"Hiding behind history" : Winston S. Churchill's portrayal of the Second World War east of Suez
Wilson, Catherine Anne Virginie
Thesis or dissertation
- © 2012 Catherine Anne Virginie Wilson. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.
This thesis is an examination of Winston S. Churchill’s portrayal of the war in the Far East, as set out in his six-volume memoir The Second World War.1 The research interrogates Churchill’s portrayal of the war against Japan through an analysis of the memoirs themselves, and against the backdrop of the post-war world. The thesis focuses on Churchill’s depiction of the advent of war with Japan; his narrative of the British Empire’s wartime losses of Hong Kong, Malaya, and Singapore; his account of the events and crises which occurred in India from 1942 to 1943; and his representation of the Indian Army and its role in the re-conquest of Burma. Close scrutiny of the memoirs—especially the way in which they were written, the draft chapters, the revisions, the proofs and galleys, reveal how he performed his historical sleight of hand—but not why.
Churchill claimed that history would be kind to him, especially as he intended to write it, but by studying the historian before studying the history the chasm between the Churchillian myth and the reality is revealed. Churchill’s self-made, interwar caricature as a die-hard Victorian imperialist backfired when it came to narrating the history of the war. His image as the British Empire’s dogged defender from the 1930s had caused significant friction during the war with the new empire he needed to court—the United States of America. If the British Empire were to continue to hold on to any semblance of power and prestige after the war, Churchill had to bend to American demands during the war. Yet when he came to write his memoirs, Churchill manipulated history so that the ‘special relationship’ would not be seen in its true light. He mythologized the ties that bound the English-speaking peoples so that the wartime ‘special relationship’ would not be revealed as temporary, transient, volatile and fragile. How he portrayed the war against Japan and why his glances eastwards were so infrequent are the subject of this thesis: how and why did Churchill hide behind the history of the war, east of Suez?
- Department of History, The University of Hull
- Omissi, David E.
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