Gandhi & Churchill : The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age
In this fascinating and meticulously researched book, bestselling historian Arthur Herman sheds new light on two of the most universally recognizable icons of the twentieth century, and reveals how their forty-year rivalry sealed the fate of India and the British Empire.
They were born worlds apart: Winston Churchill to Britain's most glamorous aristocratic family, Mohandas Gandhi to a pious middle-class household in a provincial town in India. Yet Arthur Herman reveals how their lives and careers became intertwined as the twentieth century unfolded. Both men would go on to lead their nations through harrowing trials and two world wars--and become locked in a fierce contest of wills that would decide the fate of countries, continents, and ultimately an empire.
Gandhi & Churchill reveals how both men were more alike than different, and yet became bitter enemies over the future of India, a land of 250 million people with 147 languages and dialects and 15 distinct religions--the jewel in the crown of Britain's overseas empire for 200 years.
Over the course of a long career, Churchill would do whatever was necessary to ensure that India remain British--including a fateful redrawing of the entire map of the Middle East and even risking his alliance with the United States during World War Two.
Mohandas Gandhi, by contrast, would dedicate his life to India's liberation, defy death and imprisonment, and create an entirely new kind of political movement: satyagraha, or civil disobedience. His campaigns of nonviolence in defiance of Churchill and the British, including his famous Salt March, would become the blueprint not only for the independence of India but for the civil rights movement in the U.S. and struggles for freedom across the world.
Now master storyteller Arthur Herman cuts through the legends and myths about these two powerful, charismatic figures and reveals their flaws as well as their strengths. The result is a sweeping epic of empire and insurrection, war and political intrigue, with a fascinating supporting cast, including General Kitchener, Rabindranath Tagore, Franklin Roosevelt, Lord Mountbatten, and Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. It is also a brilliant narrative parable of two men whose great successes were always haunted by personal failure, and whose final moments of triumph were overshadowed by the loss of what they held most dear.
From the Hardcover edition.
- Pulitzer Prize
Historian Herman (How the Scots Invented the Modern World) paints a forceful portrait of the emergence of the postcolonial era in the fateful contrast--and surprising affinities--between two historic figures on opposite sides of the struggle for Indian independence. Churchill and Gandhi, both elites in their respective milieus, began their careers with remarkably similar perspectives and trod intersecting paths across India, South Africa and England. They shared an obsession with physical courage (albeit channeled in different ways) that tied conceptions of masculinity to larger ideas of racial identity and moral superiority--and India loomed large in their triumphal careers, ultimately frustrating both men's idealism. While Herman's dual biography artfully depicts the personalities of the two men, he gives short shrift to the more complex forces of British imperial decline, Indian nationalism and the emergence of the postwar order (for example, Herman helpfully but also too neatly explains the dogged centrality of India and the British raj in Churchill's worldview as an act of filial loyalty to his beloved father) But the author also takes careful account of the constellation of modern and antimodern currents of late Victorian thought in situating these vastly influential figures in a fascinating narrative of their times. (May) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
Showing 1-1 of the 1 most recent reviews
1 . Excellent
Posted May 07, 2009 by Alison Wardle , Radda in ChiantiExcellent. Author Herman gives us an enjoyably readable account of the end of the Raj, with very helpful background on the events that led up to it. Highly recommendable for anyone interested in knowing more about India, Ghandi and his philosophy and tactics, Churchill and the Second World War.
April 27, 2008
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Gandhi & Churchill by Arthur Herman
The Churchills and the Raj
And Blenheim's Tower shall triumph O'er Whitehall--anonymous pamphleteer, 1705
On November 30, 1874, another baby boy was born on the other side of the world. This one also first saw light in his grandfather's house, but on a far grander scale--indeed, in the biggest private home in Britain.
Surrounded by three thousand acres of "green lawns and shining water, banks of laurel and fern, groves of oak and cedar, fountains and islands," Blenheim Castle boasted 187 rooms.1 It was in a drafty bedroom on the first floor that Jennie Jerome Churchill gave birth to her first child. "Dark eyes and hair" was how her twenty-five-year-old husband, Randolph Churchill, described the boy to Jennie's mother, and "wonderfully very pretty everybody says."2
The child's baptized name would be Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill. If the Gandhis were unknown outside their tiny Indian state, the Churchill name was steeped in history. John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough, had been Europe's most acclaimed general and the most powerful man in Britain. His series of victories over France in the first decade of the eighteenth century had made Britain a world-class power. A grateful Queen Anne gave him the royal estate at Woodstock on which to build a palace, which he named after his most famous victory. For Winston Churchill, Blenheim Castle would always symbolize a heritage of glory and a family born to greatness.
Yet the first Duke of Marlborough had been followed by a succession of nonentities. If the power and wealth of England expanded to unimagined heights over the next century, that of the Churchills steadily declined.
The vast fortune that the first duke accumulated in the age of Queen Anne was squandered by his successors. When Randolph's father inherited the title in 1857, the same year the Great Mutiny raged in India, he had been faced, like his father and grandfather before him, by debts of Himalayan proportions and slender means with which to meet them. Randolph's grandfather had already turned Blenheim into a public museum, charging visitors one shilling admission. Randolph's father would have to sell off priceless paintings (including a Raphael and Van Dyck's splendid equestrian portrait of King Charles I, still the largest painting in the National Gallery), the fabulous Marlborough collection of gems, and the eighteen-thousand-volume Sunderland library, in order to make ends meet.3
In the financial squeeze which was beginning to affect nearly all the Victorian aristocracy, the Spencer-Churchills felt the pinch more than most. For Randolph Churchill, the Marlborough legacy was a bankrupt inheritance. In a crucial sense, it was no inheritance at all. His older brother, Lord Blandford, would take over the title, Blenheim, and the remaining estates. What was left for him, and for his heirs, was relatively paltry (although much more than the patrimony of the great majority of Britons), with 4,200 pounds a year and the lease on a house in Mayfair.4
So the new father, twenty-five-year-old Randolph, was going to have to cut his own way into the world, just as his son would. And both would choose the same way: politics.
Randolph was the family rebel, a natural contrarian and malcontent. Beneath his pale bulging eyes, large exquisite mustache, and cool aristocratic hauteur was the soul of a headstrong alpha male. As he told his friend Lord Rosebery, "I like to be the boss."5 Young Lord Randolph was determined to make a name for himself as a member of Parliament. All he needed was an issue.
In 1874 an issue was not easy to find. At the time when Winston Churchill was born, British politics reflected a consensus that the country had not known in nearly a hundred years--and soon would never know again.6 The last big domestic battle had been fought over the Second Reform Bill of 1867, when crowds in London clashed in the streets with police and tore up railings around Hyde Park. Passage of the act opened the door to Britain's first working-class voters. But almost a decade later neither Conservatives nor Liberals were inclined to let it swing open any wider.
Both parties agreed that free trade was the cornerstone of the British economy, still the most productive in the world. Both agreed on the importance of keeping the gold standard. They even agreed that social reform was best left in private and local hands, although Parliament would occasionally give its approval to a round of slum clearances or a comprehensive health act. A twelve-hour day for the average workman, and ten and a half hours for women and young persons older than thirteen, made eminent good sense economically and morally. Giving them a government retirement pension or an unemployment check did not.7
Tories and Liberals also agreed on maintaining an empire that was without rival and on defending it with a navy that was second to none.