Skip to main content

tv   Churchill Today  CSPAN  December 31, 2021 8:42pm-9:42pm EST

8:42 pm
army camped out during the period of the civil war and you see where the land is given to the african-american community and taken away several times.
8:43 pm
>> watch the full tour online at pretty. >> good evening everyone. president and ceo and i am thrilled to welcome you to denies virtual program at churchill today, distinguished hello at new york historical society lecture braden or so very grateful, and financial history scholar for creating this and is my read honor to thank him predict and just before and introduce tonight speaker i want to recognize and thank several of our historical trustees for joining us first
8:44 pm
and foremost the outstanding chair, the chair of our executive committee and the vice chair elective of our board susan back in the trustees. and i would also like to thank those councilmembers for joining us this evening from wonderful support and wise counsel. and many thanks to all of you we are so very pleased to welcome back andrew roberts the distinguished learning fellow at new york historical society professor roberts is a fellow of the royal historical society in london, visiting fellow at the institution at stanford university and visiting professor in the war studies department at kings college london and he was also the recipient of the new york
8:45 pm
historical societies in 2019, history makers award. and professor roberts is the author and editor of numerous books including 2018, biography, churchill walking with destiny and is leadership in the war essential lessons, and from those who made history is a subject of a series of lectures professor roberts delivered to sold-out audiences and our own robert h smith, auditorium in his newest book is a release just this month, this week i believe he said. it is the masking of the america, the miss understood region, sorry, the misunderstood reign of george the third. i'll get the title again right this time. the last king of america, the misunderstood reign of george the third, congratulations andrew. that is a wonderful new milestone for you. joining us moderator this evening is philip and professor
8:46 pm
of federal - at columbia law school and professor is a leading constitutionalist scholar who has an extensive history of government service and he served in all three branches of government during seven administrations, republican and democratic including senior director of strategic planning, at the national security council as a member of the external advisory board at the aa and most recently the professor was honored by queen elizabeth the second in recognition of his service to the uk u.s. relations and public life rated tonight's program last one hour including 15 minutes for questions and answers and questions can be submitted via the q&a function on your resume screen in the interest of simplicity, but is to chat function tonight so please do remember to use the q&a in our speakers will get to as many questions as time allows and now i am very pleased to
8:47 pm
turn our virtual stage over to tonight's speakers and thank you predict. >> thank you, it is great honor for me personally and the society great honor to have our guest andrew roberts, with us tonight in the subject churchill today, recalls the famous remark, the evil men do after the good in terms of our bonds. so churchill today, begin tonight with churchill's errors, his real heirs had his alleged errors and then perhaps something up in the man that we dismiss the first two subject, began with andrew, with winston churchill's acknowledge errors, he acknowledged even to himself. >> there are quite a few and he
8:48 pm
recognized in his lifetime than he had felt several things that he wronged rated in the application crisis and he supported king edward the eighth, rather than george the rather and he was the first to admit that he felt that badly prompted he would argue endlessly about campaign pretty didn't like him in later life and going over the ins and outs of that something personally and privately, he recognized he got that wrong grade and he certainly never thought of himself as much of a communist and is time which of course also saw the general strife in various other major problems with neighbor relations and something that he never used to harp on about later in life so perhaps he acknowledged that.
8:49 pm
and going back onto the gold standard, at the wrong time exactly and he recognized that he got women's suffrage badly wrong in that he at opposed votes and women and later in the five, a college in cambridge was set up in his name, he insisted that it be open to women as well as men it and of the first colleges to do so. i think that is a pretty good acknowledgment that he got that is wrong and wrong as well and he was somebody who said that he was perfectly willing to each his own words that he found them a fermentable past so this is not somebody who was like some politicians, completely incapable of saying that he made mistakes predict for two thirds of the century, any and taken stances on pretty much every major political issue and so ofe he had to admit when he got things wrong.
