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Episode
180

Winston Churchill & The English Language

Jul 30, 2021
Politics
-
29
minutes
Great Britain
World War II
UK politics
Politics
20th Century
Colonialism
The British Empire
Hitler

He is considered by man to be the greatest public speaker in British history, and his words and speeches were a defining force in the British war effort.

In this episode, we'll learn all about how Winston Churchill used the English language to inspire a nation.

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about Winston Churchill, the iconic British wartime Prime Minister.

[00:00:31] This is actually going to be the first of two episodes about Churchill.

[00:00:36] Today, we will talk about his varied life, from escaping as a prisoner of war camp in South Africa to his unorthodox daily routine, and of course his huge influence on the world we all live in today.

[00:00:50] Then in the next episode we will talk about his language, and how he used the English language to galvanise a nation, and look at what you, as a learner of English, can learn from Churchill about how to use language effectively.

[00:01:08] OK then, he survived two world wars, was almost killed numerous times, served as the British Prime Minister twice, and lived to the age of 90.

[00:01:20] There is a lot to get through, so let’s get started.

[00:01:24] In 2002 the BBC conducted a poll, a survey, a public vote.

[00:01:31] They asked the British public to vote on who was the greatest Briton ever. 

[00:01:37] This became a lively national debate – on television, radio and in newspapers. 

[00:01:43] Now, without sounding too much like I’m working for the UK tourist board, there are a lot of people to choose from.

[00:01:52] Shakespeare, the greatest playwright of all time?

[00:01:55] Isaac Newton, perhaps, the man who discovered gravity?

[00:02:00] John Lennon, the peace activist and member of The Beatles?

[00:02:04] Or even Queen Victoria, who was the longest-reigning British monarch at the time of the survey?

[00:02:11] Nope, it was Winston Churchill, the man who is believed by many to have saved Britain from Nazi invasion in the Second World War. 

[00:02:20] Indeed, many would argue that his leadership during the period when Britain stood alone against the Nazi forces gives him a worldwide significance and status, and that without him, the world would be a very different place right now. 

[00:02:36] Perhaps when you hear his name you can imagine what he looks like: quite a large man, dressed formally in the clothes we might associate with the 19th century - black jacket, bow tie and bowler hat

[00:02:51] He sometimes has two fingers raised in the “V for Victory” sign; very often he is holding a fat cigar in his mouth or in his hand. 

[00:03:03] Recently, Churchill‘s status as a wartime leader and hero has come under attack, especially with the accusation of being a racist. 

[00:03:14] After the Black Lives Matter protests, his statue in Parliament Square in London had “was a racist” written in red after his name. 

[00:03:24] As a result, his statue was covered in protective material so that it did not suffer any further damage.

[00:03:32] This caused huge controversy in the UK, with some powerful right-wing newspapers arguing that it was a disgrace that a national hero was being attacked, while protestors on the other side argued that he was far from a hero.

[00:03:50] In this episode, the first of two about Churchill, we are going to do three things: 

[00:03:56] Firstly, to outline his remarkable career and his profound influence on the Second World War; 

[00:04:04] Secondly, to assess his influence on the so-called post-World War II order; 

[00:04:10] and finally, whilst considering the influence he continues to have on British culture and the way in which the British view themselves and their history, we will consider whether the accusations made against him are justified, and to what extent they matter. 

[00:04:27] And as a little bonus, we will end with a brief list of surprising facts about this remarkable man. 

[00:04:35] So, firstly, to the extraordinary life of Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill. 

[00:04:42] Let us start with an amazing thought to do with the length of his working life: he became an officer in the British army in the reign of Queen Victoria and, five monarchs later, the current Queen Elizabeth II was on the throne when he died in 1965. 

[00:05:02] To give you an example of quite how much change he lived through, as a young soldier he took part in some of the last cavalry charges ever - battles between men on horses armed with large swords; yet when he was Prime Minister for the second time in 1952, he heard the news of the successful development of the first hydrogen bomb, the yet more powerful successor to the atomic bomb. 

[00:05:31] There is so much that is colourful and extraordinary about this man’s life so we will need to be ultra-selective

[00:05:40] He was remarkable in the range of careers that he followed: soldier, journalist, historian, lecturer, politician, not to mention the hobbies that he threw himself into – painting, primarily, but also brick laying

[00:05:56] Born in 1874 into a highly privileged aristocratic and wealthy family, he not only had a famous politician as a father, but also one of the most admired and celebrated British war heroes, John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, as an ancestor

[00:06:16] As a thank you and a tribute to John Churchill for his victories over the French in the War of the Spanish Succession, the country built him one of its grandest palaces in beautiful, landscaped grounds just north of Oxford, it was called Blenheim Palace. 

