toye
University of Exeter

Nandini Chatterjee (NC): Is there a necessary connection between trying to make the university an inclusive place, and decolonising the curriculum?

Richard Toye (RT): Yes, I think there is, but at the same time they are not one and the same thing. That is to say, you could, in theory, have a wonderful, fully decolonised curriculum and at the same time fail to eradicate the various forms of discrimination that staff and students face. On the other hand, you could perhaps do a fair bit to removing those inequalities without having succeeded in adjusting the curriculum. But I do think that the two things go hand in hand, insofar as the messages that we give in the classroom are obviously a very important part of the university experience. If we set the right tone there, both in terms of inclusiveness and intellectual content, that really ought to have some wider benefit. I think there is a dilemma, though. Some people may well have an interest in a particular type of history because of their own ethnic and family history, and why not? But I think that we have to be careful not to assume that because somebody comes from a particular background they will be interested in a particular type or part of history and that ‘inclusiveness’ is achieved by laying on that variety of history. Black people may be especially interested in black history, for all sorts of good reasons, but nobody should expect them to be, or assume that they will be uninterested in other kinds of history. We wouldn’t expect white people only to be interested in white history, in fact I think we would look upon that as positively dangerous. What is your view? Continue reading “Decolonising the curriculum: A conversation”

Review – Reading the Postwar Future: Textual Turning Points from 1944

Reading the Postwar Future: Textual Turning Points from 1944
Edited by Kirrily Freeman and John Munro.
Bloomsbury Academic, 2020

Reviewed by Richard Toye (University of Exeter)

Cross-posted from E-International Relations

The editors of this volume note its origins “as a cross-corridor conversation along the lines of ‘Have you ever noticed how many influential books were written in 1944?’” (p.x). This conversation gave rise to a project of intellectual history exploring how key texts from this pivotal year reflected on, and helped shape, a different world order. The twelve chapters are not in fact confined to books; there are treatments, for example, of a Kurosawa film (by Chikako Nagayama), of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (by Suzanne Langlois), of the 1944 Democratic Party programme (by Katherine Rye Jewell), and of a Mao Zedong speech made in tribute to a fallen comrade (by Rebecca E. Karl). The Mao speech became “one of the three ‘constantly read articles’ of socialist education campaigns” (p.216). As the editors acknowledge, there are several other texts which might have been included, such as Sartre’s Huis Clos. However, they are to be commended on a judicious selection and on their choice of a novel frame through which to examine a significant historical moment.

F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom actually receives two different treatments. Radhika Desai compares it to Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation which, she argues, has been unjustly neglected. In her analysis, Hayek provided a thin, ahistorical account which attributed the interwar movement towards economic planning to the intellectual failures of “socialists” (who in his view could be found in every party). She argues convincingly that Polanyi’s book “goes for the jugular of the Austrian/Hayekian argument against planning and otherwise interfering in the allegedly spontaneous or natural market mechanism” (p.34). Polanyi rejected the idea that laissez-faire had emerged naturally and that subsequent legislation that departed from it was the consequence of deliberate action by opponents of the tenets of economic liberalism. In fact, he said, laissez-faire was itself the product of purposeful government action, whereas the subsequent limitations placed upon it arose spontaneously because of the threat that free markets posed to key aspects of society. Polanyi, Desai notes, ended up being marginalised in his career, whereas Hayek took laurels which, as far as she is concerned, were wholly undeserved. Continue reading “Review – Reading the Postwar Future: Textual Turning Points from 1944”

The 1963 Skopje earthquake and its international significance: an interview with Ljubica Spaskovska

Centre Director Richard Toye interviews Dr. Ljubica Spaskovska (University of Exeter) about the 1963 Skopje earthquake and its international significance (8 November 2018).

The Unnecessary Book

“To Winston, with affectionate birthday greetings from his old castigator” by David Low, 1954

Centre Director Richard Toye has reviewed Andrew Roberts’s new book Churchill: Walking with Destiny in the newest Times Literary Supplement. Here is a sneak preview:

churchillOn April 9, 1994, the cover of the Spectator boasted a colourful cartoon that depicted Winston Churchill sticking up two fingers to a boatload of Caribbean migrants – “the Windrush generation”, as we would now call them. Inside was an article by Andrew Roberts (who had previously made a name for himself as a biographer of Lord Halifax) which labelled Churchill as an ideological racist. “For all his public pronouncements on ‘The Brotherhood of Man’ he was an unrepentant white – not to say Anglo-Saxon – supremacist”, Roberts wrote. Moreover, “for Churchill, negroes were ‘niggers’ or ‘blackamoors’, Arabs were ‘worthless’, Chinese were ‘chinks’ or ‘pigtails’, and other black races were ‘baboons’ or ‘Hottentots’.”