8:50 pm
>> will the recent that i have in mind jeffrey new book on churchill but also reactions in some of the newspapers and even in views of your book, another ledger of accusations has been leveled at churchill and beyond the customary ones in the women's suffrage and so on. these are accusations against that churchill was responsible for a vast number of deaths in this family and i would like to start there because i heard that charge so many times, there was a horrific effeminate and i was in the middle of wartime. what are the facts of this andrew. >> they are straightforward in fact that by anybody, there was a massive site that hit eastern
8:51 pm
side of india in october of 1942, which went out all of the road and the rail networks that under normal circumstances, you brought the grain into being thd so what the alternative to that is of course to bring advice see. but unfortunately, the japanese were operating in the bay and in fact, they heard that the japanese navy had shelled various eastern cities that year and in the next year as well in places where we tried to weave such as the british in the past have tried to buy the grain from in the food, specifically the rice card which were thailand this and burma and all three of those places had been under japanese occupation since the
8:52 pm
events since 1941 braden so you cannot get any grain from there either so what churchill did was to ask the prime minister's of australia and canada and president roosevelt to get food to india and really he did as bt as they could in the broadened hundreds of thousands of tons ultimately but not enough time and unfortunately as a result there was mass starvation. this would not of been a case if there had not been a world war going on and completely untrue and unfair is the idea that winston churchill, made the situation worse he did not do that and it's disgraceful allegations to suggest that he did. and any number of reasons that these tactics and judgments but the idea that he was a
8:53 pm
deliberately genocidal essentially a war criminal is certainly not predict. >> forward trying to guess how this builds up. >> is pretty straight forward, there are historians who hate her shelf anyway see this is a great opportunity to make him out to be as bad as hitler as some people have recently claimed in a conference. but what you've got to do in all of these cases is to stay calm and go back to the original sources, read the telegrams that he sent to india and these other prime ministers and the presidents and so on and to recognize that he was doing his best under impossible circumstances the world for.
8:54 pm
war. >> changes in churchill and in the end in india but in our attitudes of people like churchill that we are prepared to believe that something as monstrous as an engineered famine it, because we do not doubt that churchill had racist attitudes towards indians >> yes they said that they were beastly people with a beastly religion and the fact that it was a single religion chose that he was specifically talking about the hindus who were at the time of course trying to place the congress party was trying to make them cope britain quit india even under the circumstances of the world war. and from is saying these remarks allegedly, there's only one source of these remarks and
8:55 pm
making racist jokes and today we would consider absolutely repulsive. but usually a gap between wanting to kill $3m people in that instance common sense that the making of a few horrible jokes is not the same as a genocidal act and the fact is that there is nothing that suggests anything that churchill said or did that he was in favor of being as bad as possible. >> perhaps the you've heard this, if you think that churchill was a racist, you should have seen the other guy. [laughter] and has to do with the gassing of the iraqi villages and your deep in the facts, tell us about
8:56 pm
that. >> just keep home and go back to the evidence the evidence shows and you believe it at the churchill college at cambridge and i have found this that the ones rebellious and when you actually look at it he talks about teargas, the same kind of thing that is used in riots and not lethal gas at all but the way his detractors have presented it, the make it sound like it is spewing this gas and that poisonous gas such as used in the trenches of the first world war that is completely wrong. and yet it said again and again many times the schools at times and yet it's still to be found on the internet and elsewhere.