[00:06:33] Blenheim Palace was not only where Winston Churchill was born in 1894 but also where he proposed marriage to the American, Clementine Hozier, and where he and she spent the start of their honeymoon. 

[00:06:48] Blenheim Palace is actually open to the public, it’s possible to visit it today, and I would definitely recommend a trip. 

[00:06:56] The reason I mention it now is because it is an important setting to bear in mind when you consider Churchill‘s career: his heritage or tradition of political and military success makes his ambition, drive and sense of historical destiny much more understandable. 

[00:07:15] Young Winston was acutely aware of his own talents and seems, from an early age, to have had an unusual sense of his own destiny. 

[00:07:26] In a letter to Violet Bonham-Carter, a lifelong friend, he wrote in 1906: “We are all worms, but I do believe that I am a glow-worm”. 

[00:07:38] Glow-worms are the worms that give off light in the darkness. 

[00:07:43] Self-belief, courage, resourcefulness and the connections he had in the ruling establishment – so that's the people at the top of British society – this all meant that he became famous very early on in his life. 

[00:07:58] His first taste of celebrity came during the Boer War in South Africa.

[00:08:05] He had travelled to South Africa as a journalist in 1899, taking with him a collection of servants and a vast liquor cabinet containing 18 bottles of whisky.

[00:08:17] He was on an armoured train when it was attacked by the Boers. 

[00:08:22] Despite being only a journalist, he jumped into action and bravely defended the train, taking command of the British troops.

[00:08:31] He was captured and kept as a prisoner of war, deep in enemy territory, but he managed to escape. 

[00:08:39] There was a huge manhunt to try to find him, but he managed to evade capture, which turned him into a national celebrity overnight.

[00:08:49] He had a great talent for writing, and wrote a best-selling book about his adventures during the Boer War.

[00:08:56] Even more profitable than selling books was a lecture tour of the United States, where he cultivated his talent for public speaking. 

[00:09:06] But he didn’t have his heart set on becoming a writer. He wanted to make as much money as possible from writing so that he would have complete financial independence in order to pursue his career as a politician. 

[00:09:20] He became an MP, a member of parliament, in 1900, and served from 1900 to 1964, apart from a two-year break between 1922 and 1924. 

[00:09:33] This still makes him the longest serving MP in British history.

[00:09:38] And although he belonged to two different political parties during the course of his life – the Liberals and the Conservatives – his own distinctive approach to political life often did not naturally fall within the boundaries of political parties, and he was not afraid to propose controversial, unorthodox ideas. 

[00:10:00] During the 1st World War, as Minister of War, he proposed a bold military move in order to unlock the stalemate, the deadlock, that was causing so many deaths on the Western Front. 

[00:10:15] The idea was to open up a new front through the invasion of Gallipoli on the Dardanelles Peninsula in Turkey. 

[00:10:23] This complicated naval and military plan failed spectacularly, resulting in the deaths of a quarter of a million allied soldiers; Churchill‘s reputation was severely damaged as a result, and throughout his political career he was taunted, he was made fun of, by his opponents with the phrase “Remember the Dardanelles”. 

[00:10:47] It took him quite some time to recover, and it was during the 1930s when Churchill again came to political prominence

[00:10:56] The background to this was that, as a response to the popularity of pacifism, or the idea of “No more war”, and the tragic loss of young life in World War I, the Western democracies were trying to cut down the size of their armed forces. 

[00:11:13] The word for this in English is disarmament.

[00:11:17] Britain and France felt that they should do this, partly in order that Germany did not have the justification to build up its army; however, Churchill, who called out the nasty actions of the fascists from early on, felt that disarmament was leading to a disastrous situation whereby the fascist powers would have superior military strength. 

[00:11:42] In retrospect, he had the vision to see what was happening: that the two prominent European dictators who had come to power in the 1920s, so, Adolf Hitler in Germany and Benito Mussolini in Italy, they were building up their armies, navies and air forces. 

[00:12:00] Churchill, who had learnt to fly in the early years of aviation, was a particularly strong campaigner for Britain to build up its air force. 

[00:12:10] Alas, or unfortunately, the government did not act on his proposals. 

[00:12:16] Along with the policy of disarmament, the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, led a policy of appeasement towards Hitler; this meant trying to keep Hitler happy through conceding or giving in to him. 

[00:12:29] Churchill opposed this policy energetically; for example, when in September 1938, Chamberlain came back from Germany with the so-called Munich Agreement, waving the treaty in the air and saying it represented “Peace in our time”, Churchill called it “a total and unmitigated defeat.” 

[00:12:50] When finally, Czechoslovakia having already been sacrificed to the Nazis, Poland was invaded in September 1939, it became clear to everyone that these policies of disarmament and appeasement had failed disastrously

[00:13:07] Chamberlain fell out of favour, and was replaced by Churchill, who became Prime Minister and led a coalition government which was in power for the wartime years of 1940 to 1945. 