Roberts’s claims, which were soon to be published at greater length in his book Eminent Churchillians, provoked a storm of criticism. The historian Niall Ferguson wrote that ‘my friend Andrew Roberts has joined the growing ranks of Churchill-bashers’. Bill Deedes, who had served as a junior minister in Churchill’s final government, lamented in the Daily Telegraph that ‘We live in times when greatness draws critics and genius attracts iconoclasts – and iconoclasm sells books.’ Lady Williams, a former personal secretary to Churchill, told biographer William Manchester that Roberts’s ‘scurrilous allegations’ were symptomatic of a form of history that involved ‘shooting down great historic figures’. Continue reading “The Unnecessary Book”

James Fallon, the Improbable Irish Winemaker: an interview with Jennifer Regan-Lefebvre

Centre Director Professor Richard Toye interviews Professor Jennifer Regan-Lefebvre (Trinity College, Connecticut) about her research on imperial wine making, at the North American Conference on British Studies, Providence RI, 27 October 2018.

Interview with Dr. Olivette Otele – ‘Bordering on Brexit: Global Britain and the Embers of Empire’ Conference

The ‘Bordering on Brexit: Global Britain and the Embers of Empire‘ Conference was held last weekend at Garrison Library, Gibraltar. Professor Richard Toye, Director of Exeter’s Centre for Imperial and Global History, interviews Dr. Olivette Otele (Bath Spa) on the question of contested and controversial history and memorialisation in Bristol.

Interview with Fintan O’Toole – ‘Bordering on Brexit: Global Britain and the Embers of Empire’ Conference

The ‘Bordering on Brexit: Global Britain and the Embers of Empire‘ Conference was held last weekend at Garrison Library, Gibraltar. Professor Richard Toye, Director of Exeter’s Centre for Imperial and Global History, interviews Fintan O’Toole (Irish Times) about his conference keynote.

Interview with Prof. Astrid Rasch – ‘Bordering on Brexit: Global Britain and the Embers of Empire’ Conference

The ‘Bordering on Brexit: Global Britain and the Embers of Empire‘ Conference was held last weekend at Garrison Library, Gibraltar. Professor Richard Toye, Director of Exeter’s Centre for Imperial and Global History, interviews Prof. Astrid Rasch (NTNU) about the conference and the ‘Embers of Empire’ project.

Winston Churchill, France and Europe


Centre Director Richard Toye recently discussed how Churchill has been utilized within the Brexit debate, and Churchill’s relationship with Europe – you can listen through the links below.

Cross-posted from France in the UK

A special Franco-British conversation about leading figures of our shared history.

Historians Richard Toye and Christian Destremau examine Winston Churchill’s relationship to France and Europe, and the different narratives that have been built since.

As part of The Fabric of Citizenship seminar series.

Podcasts

You can now listen to this special evening thanks to Culturethèque.

Tristan Mendès France on his grandfather Pierre Mendès France

Richard Toye explores Winston Churchill’s relationship to France and Europe

Christian Destremau explores Winston Churchill’s relationship to France and Europe

Imagining Britain’s economic future, c.1800-1975

David Thackeray, Richard Toye, and Andrew Thompson
University of Exeter

This book considers how Britain has imagined its economic role in the wider world and how British ideas have influenced global debates about market relationships between the start of the nineteenth century and the UK’s first European referendum. In doing so, the authors explore the interplay between the high political thought of theorists, the activities of officials and businesspeople, and the everyday experience of the wider public. Across the contributions to this book there is a consideration of the competing factors which affected market decisions and the processes of ‘economic imagination’.

The economist Joseph Schumpeter put the concept of imagination at the heart of the entrepreneurial process. It was this quality which, above all, businesspeople required if they were to succeed: ‘the capacity of seeing things in a way which proves afterwards to be true, even though it cannot be established [as such] at the time’.[1] He saw that economies are, in a sense, imaginative constructs – making calculations about and placing faith in the future and its possibilities are key qualities of investors and entrepreneurs.

Schumpeter’s work on the entrepreneurial imagination was an important influence in the development of Ronald Robinson and John Gallagher’s concept of the ‘official mind’, which they saw as the key driving force behind British imperial expansion in the nineteenth century. As they noted in Africa and the Victorians, London policy-makers ‘were usually dealing with countries they had never seen, with questions apprehended intellectually from reports and recommendations on paper….it was the idea and analysis of African situations in Whitehall, and not the realities in Africa as such which moved Victorian statesmen to act or not to act’.[2]

The question of how changing levels of information available to economic actors has affected the role of imagination in decision making in the modern world is an important one. As international business scholars have acknowledged, economic imagination is ultimately shaped by the interpretation of past experience, access to information about markets (which can sometimes be faulty), and hopes placed in the future. Perceptions of distance between markets are ultimately culturally constructed. The ‘physic distance’ between markets perceived by businesspeople, policy makers, and consumers may not correspond to actual measurable differences in institutions, preferences, and values as economic actors may exaggerate or underestimate the cultural distance between two countries involved in a transaction.[3]

The 2016 EU referendum provides a good example of how public debates about an imagined economic future can radically reshape public policy. Continue reading “Imagining Britain’s economic future, c.1800-1975”

Old Man in A Hurry

Richard Toye
Director, Centre for Imperial & Global History

Felix Klos, Churchill’s Last Stand: The Struggle to Unite Europe (I.B.Tauris, 2017)