8:57 pm
>> and strike me as a problem in assessing people of the earlier eras is much as it is a problem that occurred in politics. and in my field, we sometimes characterize the constitutional order that prevailed in america in the late 18th century up until her civil war but less in europe really until the end of the first world war as an imperial state nation, nationalistic and very focused on the empire. and no less truly americans and french the british and germans and the italians, the russians. it was a state devoted to white supremacy, to imperialism, patriarchy, all things that we hold in very low esteem today. but when i think about these
8:58 pm
charges, anything about the passage in the great gatsby that you may remember, the narrator be getting a story and he says, when i was a young man, my father told me not to be too critical of other people. they've not all had the advantages you've had he said and when i think about churchill and his generation, i think we have advantages they don't have. in their efforts of the reasons we have these advantages predict and seems to me this issue of self-awareness and maybe even gratitude. >> i think that's true and it is profound thought philosophically but i think it is also well remembering in churchill's case and although he did very much believe in the superiority of the weiss racist, within the white race he would then argue about whether the germans and
8:59 pm
the french and say italians, and so on were superior. but this was a man of course was born in a time that charles darwin was still alive at a time when however obscene and absurd they might find it today, and the scientific view was there was a hierarchy. i'm not sure he can be terribly criticized for taking the view that science however, one of the things that he did very much feel that the was a duty of profound responsibility on the british and the british empire to take care the native people and to promote them and he was incredibly proud and the numbers increased so dramatically especially in india under the rule of the british. and it doubled in fact in the course of the rule of the
9:00 pm
british empire this gave him tremendous pride and he was also willing to put his life on the line for non- white people and he did it again and again and we see this where he fought for the abolition of slavery and for example, black lives matter to winston churchill, and you see it also in the northwest area where he was protecting it the tribesmen from the treaties and various other tribes further to the north. you constantly see it when he was secretary in the early part of the 20th century and i think that it was a huge difference between his actions which are never anti- back and his words which sometimes did as we mentioned earlier include these unpleasant jokes.
9:01 pm
he never use the and word which a lot of racist in these days and he was somebody who recognized that his wealth is entire wealth of his drive came from imperialism. but the best kind of imperialism, in which he wanted to give back. and to sort of pay. ... >> people who -- >> yes, yes he was most to
9:02 pm
recognize the threat of militarism, the balance of power in europe. he was a great believer, as pretty much british tatesmen have been -- statesmen have been in there being a balance of power in europe which meant the united kingdom and whatever it was at the time was not going to be under the threat of invasion. and so when we look back at british history, the sort of narrative arc, you can see the same kind of threats posed by elizabeth the i -- sorry, philip the ii and then louis xiv. and then the threat of napoleon, the kaiser, all of those five tracks were for the balance of power in europe. and churchill wanted to prevent
9:03 pm
that from happening, and so he worried about the kaiser. then, of course, 25 years later he was the first person and, indeed, for a long time the only person to warn about the threat with adolf hitler and the nazis and the balance of power in europe. you finally find, of course, in the speech in missouri in march 1936 that he makes the same statement potentially about the soviets and the way in which stalin posed a severe threat to eastern europe and the integrity and independence of those countries there. so it's warning, it's early warning, it's also incredibly brave and only him doing the warning. and these things, i think,
9:04 pm
really when we take all three together, they represent an extraordinary -- to civilization and something that completely outweighs the complaints with the facts of the day, in my view. >> andrew, i know you thought a great deal about this, have you decided what the wellsprings of this combination of indomitable -- [laughter] courage and insight but also a certain self-regard and sense of destiny? do these come from --
9:05 pm
[laughter] >> yes. i mean, i, of course, subtitled my book "walking with destiny." it was a reference to his remark about the day he became prime minister on the 10th of may, 1940, when he said i felt as though i was walking with destiny and all my past life was in preparation for this hour and this trial. so i think when you say self-belief, that didn't just come from the sense-destiny, i -- sense of destiny, it also came from the his background. he was a natural descendant of -- and, of course, the very fact that he had been born at the absolute pinnacle of the victorian society, his grandson of the duke of marlborough, that and his education and his time in the army where he was taught leadership, of course, add sand hurst, all of -- at sandhurst,
9:06 pm
all of those things came together with an extreme sense of what people would call entitlement today. and, again, there's a bad side to entitlement, of course there is. but occasionally there can be a good one, and winston churchill was an example of the positive aspects of entitlement. >> as a father of young children myself, i'm fascinated by the fact that this sense of self-confidence, entitlement, of the duties of paternalism come from a man who was, -- he was mistreated by his father. i believe you quote -- as saying churchill worshiped at the altar of -- [inaudible] >> that's right. his father die when winston churchill was 21 years old. , -- and then his father had ben emotionally abusive to him,
9:07 pm