[00:13:20] With the defeat of France in June 1940 and the chaotic evacuation of British and French troops from Dunkirk in France, Britain‘s situation was terrible: Russia was in its temporary alliance with Germany; the USA remained neutral; and Hitler‘s main focus was therefore on continuing his march westwards, with the invasion of the British Isles a strong possibility. 

[00:13:47] At this time there were plenty of British politicians who, under a different person’s leadership, would have wanted to seek peace with Hitler through some form of concessionthereby giving in and falling under German control in one way or another. 

[00:14:04] Churchill‘s repeated, powerful statements against the horrors of the Nazi regime meant that there was no possibility of seeking to find agreement with the Nazis. 

[00:14:15] We will go into this in detail in the next episode, but here is just a little taste of his oratory, of how he used language. 

[00:14:25] In Parliament he warned against German aggression and refers to how “the concentration camps pockmarked the German soil”. 

[00:14:34] Pockmarked means covered by the scars that are left after spots on your skin.

[00:14:40] His sense of destiny and history were evident when, with Britain in a dangerous situation and morale low, he referred to the “high honour” of the British being the “sole champions now in arms” against Nazi tyranny

[00:14:57] During the darkest of times, with the retreat from Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, which was when the air forces of the two countries fought in the skies above Southern England, and the Blitz, which was the German bombing of English cities, Churchill rallied the British public, he encouraged the public, through his famous speeches. 

[00:15:19] His words had a powerful effect on national morale through speeches such as “We will fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds…we shall never surrender.” 

[00:15:30] And, as we know, Britain did not surrender, the US joined the war effort, and Hitler and the Nazis were defeated.

[00:15:38] Although for many people the reputation of Churchill is mainly based in the period between the fall of France and the arrival of the USA as an ally in the war in December 1941, he had a significant impact in creating the shape of alliances and the institutions which have influenced all our lives since 1945. 

[00:15:59] Let me try to describe to you how Churchill did this. 

[00:16:04] He had a good knowledge of the USA, partly based on his mother‘s American heritage, but also on visits there, such as his lecture tour in his 20s. 

[00:16:15] He had cultivated the American President, Franklin Roosevelt, or FDR, from the early days of the war, persuading him to lend Britain military equipment in order to resist the Nazis. 

[00:16:28] As soon as the USA joined the war in December 1941, Churchill went straightaway to visit Roosevelt in order to plan the next stage of the war. 

[00:16:40] They also started to talk about how the post-war order should be arranged. Central to this was the United Nations. 

[00:16:48] Other significant institutions were founded to prevent the recurrences of future economic depressions that had helped the growth of fascism; so institutions such as the World Bank and the Bretton Woods agreement were also established

[00:17:05] As for Europe, Churchill had a clear vision for some form of United States of Europe, with France and Germany at its core

[00:17:14] Although he had tried to reach agreements with Stalin, the leader of the USSR, Stalin‘s determination to control Eastern Europe and the fact that his armies had advanced so far meant that all the promises given by Stalin to Churchill about democratic elections meant nothing. 

[00:17:32] In the end, Soviet military might and Communist authoritarian rule were to dominate Eastern Europe for almost 45 years. 

[00:17:41] Churchill saw what was happening: he had an instinct, you could say a knack or skill, of seeing the shape of the future. 

[00:17:49] Speaking in Fulton, Missouri in the USA in 1946 he first used the words which came to describe the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe, saying: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.” 

[00:18:09] Churchill wasn’t the first person to use that phrase, but he was the most famous. 

[00:18:14] And it stuck, it has remained the most common way of describing the division between East and Western Europe during that era. 

[00:18:23] Now, to the complex question of Churchill‘s iconic status and the accusations of racism. 

[00:18:31] The debate over Britain‘s role within Europe and the resulting withdrawal from the European Union revived the image of Churchill; for Brexit supporters, the idea of the revival of British greatness is linked closely with the image of Churchill and a time when Britain was a global superpower. 

[00:18:50] But opponents of Brexit see such ideas as dangerous dreams of a time or era which has gone for ever, it no longer exists. 

[00:19:00] There is no doubt that Churchill‘s own writings and the memory of him in popular folklore has had a strong influence on how British and colonial history was taught in schools until quite recently. 

[00:19:13] In other words, as the vote in 2002 showed, Churchill and what he stands for is still a powerful force in the British imagination.

[00:19:23] But, was he a racist? 

[00:19:25] By today‘s standards, undoubtedly yes; but a high proportion of his contemporaries, people living at the same time as him, would also be viewed as racists by today’s standards. 

[00:19:37] This isn’t by any means to excuse his views, but to try to understand them in the context of the time he lived in.

