Churchill's Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India During World War II

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Basic Books, Jul 12, 2011 - History - 368 pages
A dogged enemy of Hitler, resolute ally of the Americans, and inspiring leader through World War II, Winston Churchill is venerated as one of the truly great statesmen of the last century. But while he has been widely extolled for his achievements, parts of Churchill’s record have gone woefully unexamined. As journalist Madhusree Mukerjee reveals, at the same time that Churchill brilliantly opposed the barbarism of the Nazis, he governed India with a fierce resolve to crush its freedom movement and a profound contempt for native lives. A series of Churchill’s decisions between 1940 and 1944 directly and inevitably led to the deaths of some three million Indians. The streets of eastern Indian cities were lined with corpses, yet instead of sending emergency food shipments Churchill used the wheat and ships at his disposal to build stockpiles for feeding postwar Britain and Europe.

Combining meticulous research with a vivid narrative, and riveting accounts of personality and policy clashes within and without the British War Cabinet, Churchill’s Secret War places this oft-overlooked tragedy into the larger context of World War II, India’s fight for freedom, and Churchill’s enduring legacy. Winston Churchill may have found victory in Europe, but, as this groundbreaking historical investigation reveals, his mismanagement—facilitated by dubious advice from scientist and eugenicist Lord Cherwell—devastated India and set the stage for the massive bloodletting that accompanied independence.

 

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Contents

1 Empire at War
1
2 Harvesting the Colonies
31
3 Scorched
57
4 At Any Price
81
5 Death of a Thousand Cuts
103
6 An Occupied and Starving Country
131
7 In the Village
151
8 On the Street
169
10 Life After Death
219
11 Split and Quit
239
12 The Reckoning
265
Acknowledgments
281
Bibliography
283
Notes
295
Index
321
Copyright

9 Run Rabbit Run
191

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About the author (2011)

Madhusree Mukerjee won a Guggenheim fellowship to write her previous book, The Land of Naked People. She has served on the board of editors of Scientific American. She lives near Frankfurt, Germany.

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