essentially. he despised him. he let his contempt be seen by this poor young lad who also was ignored to a great degree by his mother as well at least for the early years of his life. and so it took self-lead, frankly, because he wasn't getting that much support from either of his parents. and he had a very strange father fixation all of his life. even in 1947 when he bombed the british side of the second world war, he was able to have a rather weird conversation with his long-dead father that he wrote about in a book called "the dream." and he talks to his father and at no stage does he let on to his father that he had been instrumental in helping to win the sec world war. when he was asked by his --
9:08 pm
second world war. when he was asked by his daughter when there was an empty place at supper one evening who he would like to be able to meet and have sit there, she was expecting him to say napoleon or julius caesar or alexander the great, he immediately said my father, of course. >> it's amazing that in the nays of such curt -- in the face of such curt treatment that he did have such a sense of himself. you quote as saying at age 16 there shall be great upheavals in our lives, there shall be terrible struggles, but i shall be called upon to save london and save the country. >> yes, that's the -- [inaudible conversations] and how extraordinary that exactly half a century later he should have been called upon to have done exactly that. so in a sense, he wasn't waiting those 50 years for the call-up. and then his whole life had been
9:09 pm
a preparation for that hour and that trial. and one thinks about his time as a soldier. then, of course, he goes into politics. he holds important cabinet ranks including first of all the admiralty in the first world war and the second world war. the things that happened to hum in the first world war -- him in the first world war, the disaster in italy which he learns from and doesn't make that mistake in the second world war where he ignores the advice from his generals. those mistakes, those blunders we mentioned earlier -- and there are plenty more. ireland is another one that he recognized he had gotten wrong. these were steppingstones to the moment in may 1940 when he became prime minister which, of course, was at the absolute worst moment for britain in the
9:10 pm
second world war. we were about to become a continent, we had been invaded -- sorry, france and belgium had been invaded. we were totally on the back foot. this was a real trial by fire. >> i wonder what some of the younger people in our audience will think about this defense of churchill. it always is difficult for us to imagine that things would turn out any other way than they did because we know how the game end9. we find -- ended. we find causal forces that brought us to where we are when, in fact, some things are a damn near run thing. >> i see these latest attacks as being most damaging to
9:11 pm
churchill's reputation because if anyone's really interested anytime, they can read books about churchill and learn about churchill, and they realize these attacks are fundamental hi unfair and untrue -- fundamentally unfair and untrue. some of them are are true, but not the really important ones, it strike me. however, what really does perhaps damage the future of churchill's reputation is shared ignorance, in young people not being taught about him until schools. i know that the -- bored to the rafters we with me constantly talking about this, some 20% of british teenagers believe winston churchill to have been a fictional character. more of them belief sherlock holmes and eleanor rigby were real people. very worrying situation. i think it's an indictment on our school system. the conservatives have been in
9:12 pm
power for ten years now, they still don't seem to be able to get winston churchill, you know, front and center on the national curriculum. and so i fear that it's just sheer ignorance rather than these various sort of attacks, latest attacks. much the most dangerous threat to churchill's reputation looking forward. >> i can't say things are a great deal better here. i asked one of my students about john marshall, and he said wasn't he the author of marshall's law? >> yes. who commanded the american forces in the american war of independence, and 20% of them said denzel washington. [laughter] >> partly right. one thing that stands out, i think, in your biography is that
9:13 pm
you found new sources of material. i would have thought that the history of winston churchill had been so thoroughly mined, there was nothing to be found. but i believe you had access to some or perhaps all of george the vi's diaries including his notes and meetings with churchill. >> yes. >> how'd you manage to get them? >> well, her majesty, the queen, allowed me to be the first churchill historian to use them. it was a tremendous honor. i think that after 75 years they reckoned that the timed had come for somebody to use them. it wasn't because i had any special pull at the royal archives at all, it was just that i happened to be the person who was writing a churchill biography at the time. so i was just immensely fortunate. but fate has been kind to me
9:14 pm
when it comes to historical breakthroughs. i've had a few of them. very useful as well, i think, to be writing a proper, big history, cradle-to-grave history rather than just be a journalist who want to, you know -- who wanted to, you know, muck rake or scandal monger. it's easy enough to do that if you want to, but i think the royal archives wanted to have a proper big book. but it wasn't by any means the only one of the -- i was very fortunate to also be able to use some 43 sets of papers that had been deposited in the churchill college archives since the last major biography of him. it's an incredible thing. people are still fining stuff in their attics, they are producing
9:15 pm
papers that their grandparents handed down. and it's truly wonderful and exciting for historians when that happens, of course. >> yes. well, those are very modest are remarks. it reminds me of something an american politician once said about one of his colleagues. he said it's the damnedest thing, the harder he works, the luckier he gets. [laughter] >> thank you. you've just -- sorry to -- you just had one of your workmen come in behind you. i hope it's the one whose life you saved earlier today. oh, the light's gone out now. but wert in the presence of a genuine hero. >> there's so many real heroes to talk about. among them, churchill, but also some of the people he inspired in his generation.