[00:19:44] He certainly viewed white people as superior to other races - in some kind of a social Darwinian hierarchy

[00:19:52] Although he held these views that we would now find completely unacceptable, this didn’t mean that he felt it was right to treat non-white people in an inhumane way and, even from his early days in British Imperial India, he objected strongly when he saw this behaviour taking place. 

[00:20:11] However, there is one especially serious accusation against Churchill of inhumane treatment of people of colour. 

[00:20:19] This was in 1943 when he failed to take action in order to help limit deaths through famine in Bengal, a region in North East India, which was still part of The British Empire at the time.

[00:20:31] He insisted that India continued to export rice in order to support the European war effort - in other words to feed Europeans who might not have enough to eat. 

[00:20:43] The problem was, exporting the rice abroad would mean that the people in Bengal would suffer food shortages.

[00:20:50] It is thought that Churchill’s decision made the situation much worse; a cyclone and flooding were also factors but Churchill’s policy was a major cause of the deaths of three million people. 

[00:21:05] There are plenty of other racist accusations that can be made against Churchill – anti-Semitism in particular; but again, there are contradictions. 

[00:21:14] Yes, he was certainly guilty of the casual anti-Semitism which was an element of so many of the British ruling class of the time, but he was also an ardent supporter of the foundation of Israel. 

[00:21:28] In July 1944 he also acted swiftly to stop, or at least limit the amount of, Hungarian Jews who were being sent to concentration camps by the Nazis.

[00:21:40] And closer to home, although he was accused of using violent methods to stop Welsh workers who were on strike or refusing to work, he was a strong supporter of the reform of working conditions and an early architect of the modern welfare state. 

[00:21:57] In conclusion, the length of his political career - remember, the longest political career in British history - and the extreme demands of what he faced in World War II meant he faced thousands of critical decisions; for sure, he had his faults and his failings, but the positive effect he had on the world in keeping the torch of liberal democracy burning between 1940-45 means that there are certainly some strong arguments that his virtues and his positive impact far outweigh his failings. 

[00:22:32] I will leave the last words on this to Queen Elizabeth II and also to Churchill‘s political opponent and successor as Prime Minister, Clement Atlee; they were made after Churchill’s death in 1965. 

[00:22:46] The Queen described him as “a national hero”. 

[00:22:50] And Clement Atlee remarked on how Churchill combined to a remarkable extent “energy and poetry“, saying that he was “the greatest Englishman of our time – I think the greatest citizen of the world of our time.“ 

[00:23:03] OK, so that is a brief summary of the life of Winston Churchill, and we will learn more about the rhetoric and the language of the man in the next episode. 

[00:23:14] But, as promised, let’s end with a few weird and wonderful facts about this amazing man. 

[00:23:21] Firstly, near death experiences: there were many. 

[00:23:25] For a man who believed he was destined for greatness, he was certainly careless about his personal safety and he loved danger. 

[00:23:34] When he was 18 years old, playing with his 12-year-old brother and 14-year-old cousin, he jumped off a bridge and fell almost 9 metres, landing on the hard ground. 

[00:23:45] He was almost killed, and spent 3 months in bed recovering.

[00:23:50] He had several plane crashes, he nearly drowned in a lake, he consistently fell from running horses, and was knocked down and almost killed by a car whilst visiting New York.

[00:24:02] What’s more, he actively chose to become a soldier in World War One, and served on the Western Front.

[00:24:08] It’s remarkable that he lived as long as he did.

[00:24:12] His working regime often involved him working until three or four o' clock in the morning. 

[00:24:18] He would sleep for a short period, four or five hours, then eat a very large cooked breakfast and continue to work from his bed.

[00:24:27] As well as loving those big fat cigars, he did not hold back with alcoholic drinks, loving fine wine, champagne and brandy especially. 

[00:24:37] He began with “a daily whisky mouthwash” he called it, and it is estimated that he drank 42,000 bottles of Pol Roger champagne during his lifetime.

[00:24:48] Again, with a lifestyle and diet like that, it is even more amazing that he lived to 90 years old.

[00:24:55] And back to his political life, after victory in Europe there was a general election. 

[00:25:01] Although Churchill was widely credited with leading the country very well through the war, Britons chose a Labour government with a radical programme of social reform, and a new prime minister was chosen.

[00:25:14] But Churchill’s relationship with politics didn’t end there. He was to remain an MP, albeit in the opposition, until the ripe old age of 89.

[00:25:24] So, while there is certainly plenty of value in debating some of the views that Churchill held, and the policies that he presided over, it is undeniable that he lived a fascinating life, shaped the world that we all live in today, and was one of the most important figures of the 20th century

[00:25:45] OK then, that is it for today's episode on Winston Churchill, A British Icon.

