Revisiting Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” Speech 70 Years After

1946_Churchill's-'Iron-Curtain'-speech

Richard Toye
History Department, University of Exeter

Follow on Twitter @RichardToye

The 5th of March marks the seventieth anniversary of Winston Churchill’s speech in Fulton, Missouri, in which he declared that an ‘iron curtain’ had descended across Europe. Delivered in the presence of US President Harry Truman, who had been instrumental in securing the former Prime Minister his invitation to speak, the address is well known as a landmark in the onset of the Cold War. Yet it is rarely considered in its full historical context. For the speech – formally entitled ‘The Sinews of Peace’ – was not merely a criticism of Russia. It was the means by which Churchill publicly enunciated his vision for a new world order. Continue reading “Revisiting Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” Speech 70 Years After”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

UncleSamStepingStoneToChina_0

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @MWPalen

From 21st-century US filibustering in Africa to how to make a country disappear, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

Churchill the Middlebrow

Richard Toye
History Department, University of Exeter

Follow on Twitter @RichardToye

Cross-posted from Australian Book Review

Rose Literary ChurchillOn the rear jacket of this fascinating and important book is a picture of Winston Churchill at his desk at Chartwell, his house in Kent, just a few months before the outbreak of World War II. Apparently caught in the moment of literary creation, cigar in mouth and concentrating on his papers, the photo credit – to a Picture Post photographer – leads to the obvious suspicion that this was actually a staged shot. For Churchill, his country home was not merely a place of repose but a writing factory, the output of which would earn him the large sums of money necessary for its upkeep. At the same time, his image as a man of letters served to advertise the product as well as to suggest the existence of a non-political ‘hinterland’ of the kind appropriate to a statesman of fertile brain and broad views. Continue reading “Churchill the Middlebrow”

The Roar of the Lion: The Debate Goes On

Roar of the lionIn the latest Reviews in History, published online by the Institute of Historical Research, Professor Kevin Matthews of George Mason University looks at Professor Richard Toye’s recent book The Roar of the Lion: The Untold Story of Churchill’s World War II Speeches, which has already aroused considerable controversy. Matthews notes:

To produce this study, Toye deftly combines secondary source material with archival research, especially Churchill’s own, often overlooked speech-writing files. The result is a book that is by turns informative, engaging, and, all too often, frustrating.

Matthews agrees that ‘Toye is surely right that Churchill did not command unanimous support during the war, a fact he demonstrates by lacing his book with contemporary reactions to the wartime speeches.’ However, he is critical of the book’s use of Mass-Observation material and the reports of the Ministry of information’s Home intelligence Division:

More than once, while the Home Intelligence Division reported overall support for a Churchill address, Toye is quick to highlight negative comments about the same speech found in the MO files, even when those comments represented ‘minority feeling’ (p. 108). Moreover, these negative reactions often say less about Churchill’s oratory than they do about a war-weary, but also fickle public.

In his author’s response, Toye responds robustly, arguing that Matthews overlooked the ways in which the book addresses such methodological concerns. Toye also emphasizes that highlighting contemporary criticisms of Churchill’s speeches does not necessarily amount to an endorsement of the critics’ point of view. He argues: ‘Once it is grasped that I am neither criticising Churchill nor rubbishing his speeches, then Matthews’s critique of my work loses its force.’

Who do you think is right?

You can check out the full exchange here.

Tracing Churchill’s Rhetoric on Imperial Trade

Screen Shot 2013-12-15 at 8.52.43 AMRichard Toye

Churchill and the Culture of Imperial Political Economy

Winston Churchill is not famed for his views on economics. Yet they formed an important aspect of his outlook.  Continue reading “Tracing Churchill’s Rhetoric on Imperial Trade”

Is Doctor Who an Anti-Imperialist?

Photo is from http://doctorwhoshirts.geekshirtshq.com/doctor-who-the-intro/
Photo is from http://doctorwhoshirts.geekshirtshq.com/doctor-who-the-intro/

Marc-William Palen

We have been tackling some weighty subjects in the Forum this past week. In particular, the pros and cons of global history. A lighter approach to imperial and global history seemed in order. And who better to do so than an alien traveler of time and space like the Doctor?

Last Saturday witnessed the much anticipated 50th anniversary episode of the series. I had thought that my 3D glasses were enough to hide my attendance at its theatrical debut. But the cat, as they say, is out of the bag. It appears that I have failed miserably in keeping my secret Doctor Who obsession, well, a secret.

Today, one of my students sent me a link to a great article in the New Statesman. It explores the liberal contradictions of the intrepid Doctor, much as the Centre’s Professor Richard Toye did with Winston Churchill and empire last week. The author of the New Statesman article, Andrew Harrison, sets the ideologically confusing intergalactic stage thusly: Continue reading “Is Doctor Who an Anti-Imperialist?”