9:16 pm
i've had a great weakness for his close friend, f.e. smith. f.e. smith plays a large role in the first part of your book. i don't know how many americans know much about him. i always tell stories about him in my law classes. i think he wasture kill's closest friend -- churchill's closest friend. tell us about it. >> he was, yes. he was a brilliant unionist politician who was a great wit, a q.c., queen's counsel, so he was one of the top barristers. he finally became lord chancellor. he was known for his repartee at various law cases. everybody has their favorite f. if e. smith story, but my favorite one is when he, a judge said at the end of summing, the summing up by f.e. smith, the
9:17 pm
judge said i seem to be none the wiser. no, my lord, replied f. if e. smith, but -- f.e. smith, but you are much better informed. [laughter] >> that's a wonderful, wonderful line. >> unfortunately, f.e. was also a terrible alcoholic. and by the time of his death in, very early in 1930, it meant that in those great appeasement struggles of the 1930s poor churchill was on his own. my sense very much is that f.e. beside him, with f.e. beside him they'd have been able to move more of the dial on public opinion and especially conservatives. >> when i read your essay, i was struck by the sort of negative quality of churchill's trial. it wasn't simply that he rallied opinion, held hitler at bay --
9:18 pm
something we all give him credit for, whatever we may criticize him for -- but that he prevented britain from folding its cards before the real struggle began. would you speak about that just for a moment. >> yes. i think that his seasons of the threat posed by adolf hitler and the nazis came from three things. we've already mentioned one, the fact that he was an historian who saw this latest attempt to upset the balance of power in europe in the condition -- in the context of the previous four attempts. he was also a -- he liked jews, he'd grown up with jews. he'd gone on holiday with them, he was completely different from the other upper class people of his age and class and background. and so he had an early warning
9:19 pm
system when it came to hitler and the nazis. it wasn't -- many other people on his benches. and also he had come up against that gnat if schism in his life -- fanaticism in his life several timeses in his life in sudan. in this sense it was a religious fanaticism, but he recognized the way in which it couldn't be appeased and had to be -- [inaudible] and so he also tended to, unlike the other prime ministers of the 1930s, men like mcdonald and chamberlain and baldwin, you know, he'd actually sort of come up close and personal to a fanaticism and recognized it in the nazis early on. so he had this sort of do -- again, they come from his life,
9:20 pm
and they helped him enormously at the time of, you know, doubt and struggle. >> i had a professor that i greatly admired when i was in law school who was given the holmes papers to finish the biography of great american jurist oliver wendell holmes. and he never completed the project because he developed such a distaste for holmes that he simply didn't enjoy his company anymore, and he abandoned his research. what's it like living with winston churchill these, was it six years? >> well, in a sense it's 30 years because this is the fifth book i've written about churchill, some aspect of him. but that actual book that i wrote, churchill: walking with destiny, was three in the writing. i spent six years writing about nelson -- about napoleon, i'm sorry, six years writing about
9:21 pm
salisbury. you know, it's pretty much par for the course. it was the exact opposite of your friend and oliver wendell holmes, actually, because i wound up liking churchill more than when i started. and so that's the rather pleasing thing. i have written books about people i wound up despising, but i've never called off the book. what you do is you write the book about the way that you feel, you know, about the person. what you're scared of, of course, is starting off a book that you think is going to be about minute you like and you wind up actually despising them. that doesn't mean you're going to write any less a good book, it strikes me. >> we have some questions from the audience i'm going to go to. the first one says many people in the united states are advocating for the removal of confederate statues because they represent the tragic legacy of slavery despite any contributions they may have made
9:22 pm
to shape military leadership. do you see criticisms of churchill and his potential toppling -- i think one of his statues was essentially defaced -- as a similar situation? >> no. it strikes me that some of the confederate statues at least were put up in a deliberately provocative way back in the 1920s to sort of establish or undermine at least jim crow. whereas that was never the case with winston which are chill. the -- churchill. the statues that were put up were not intending to offend anybody, and they were a natural result of his popularity because of his heroism. another issue, i suppose, is that your confederate leaders