[00:25:52] As a reminder, in the next episode we will talk about his language, and how he used English to galvanise and excite the British population, and the entire English-speaking world.

[00:26:04] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. What do people think of Churchill in your country? 

[00:26:11] How is he remembered, if at all?

[00:26:14] Let’s get this discussion started - you can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:26:25] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:26:30] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.


[END OF EPISODE]


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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about Winston Churchill, the iconic British wartime Prime Minister.

[00:00:31] This is actually going to be the first of two episodes about Churchill.

[00:00:36] Today, we will talk about his varied life, from escaping as a prisoner of war camp in South Africa to his unorthodox daily routine, and of course his huge influence on the world we all live in today.

[00:00:50] Then in the next episode we will talk about his language, and how he used the English language to galvanise a nation, and look at what you, as a learner of English, can learn from Churchill about how to use language effectively.

[00:01:08] OK then, he survived two world wars, was almost killed numerous times, served as the British Prime Minister twice, and lived to the age of 90.

[00:01:20] There is a lot to get through, so let’s get started.

[00:01:24] In 2002 the BBC conducted a poll, a survey, a public vote.

[00:01:31] They asked the British public to vote on who was the greatest Briton ever. 

[00:01:37] This became a lively national debate – on television, radio and in newspapers. 

[00:01:43] Now, without sounding too much like I’m working for the UK tourist board, there are a lot of people to choose from.

[00:01:52] Shakespeare, the greatest playwright of all time?

[00:01:55] Isaac Newton, perhaps, the man who discovered gravity?

[00:02:00] John Lennon, the peace activist and member of The Beatles?

[00:02:04] Or even Queen Victoria, who was the longest-reigning British monarch at the time of the survey?

[00:02:11] Nope, it was Winston Churchill, the man who is believed by many to have saved Britain from Nazi invasion in the Second World War. 

[00:02:20] Indeed, many would argue that his leadership during the period when Britain stood alone against the Nazi forces gives him a worldwide significance and status, and that without him, the world would be a very different place right now. 

[00:02:36] Perhaps when you hear his name you can imagine what he looks like: quite a large man, dressed formally in the clothes we might associate with the 19th century - black jacket, bow tie and bowler hat

[00:02:51] He sometimes has two fingers raised in the “V for Victory” sign; very often he is holding a fat cigar in his mouth or in his hand. 

[00:03:03] Recently, Churchill‘s status as a wartime leader and hero has come under attack, especially with the accusation of being a racist. 

[00:03:14] After the Black Lives Matter protests, his statue in Parliament Square in London had “was a racist” written in red after his name. 

[00:03:24] As a result, his statue was covered in protective material so that it did not suffer any further damage.

[00:03:32] This caused huge controversy in the UK, with some powerful right-wing newspapers arguing that it was a disgrace that a national hero was being attacked, while protestors on the other side argued that he was far from a hero.

[00:03:50] In this episode, the first of two about Churchill, we are going to do three things: 

[00:03:56] Firstly, to outline his remarkable career and his profound influence on the Second World War; 

[00:04:04] Secondly, to assess his influence on the so-called post-World War II order; 

[00:04:10] and finally, whilst considering the influence he continues to have on British culture and the way in which the British view themselves and their history, we will consider whether the accusations made against him are justified, and to what extent they matter. 

[00:04:27] And as a little bonus, we will end with a brief list of surprising facts about this remarkable man. 

[00:04:35] So, firstly, to the extraordinary life of Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill. 

[00:04:42] Let us start with an amazing thought to do with the length of his working life: he became an officer in the British army in the reign of Queen Victoria and, five monarchs later, the current Queen Elizabeth II was on the throne when he died in 1965. 

[00:05:02] To give you an example of quite how much change he lived through, as a young soldier he took part in some of the last cavalry charges ever - battles between men on horses armed with large swords; yet when he was Prime Minister for the second time in 1952, he heard the news of the successful development of the first hydrogen bomb, the yet more powerful successor to the atomic bomb. 

[00:05:31] There is so much that is colourful and extraordinary about this man’s life so we will need to be ultra-selective

[00:05:40] He was remarkable in the range of careers that he followed: soldier, journalist, historian, lecturer, politician, not to mention the hobbies that he threw himself into – painting, primarily, but also brick laying

[00:05:56] Born in 1874 into a highly privileged aristocratic and wealthy family, he not only had a famous politician as a father, but also one of the most admired and celebrated British war heroes, John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, as an ancestor

[00:06:16] As a thank you and a tribute to John Churchill for his victories over the French in the War of the Spanish Succession, the country built him one of its grandest palaces in beautiful, landscaped grounds just north of Oxford, it was called Blenheim Palace. 

[00:06:33] Blenheim Palace was not only where Winston Churchill was born in 1894 but also where he proposed marriage to the American, Clementine Hozier, and where he and she spent the start of their honeymoon. 