Marco Duranti, The Conservative Human Rights Revolution: European Identity, Transnational Politics, and the Origins of the European Convention (Oxford University Press, 2017)

In the run-up to 2016 Brexit referendum, advocates of staying in the EU made significant efforts to invoke the memory of Winston Churchill. Remainers pointed to the fact that, in Zurich in 1946, he had urged the creation of ‘a kind of United States of Europe’. They seemed to regard him as something of a trump card – if Britain’s iconic wartime leader had been one of the fathers of the EU, who would dare to be against? However, as a persuasive tool, it never quite seemed to work. On the one hand, Leavers could legitimately point out that Churchill had said that Great Britain should be one of the ‘the friends and sponsors of the new Europe’, not one of its actual members. On the other hand, the message was just not quite simple enough; against the ingrained, popular bulldog image, it was tough to sell Churchill as a complex figure who was prepared to make concessions on British sovereignty in the interests of future peace.

It also didn’t help that Churchill’s pro-European campaign took place during a period of his life – the 1945-51 Opposition years – that few members of the public know much about. Popular memory of Churchill focuses to some extent on the 1930s but above all on the war years, and the summer of 1940 in particular. In fact, then, the referendum campaign’s most rhetorically effective invocation of Churchill was made by David Cameron during his appearance on Question Time. He did not attempt to argue that Churchill would have favoured membership of the EU as such, but rather – in response to an audience member who described him (Cameron) as a Twenty First Century Neville Chamberlain – he deployed a more emotionally powerful response:

At my office I sit two yards away from cabinet room where Winston Churchill decided in May to fight on against Hitler. The best and greatest decision perhaps anyone has made in our country. He didn’t want to be alone. He wanted to be fighting with the French, the Poles and the others. But he didn’t quit. He didn’t quit on democracy, he didn’t quit on freedom.

We want to fight for those things today. You can’t win if you’re not in the room.

Moreover, when one actually looks at the details of Churchill’s position on Europe, it’s not clear that he fits neatly into either the Leave or the Remain narrative. The two books under review, both excellent in their different ways, illustrate the point. Continue reading “Old Man in A Hurry”

Global Neoliberalisms: Lost and Found in Translation

This conference aims to provide a truly global account of the rise and entrenchment of the modern neoliberal order. Contributors will consider how neoliberal ideas travelled (or did not travel) across regions and polities; and analyse how these ideas were translated between groups and regions as embodied behaviours and business practices as well as through the global media and international organisations. As the fate of neoliberalism appears in question across many regions, it is an opportune moment to make sense of its ascendancy on a global scale.

Convenors:
Professor James Mark, University of Exeter
Professor Richard Toye, University of Exeter
Dr Ljubica Spaskovska, University of Exeter
Dr Tobias Rupprecht, University of Exeter

Speakers include:
Professor Jennifer Bair, University of Virginia
Professor Susan Bayly, University of Cambridge
Professor Johanna Bockman, George Mason University
Professor Stephanie Decker, Aston Business School
Mr Julian Gewirtz, University of Oxford
Professor Vanessa Ogle, UC Berkeley
Professor Daisuke Ikemoto, Meijigakuin University
Professor Artemy Kalinovsky, University of Amsterdam
Dr Alexander Kentikelenis, University of Oxford
Professor Pun Ngai, Hong Kong University
Professor Pal Nyiri, University of Amsterdam
Professor David Priestland, University of Oxford
Professor Bernhard Rieger, University of Leiden
Professor Quinn Slobodian, Wellesley College and Harvard University
Dr Jorg Wiegratz, University of Leeds

Registration:
A registration fee is payable at the time of booking. For further information and details of how to book please click on ‘Book event’.

Standard Admission: £95 for both days; £50 for one day
Early Bird booking (before 31 January 2018): £75 for both days; £40 for one day
Concessions: £36 for both days; £20 for one day

BOOK EVENT

Some people got depressed by Churchill’s speeches

Churchill’s visiting Geneva, 1946. Foto: Photopress-Archiv (Keystone)

Richard Toye, the English historian and rhetoric expert, talks about the influence Winston Churchill’s speeches had at the time – and what kind of reaction they got.

Cross-posted from Tages-Anzeiger

How does the Brexit situation harp back to longings about the British Empire?
Certainly things seemed to have changed very abruptly, and I would put down a lot of what has happened to the pursuit of austerity policies since 2010, and the fact that people’s living standards have sort of frozen or gotten worse. That creates an opportunity for people to play out various sentiments. It’s probably worth saying that when people have these discourses about Britain becoming great again they may be talking in almost total ignorance of what happened at the time.

About the time during the war?
No, I’m trying to explain why opinion has changed in the last few years to become more sympathetic to Brexit and towards imperial nostalgia. It has to do with the policies of cutting public spending and public services that have taken place. Then the situation becomes ripe for people to exploit discontent by blaming immigrants. So you have the playing up of the glorious past. Continue reading “Some people got depressed by Churchill’s speeches”