9:23 pm
were attempting to break up your country and, therefore, are not part and parcel of -- they're not like, i don't know, the founding fathers where you're trying to take down their statues as well. here in britain we have a simple thing in a sense where when the churchill statue was attacked during a black lives matter demonstration, they also went on to attack our memorial to the dead of the first world war and the second world war. and actually, you know, there'd been threats to all sorts of people including the statue of abraham lincoln in providence square. you know, he was the man who liberated slaves. so there seems to be a sort of sense of outrage against the past, against white people
9:24 pm
whoever they might be in that particular demonstration. which i don't think is just about winston churchill. i think it's a different thing, i this -- i think it's a more complicated thing, and it's something that's been tied in with the statue of the slave labor, slave trader in bristol that was pulled down and thrown into the, into the bristol channel. so we have really something that's a much more complicated thing than just, you know, hatred of winston churchill. >> one of the questions asks, do you think that contemporary depictions of churchill in popular culture have shown him to be a falseness? are they too positive in are they overly critical? what do you think? >> yes.
9:25 pm
that's a very good question as well. i think back in the 1950s and 1960s the depictions of churchill tended to be sort of extremely positive, almost so heroic that he had few, if any, faults. but i think recently that's not the case at all. i mean, there's "the darkest hour," of course, in which gary oldman played him absolutely brilliantly, brought his chuckle, and brought his sort of twinkle in his eye superbly. but there's also been endless, endless negative shows about churchill where he's presented as drunk and constantly idiotic, racist and so on. so i think it would be rather nice to have a synthesis of the best and the worst of churchill. but overall, i think popular
9:26 pm
culture can't be trusted with in anyway. >> another questioner asks, are there any contemporary leaders that have similar leadership styles to winston churchill? >> well, of course, the style is something an awful lot of leaders do try to adopt because the churchillian leadership has become -- the word churchillian has with become an adjective for leadership, for successful leadership. so you can catch some phraseology of winston churchill's in various things that george is w. bush said after 9/11 -- george w. bush said after 9/11, that boris johnson who's a biographer of winston churchill says today. margaret thatcher, i think, though, is the primary example of somebody who was obviously profoundly affected by
9:27 pm
churchill. she was, what, 14 years old when she sat around the radio in lincolnshire listening to churchill's speech, his wartime speeches on the radio, and they had a profound effect on her. what we see especially during the balkans campaign that she was drug on a wellspring of churchillen january leadership to get her through that -- churchillian leadership to get her through that. with regard to the current crop of leaders, i'm not seeing any great, great churchillians. but perhaps that's my ignorance rather than anything to do with churchill. >> another questioner says, as our culture shifts towards the future that uplifts and recognizes historically marginalized groups such as people of color, queer folks and women, is there room for the
9:28 pm
great leader archetype? is our culture moving away from idolizing figures like churchill? >> well, i hope is so. nobody wants to lionize churchill, but they do want to a mire a leader -- admire a leader who, if you think about it, the white, privileged middle class, upper class male was not going to be getting the worst of existence under the nazis. that would have been the people of color and women who were degraded, essentially, by nazi society. and especially the people from the lgbt community who were sent to concentration camps. so in a sense, they ought to be -- and indeed do, i think -- you know, thank churchill for
9:29 pm
not having a world in which they would have been treated a hundred times worse than they ever have been in history. so overall, i think that churchill would be a hero to them even more than to white males like me. >> that almost sounds like a defense of paternalism, that we should be thankful for the good things done for us even if they're done by people whose positions in our society we abhor or are hostage to. >> oh, no, i don't think so. i think that's very reductive, actually. i think it's perfectly reasonable to say that somebody who was instrumental in defeating the nazis should be, as i say, not idolized, but admired by everybody regardless of color, creed or sex.