[00:06:48] Blenheim Palace is actually open to the public, it’s possible to visit it today, and I would definitely recommend a trip. 

[00:06:56] The reason I mention it now is because it is an important setting to bear in mind when you consider Churchill‘s career: his heritage or tradition of political and military success makes his ambition, drive and sense of historical destiny much more understandable. 

[00:07:15] Young Winston was acutely aware of his own talents and seems, from an early age, to have had an unusual sense of his own destiny. 

[00:07:26] In a letter to Violet Bonham-Carter, a lifelong friend, he wrote in 1906: “We are all worms, but I do believe that I am a glow-worm”. 

[00:07:38] Glow-worms are the worms that give off light in the darkness. 

[00:07:43] Self-belief, courage, resourcefulness and the connections he had in the ruling establishment – so that's the people at the top of British society – this all meant that he became famous very early on in his life. 

[00:07:58] His first taste of celebrity came during the Boer War in South Africa.

[00:08:05] He had travelled to South Africa as a journalist in 1899, taking with him a collection of servants and a vast liquor cabinet containing 18 bottles of whisky.

[00:08:17] He was on an armoured train when it was attacked by the Boers. 

[00:08:22] Despite being only a journalist, he jumped into action and bravely defended the train, taking command of the British troops.

[00:08:31] He was captured and kept as a prisoner of war, deep in enemy territory, but he managed to escape. 

[00:08:39] There was a huge manhunt to try to find him, but he managed to evade capture, which turned him into a national celebrity overnight.

[00:08:49] He had a great talent for writing, and wrote a best-selling book about his adventures during the Boer War.

[00:08:56] Even more profitable than selling books was a lecture tour of the United States, where he cultivated his talent for public speaking. 

[00:09:06] But he didn’t have his heart set on becoming a writer. He wanted to make as much money as possible from writing so that he would have complete financial independence in order to pursue his career as a politician. 

[00:09:20] He became an MP, a member of parliament, in 1900, and served from 1900 to 1964, apart from a two-year break between 1922 and 1924. 

[00:09:33] This still makes him the longest serving MP in British history.

[00:09:38] And although he belonged to two different political parties during the course of his life – the Liberals and the Conservatives – his own distinctive approach to political life often did not naturally fall within the boundaries of political parties, and he was not afraid to propose controversial, unorthodox ideas. 

[00:10:00] During the 1st World War, as Minister of War, he proposed a bold military move in order to unlock the stalemate, the deadlock, that was causing so many deaths on the Western Front. 

[00:10:15] The idea was to open up a new front through the invasion of Gallipoli on the Dardanelles Peninsula in Turkey. 

[00:10:23] This complicated naval and military plan failed spectacularly, resulting in the deaths of a quarter of a million allied soldiers; Churchill‘s reputation was severely damaged as a result, and throughout his political career he was taunted, he was made fun of, by his opponents with the phrase “Remember the Dardanelles”. 

[00:10:47] It took him quite some time to recover, and it was during the 1930s when Churchill again came to political prominence

[00:10:56] The background to this was that, as a response to the popularity of pacifism, or the idea of “No more war”, and the tragic loss of young life in World War I, the Western democracies were trying to cut down the size of their armed forces. 

[00:11:13] The word for this in English is disarmament.

[00:11:17] Britain and France felt that they should do this, partly in order that Germany did not have the justification to build up its army; however, Churchill, who called out the nasty actions of the fascists from early on, felt that disarmament was leading to a disastrous situation whereby the fascist powers would have superior military strength. 

[00:11:42] In retrospect, he had the vision to see what was happening: that the two prominent European dictators who had come to power in the 1920s, so, Adolf Hitler in Germany and Benito Mussolini in Italy, they were building up their armies, navies and air forces. 

[00:12:00] Churchill, who had learnt to fly in the early years of aviation, was a particularly strong campaigner for Britain to build up its air force. 

[00:12:10] Alas, or unfortunately, the government did not act on his proposals. 

[00:12:16] Along with the policy of disarmament, the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, led a policy of appeasement towards Hitler; this meant trying to keep Hitler happy through conceding or giving in to him. 

[00:12:29] Churchill opposed this policy energetically; for example, when in September 1938, Chamberlain came back from Germany with the so-called Munich Agreement, waving the treaty in the air and saying it represented “Peace in our time”, Churchill called it “a total and unmitigated defeat.” 

[00:12:50] When finally, Czechoslovakia having already been sacrificed to the Nazis, Poland was invaded in September 1939, it became clear to everyone that these policies of disarmament and appeasement had failed disastrously

[00:13:07] Chamberlain fell out of favour, and was replaced by Churchill, who became Prime Minister and led a coalition government which was in power for the wartime years of 1940 to 1945. 

