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Gandhi and Churchill: The Rivalry That Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age [Paperback]

Arthur Herman
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Sep 2009

Mohandas Gandhi and Winston Churchill: India's moral leader and Great Britain's greatest Prime Minister. Born five years and seven thousand miles apart, they became embodiments of the nations they led. Both became living icons, idolized and admired around the world. Today, they remain enduring models of leadership in a democratic society.

Yet the truth was Churchill and Gandhi were bitter enemies throughout their lives. This book reveals, for the first time, how that rivalry shaped the twentieth century and beyond. For more than forty years, from 1906 to 1948, Gandhi and Churchill were locked in a tense struggle for the hearts and minds of the British public, and of world opinion. Although they met only once, their titanic contest of wills would decide the fate of nations, continents, peoples, and ultimately an Empire.

Here is a sweeping epic with a fascinating supporting cast, and 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.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow (3 Sep 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099493446
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099493440
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 180,848 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"You finish Gandhi & Churchill knowing that you can evaluate the world today, particularly modern India, with more knowledge and insight" (USA Today)

"Exquisitely detailed ... replete with stories underscoring the gulf between Churchill's robust realism and Gandhi's ascetic utopianism" (Washington Times)

"The rivalry between Winston Churchill and Mohandas Gandhi could hardly have been played for higher stakes. The future of British India hung upon the outcome of their 20-year struggle ... Herman has researched Gandhi & Churchill meticulously and written it fluently" (Wall Street Journal)

"An insightful and engaging interpretation of a common history" (Time Out)

"Herman's dual biography artfully depicts the personalities of the two men ... [and] 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" (Publishers Weekly)


'Exquisitely detailed ... replete with stories underscoring the gulf between Churchill's robust realism and Gandhi's ascetic utopianism' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a must read... 10 July 2011
This is a wonderful treatise on Gandhi and Churchill. Although it is a historical account, this has been written like a novel - with the twists and turns which keep you enthralled. I am a Gandhi fan knowing that he had his faults. This book gives a balanced perspective of him. I did not know much about Churchill apart from the fact that he hated the 'other races'. This book did not endear me to Churchill and confirmed my views. He, however was a man with firm views and a great orator. I will probably read this book again after some time. I would recommend this to anyone interested in the history of Indian independence or in politics in general.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Nik C
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the best book I have come across so far describing the historic developments since the great mutiny, leading up to Gandhi's life time, how he was affected by it, and likewise the same for Churchill.

It explains the personal circumstances and lives and the broad historic trends and movements. It illustrates through 100s of quotes and adorned with minute and detailed references how over the span of their respective lives, Churchill and Gandhi left their mark on history.

It reads like a novel, it is one of the rare books that manage to combine true historic facts with the readability of a novel.

And one of the biggest benefits must surely be that it increases your understanding of the political situations of the middle east and the far east tremendously. Suddenly wars, political deadlocks, national interests and actions - both present day and past - become so much clearer.

Very well done!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a work of reference 1 Oct 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
a great book on the two leaders who never understood each other. balanced fair and beautifully written
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant - and a good read 13 Mar 2009
This is not a quick read, but is compelling - and especially near the end "unputdownable".

These two men are fascinating and in some ways polar opposites. Gandhi: other-worldly, spiritual, ascetic and the pioneer of India's struggle for independence. Churchill: ambitious, fond of the good things in life, defender of Empire and inspiring war leader.
But these pictures of the two men are gross over-simplifications. Gandhi was difficult - many even of his Congress colleagues found him impossible. Indeed Gandhi was probably personally responsible for the failure of the penultimate Viceroy Wavell's plan to create a unified independent India which everyone else (including Jinnah) had agreed to. Churchill had a soft side, and was easily moved to tears and frequently depressed.

Both men were late Victorians, and both (in their different contexts) had the prejudices of the era. Both died in a sense broken men, as the India and the world which emerged were very different from the ones they had hoped and lived for. The book's final sentence sums it up:
"Their story is the great untold parable of the twentieth century"

So - a great book. I would have awarded 5 stars, but a few sloppy errors (some of which should have been picked up by the sub editors) make it 4. I know the author is American and the book was probably aimed primarily at an American audience, but it grates to see references to eg "Prime Minister of England". Also on p 252 he refers to Churchill's role in creating the Black and Tans in Ireland to "reinforce the Royal Ulster Constabulary" when he means the Royal Irish Constabulary. But these are minor quibbles. Get it and enjoy it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very readable, but with some minor issues. 26 Oct 2010
A well written comparison of the lives of two of modern history's great figures.

However, for a new book I am surprised about how well this fits in with similar books I read in the late 1980's on the same topic.

There is the oft repeated suggestion that the Indians were lucky to have the English as Colonial Masters (as compared to other Imperialist states). Well, perhaps, but the British were shaped by their experience of Empire elsewhere in the world - and then their 300 year occupation of India. Is too far fetched to believe that another Empire stepping into Britain's history would not have ended up the same way? The most brutal regimes are never long winded, so in order to see out the 300 years, they would have had to be moderated.

What is also never stated, but would be a valid counterpoint would be that the English were lucky to have the Indians as vice versa. Had the country been inhabited by as many Zulus as there were Indians, the British may have found their rule and the wealth extraction actions of Empire unsustainable.

There is also much made of the post independence violence. Which although Churchill seemed to have foreseen, seems to justify his arguments against independence and the inferiority of Indians. While it is impossible to argue that the violence was not shameful and horrific, in the aftermath of the Second World War and the horrors therein, one could not rank the Europeans above such monstrosities themselves.

A few smaller points also stood out for me in the book.

I was erked by the repetition of Churchill's quote of not becoming the first minister, to oversee the dismantling of the empire. It appears about 5 times in the book.

I was also slightly annoyed by the perspective of Sikhs in the book.
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