9:30 pm
>> we have another question that asks, because he was elected by parliament and not direct are -- directly by the people, how concerned was churchill about the public's opinion? do you think modern leaders are more or less concerned about public opinion than winston churchill? >> well, of course, all, everyone selected by parliament, all prime ministers are selected by parliament in a sense. he did get elected by the people in 1951 when he stood again. he wasn't, he considered parts of leadership not going along with the crowd. he had seen too often in his life especially during the munich crisis moments where the huge, overwhelming body of the population believed in appeasement which turned out to be a disaster. so he didn't mind saying the
9:31 pm
opposite of what the majority of people thought. he had a line about the opinion polls in which he said that he'd been told that it's important for politicians to keep their ears to the ground, but he didn't believe that the british people would admire a politician courting such ungamely a posture. [laughter] and he's right, isn't he in chasing after every percentage point and thereby say whatever they think will make them popular works for a short period of time. but ultimately, when you have to take difficult and unpopular decision which every great statesman and stateswoman has to at some stage in their careers, it lets you down. >> andrew, you've mentioned churchill's great sense of self and his sense of drama, destiny in his public life. i remember a letter that martha
9:32 pm
balfor wrote his sister, one part of which goes, oh, winston's written his autobiography. he calls it "the world crisis." 9 one of our questioners here says, how do you explain churchill's great self-confidence given his parents' attitude towards him? >> yes, that is a very good question, you know? he didn't go to university. that might have helped, in fact, the fact that he never went to university because instead he sort of set up his own university when he was a young -- in the northwest frontier in india. and there he was teaching himself endlessly reading all the great books of philosophy and biography and history. it's a quite extraordinary list of books that he got through all on his own whereas had he gone to oxford or cambridge at the
9:33 pm
time, he might well have spent the entire time getting drunk and playing polo. so you have this autodidact, essentially, who as i say had this position in society which was at the apex of it where he didn't care terribly much what other people thought of him. and so as a result, you have somebody who had the necessary self-confidence especially after he'd become an imperial hero after he escaped from a prisoner of war camp in the boor war in 1899. by the time he enters parliament, he's a celebrated figure. and that gives him a certain degree of self-confidence. and then, of course, he recognized in himself a capacity for oratory, for great wit which
9:34 pm
was something that was to see him through even in the darkest times. and he wrote an article in 1897 before he'd ever given any great speech in which he said the power of oratory was greater than that of any king because it could make people listen to you even though they disagree with you. and that's essentially 33 years later what happened during the wilderness years when he was warning against hitler and the nazis. >> andrew, is that the scaffolding of rhetoric? >> that's right, yeah. it's fascinating and brilliant. he wrote it when he was, what, 24 years old and had never given a public speech in his life. it's very rare. usually people give speeches and then theorize about rhetoric. what he did was to theorize first and then give the speeches afterwards. >> we have an interesting question here. it's asked if you would also
9:35 pm
talk about churchill's relationship with other brilliant contemporaries like roosevelt, king. >> yes. he had, he was, he was overall very good with other great, great men and women of the age. teddy roosevelt, for some reason, he just never, never clicked with. and there were various reasons for this, but i'm going to be speaking at my next speech to the new york historical society about churchill and the american president, so i'm going to tell you my theories about why he never got on with teddy roosevelt then. but he of, of course, got on wonderfully well with franklin roosevelt. he didn't like the cocktails that fdrs used to mix for him at the -- fdr used to mix for him at the white house, but otherwise there doesn't seem to have been a personal