[00:13:20] With the defeat of France in June 1940 and the chaotic evacuation of British and French troops from Dunkirk in France, Britain‘s situation was terrible: Russia was in its temporary alliance with Germany; the USA remained neutral; and Hitler‘s main focus was therefore on continuing his march westwards, with the invasion of the British Isles a strong possibility. 

[00:13:47] At this time there were plenty of British politicians who, under a different person’s leadership, would have wanted to seek peace with Hitler through some form of concessionthereby giving in and falling under German control in one way or another. 

[00:14:04] Churchill‘s repeated, powerful statements against the horrors of the Nazi regime meant that there was no possibility of seeking to find agreement with the Nazis. 

[00:14:15] We will go into this in detail in the next episode, but here is just a little taste of his oratory, of how he used language. 

[00:14:25] In Parliament he warned against German aggression and refers to how “the concentration camps pockmarked the German soil”. 

[00:14:34] Pockmarked means covered by the scars that are left after spots on your skin.

[00:14:40] His sense of destiny and history were evident when, with Britain in a dangerous situation and morale low, he referred to the “high honour” of the British being the “sole champions now in arms” against Nazi tyranny

[00:14:57] During the darkest of times, with the retreat from Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, which was when the air forces of the two countries fought in the skies above Southern England, and the Blitz, which was the German bombing of English cities, Churchill rallied the British public, he encouraged the public, through his famous speeches. 

[00:15:19] His words had a powerful effect on national morale through speeches such as “We will fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds…we shall never surrender.” 

[00:15:30] And, as we know, Britain did not surrender, the US joined the war effort, and Hitler and the Nazis were defeated.

[00:15:38] Although for many people the reputation of Churchill is mainly based in the period between the fall of France and the arrival of the USA as an ally in the war in December 1941, he had a significant impact in creating the shape of alliances and the institutions which have influenced all our lives since 1945. 

[00:15:59] Let me try to describe to you how Churchill did this. 

[00:16:04] He had a good knowledge of the USA, partly based on his mother‘s American heritage, but also on visits there, such as his lecture tour in his 20s. 

[00:16:15] He had cultivated the American President, Franklin Roosevelt, or FDR, from the early days of the war, persuading him to lend Britain military equipment in order to resist the Nazis. 

[00:16:28] As soon as the USA joined the war in December 1941, Churchill went straightaway to visit Roosevelt in order to plan the next stage of the war. 

[00:16:40] They also started to talk about how the post-war order should be arranged. Central to this was the United Nations. 

[00:16:48] Other significant institutions were founded to prevent the recurrences of future economic depressions that had helped the growth of fascism; so institutions such as the World Bank and the Bretton Woods agreement were also established

[00:17:05] As for Europe, Churchill had a clear vision for some form of United States of Europe, with France and Germany at its core

[00:17:14] Although he had tried to reach agreements with Stalin, the leader of the USSR, Stalin‘s determination to control Eastern Europe and the fact that his armies had advanced so far meant that all the promises given by Stalin to Churchill about democratic elections meant nothing. 

[00:17:32] In the end, Soviet military might and Communist authoritarian rule were to dominate Eastern Europe for almost 45 years. 

[00:17:41] Churchill saw what was happening: he had an instinct, you could say a knack or skill, of seeing the shape of the future. 

[00:17:49] Speaking in Fulton, Missouri in the USA in 1946 he first used the words which came to describe the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe, saying: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.” 

[00:18:09] Churchill wasn’t the first person to use that phrase, but he was the most famous. 

[00:18:14] And it stuck, it has remained the most common way of describing the division between East and Western Europe during that era. 

[00:18:23] Now, to the complex question of Churchill‘s iconic status and the accusations of racism. 

[00:18:31] The debate over Britain‘s role within Europe and the resulting withdrawal from the European Union revived the image of Churchill; for Brexit supporters, the idea of the revival of British greatness is linked closely with the image of Churchill and a time when Britain was a global superpower. 

[00:18:50] But opponents of Brexit see such ideas as dangerous dreams of a time or era which has gone for ever, it no longer exists. 

[00:19:00] There is no doubt that Churchill‘s own writings and the memory of him in popular folklore has had a strong influence on how British and colonial history was taught in schools until quite recently. 

[00:19:13] In other words, as the vote in 2002 showed, Churchill and what he stands for is still a powerful force in the British imagination.

[00:19:23] But, was he a racist? 

[00:19:25] By today‘s standards, undoubtedly yes; but a high proportion of his contemporaries, people living at the same time as him, would also be viewed as racists by today’s standards. 

[00:19:37] This isn’t by any means to excuse his views, but to try to understand them in the context of the time he lived in.

