Churchill's Secret War: The British Empire and the Forgotten Indian Famine of World War II Hardcover – 26 Aug 2010
|New from||Used from|
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Customers who bought this item also bought
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
"(A) significant and - to British readers - distressing... It is a ghastly story, and the book's eye-witness accounts of the consequences for the people of Bengal make harrowing reading. Most recent western histories of the war in the east mention the famine as earlier chronicles did not. But Mukerjee's book offers the fullest account I have read...I myself have argued that Churchill's disdain for the interests of black and brown peoples besmirched his awesome wartime record. If the Bengal famine arose from circumstances beyond British control, failure to relieve the starving millions - or even to be seen to care much about them - was in substantial degree our fault."
--Max Hastings, The Sunday Times
"shocking, important study of Britain's treatment of India in the second world war."
--The Sunday Times
About the Author
Madhusree Mukerjee won a Guggenheim fellowship to write her previous book, The Land of Naked People. She previously served on the board of editors of Scientific American and now lives in Frankfurt.
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Mukerjee manages to weave narrative and analysis together and combine insights from a variety of sources - diaries, unpublished and published memoirs, official records - to present a thorough and in-depth account that must now be the definitive account, atleast in popular format, of the Bengal famine. Indeed, the first person accounts are the great strength of the book; the Indian independence activists, British and colonial officials, the letters home of a British soldier, famine survivors.
The British government knew that famine was a likelihood in Bengal in late 1942 but chose other priorities, including saving face in front of the Americans, above the survival of Bengalis. Warnings were ignored. Offers of assistance were spurned and, when it came to an enquiry into the famine, key evidence went missing and is missing still - presumably destroyed.
The key motive for doing nothing very much seemed to come from the view that India was a country in rebellion, the account of RAF planes strafing Indian civilians is one disturbing episode, and, indeed, the British seem to have regarded India as an occupied nation, combined with Churchill's hatred of Indians and his racist contempt for them together with S-Branch chief Lord Cherwell's eugenicism helps illustrate the ideological background to what can only be described as a war crime.
Mukerjee is careful with regards to evidence throughout the book and the same applies to her conclusions regarding the number of famine victims. These stand at about 3.5 million in Bengal alone without regards to other famine hit areas such as Bihar, Orissa and Madras. Mukerjee doesn't venture to estimate the number of victims from these areas.
Great book. Deserves to be widely read.
It was a homicide of unimaginable proportions - brought to live in this heart rending book. A must read for anyone who would want to know who true Churchill was!!
If anyone has the notion to regard Amerys comparison as hyperbole they would do well to read Madhusree Mukerjee's "Churchill's Secret War". The centre piece of Mukerjee's book is the Bengal famine of 1943 to which she devotes much space to set the context within which it occurred, analysing the British response (stymied by the Hitlerite attitude of Churchill towards Indians), as well as measuring up the practicality and likely results of the options pushed for at the time by Amery and other officials. Beyond this the whole of the British policy in India during the War is covered, from India's War effort (paid for by the accumulation of Sterling balances in London for gradual payment after the war), the efforts to divide Muslims from Hindus, and the effects of British plans for the defence of Eastern India from Japanese invasion which made famine almost inevitable.
Beyond the narrating and analysis of events is Mukerjee's accounts of the main actors, in particular Churchill (whose repulsive views on Indians are extensively quoted) and his all purpose aide Lord Cherwell whose views of the "lesser" races make one wonder why he hadn't just stayed in Germany during the Nazi period. This pair between them bear a major part of the responsibility for the negligible efforts at avoiding or ameliorating the effects of the famine. This negligence was not based on ignorance of the facts, but the fruit of their vicious racial beliefs with regard to Indians that makes Amery's comparison of Churchill to Hitler an apposite one.
Overall "Churchill's Secret War" is the brilliant, well researched account and analysis of India's experience of the second world war. Fans of Churchill may be a little upset, but the "great" mans reputation is long overdue a reappraisal in the popular imagination. His policies and opinions on India were perhaps his most brutal, but they are not alone and chime in with his attitudes towards Arabs, whom he advocated bombing with poisoned gas, and other colonial peoples, not to mention the working people of Britain itself. Thoroughly recommended.