9:36 pm
disagreement. he wrote a wonderful book, i think your questioner should immediately after they finish my book get hold of great contemporaries which is a wonderful book about all of the sort of top people who churchill new by the -- knew by the time it was published in 1937. and that is a superb series of beautifully written portraits about all of the great people that churchilled had met. churchill had met. >> including f.e. smith. >> there is one on f.e. smith, yeah. but i think there are, like, 20, 25 or so. and they're not all, you know, people who he liked. the kaiser, for example, he writes about in a very penetrating way. but i do recommend that book hugely. >> well, we're drawing to a close, so we have time just for a couple more questions. one member of the audience asks, how did churchill adapt the
9:37 pm
evolving technology of his time and how those technologies had an impact on ways in which leaders could communicate with their constituents? as is the case with many m.d. earn leaders, would -- modern leaders, would churchill have taken the advantage to reach the general public had those resources been available to him? >> well, of course, radio did become available to him during the course of his career, and he absolutely leapt on it. he was a true believer in working the microphone to his advantage. and when he started off in politics, there was no radio, and you just had to bellow to a crowd. sometimes he'd speak to crowds of thousands, and he'd use megaphones, literally ones that you hell up to your -- held up to your mouth. but he was never really on television. he only did one tv tryout,
9:38 pm
actually. it was a sort of audition for how he would be if he did a political broadcast. and he hated it so much that -- [inaudible] so had he been a younger man though, i think he would have definitely mastered television and, frankly, today he would be great on twitter. many of his, many of his funniest and most brilliant -- can be fitted into 240 characters or fewer. and i think he would have wound up with millions of followers on twitter today. >> i was at a dinner party several years ago with steven weinberg, certainly the greatest fizz if cyst of my lifetime -- physicist of my lifetime, who died this year. lovely person. and we were talking about who each one of us most admired. steve said, well, it wasn't
9:39 pm
newton. newton lived all of his life in a small geographic circle, never saw the sea. someone would have come up with newton's ideas on georgiaty. it wasn't -- gravity. he said someone would have gotten the differential calculus. he said i think it was shakespeare because we speak the language that he taught us to speak. will people centuries past be thinking of churchill as having changed the rhetoric and purpose of democratic dialogue? >> i think so. i think that -- and, of course, shakespeare was a great hero of churchill's. churchill could quote endless readings of shakespeare. he always went to see shakespeare plays. shakespeare was minute from whom -- somebody from whom he took a lot of his language. but i think that he has given
9:40 pm
the world a certain language, a lexicon about democracy and human rights. but so long as civilization succeeds in the world, it will be a wellspring for it to come from. when one reads some of the speeches and, obviously, in my book i had to read an awful lot of them, but there are thousands of speeches, and there's something usual, something interesting, some wonderful phrase that can be picked out of literally all of those 8,000. so i think he's -- like an ocean, you don't have to -- [inaudible] you chuck the bucket over the side of the boat and pretty much whatever you bring up will be worthwhile. and there are very few people in history like that. and if we, if we get over this
9:41 pm
present sort of obsession, it strikes me, with everyone's -- [inaudible] of course, he was human. but if you look also at the actual, you know, bronze statue, i think that's much more worthwhile. >> andrew, i know what naughty thought you're thinking. you're thinking of churchill's remark about the greek prime minister -- [laughter] thank you so much for joining us tonight. this has been a real treasure. i'm so grateful to be able to participate with you before the society, and i give thanks for all of us. welcome and thanks. >> thank you very much. >> the origins of the speech the iron curtain address really go back to a decision by westminster college president frank


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on