[00:19:44] He certainly viewed white people as superior to other races - in some kind of a social Darwinian hierarchy

[00:19:52] Although he held these views that we would now find completely unacceptable, this didn’t mean that he felt it was right to treat non-white people in an inhumane way and, even from his early days in British Imperial India, he objected strongly when he saw this behaviour taking place. 

[00:20:11] However, there is one especially serious accusation against Churchill of inhumane treatment of people of colour. 

[00:20:19] This was in 1943 when he failed to take action in order to help limit deaths through famine in Bengal, a region in North East India, which was still part of The British Empire at the time.

[00:20:31] He insisted that India continued to export rice in order to support the European war effort - in other words to feed Europeans who might not have enough to eat. 

[00:20:43] The problem was, exporting the rice abroad would mean that the people in Bengal would suffer food shortages.

[00:20:50] It is thought that Churchill’s decision made the situation much worse; a cyclone and flooding were also factors but Churchill’s policy was a major cause of the deaths of three million people. 

[00:21:05] There are plenty of other racist accusations that can be made against Churchill – anti-Semitism in particular; but again, there are contradictions. 

[00:21:14] Yes, he was certainly guilty of the casual anti-Semitism which was an element of so many of the British ruling class of the time, but he was also an ardent supporter of the foundation of Israel. 

[00:21:28] In July 1944 he also acted swiftly to stop, or at least limit the amount of, Hungarian Jews who were being sent to concentration camps by the Nazis.

[00:21:40] And closer to home, although he was accused of using violent methods to stop Welsh workers who were on strike or refusing to work, he was a strong supporter of the reform of working conditions and an early architect of the modern welfare state. 

[00:21:57] In conclusion, the length of his political career - remember, the longest political career in British history - and the extreme demands of what he faced in World War II meant he faced thousands of critical decisions; for sure, he had his faults and his failings, but the positive effect he had on the world in keeping the torch of liberal democracy burning between 1940-45 means that there are certainly some strong arguments that his virtues and his positive impact far outweigh his failings. 

[00:22:32] I will leave the last words on this to Queen Elizabeth II and also to Churchill‘s political opponent and successor as Prime Minister, Clement Atlee; they were made after Churchill’s death in 1965. 

[00:22:46] The Queen described him as “a national hero”. 

[00:22:50] And Clement Atlee remarked on how Churchill combined to a remarkable extent “energy and poetry“, saying that he was “the greatest Englishman of our time – I think the greatest citizen of the world of our time.“ 

[00:23:03] OK, so that is a brief summary of the life of Winston Churchill, and we will learn more about the rhetoric and the language of the man in the next episode. 

[00:23:14] But, as promised, let’s end with a few weird and wonderful facts about this amazing man. 

[00:23:21] Firstly, near death experiences: there were many. 

[00:23:25] For a man who believed he was destined for greatness, he was certainly careless about his personal safety and he loved danger. 

[00:23:34] When he was 18 years old, playing with his 12-year-old brother and 14-year-old cousin, he jumped off a bridge and fell almost 9 metres, landing on the hard ground. 

[00:23:45] He was almost killed, and spent 3 months in bed recovering.

[00:23:50] He had several plane crashes, he nearly drowned in a lake, he consistently fell from running horses, and was knocked down and almost killed by a car whilst visiting New York.

[00:24:02] What’s more, he actively chose to become a soldier in World War One, and served on the Western Front.

[00:24:08] It’s remarkable that he lived as long as he did.

[00:24:12] His working regime often involved him working until three or four o' clock in the morning. 

[00:24:18] He would sleep for a short period, four or five hours, then eat a very large cooked breakfast and continue to work from his bed.

[00:24:27] As well as loving those big fat cigars, he did not hold back with alcoholic drinks, loving fine wine, champagne and brandy especially. 

[00:24:37] He began with “a daily whisky mouthwash” he called it, and it is estimated that he drank 42,000 bottles of Pol Roger champagne during his lifetime.

[00:24:48] Again, with a lifestyle and diet like that, it is even more amazing that he lived to 90 years old.

[00:24:55] And back to his political life, after victory in Europe there was a general election. 

[00:25:01] Although Churchill was widely credited with leading the country very well through the war, Britons chose a Labour government with a radical programme of social reform, and a new prime minister was chosen.

[00:25:14] But Churchill’s relationship with politics didn’t end there. He was to remain an MP, albeit in the opposition, until the ripe old age of 89.

[00:25:24] So, while there is certainly plenty of value in debating some of the views that Churchill held, and the policies that he presided over, it is undeniable that he lived a fascinating life, shaped the world that we all live in today, and was one of the most important figures of the 20th century

[00:25:45] OK then, that is it for today's episode on Winston Churchill, A British Icon.

[00:25:52] As a reminder, in the next episode we will talk about his language, and how he used English to galvanise and excite the British population, and the entire English-speaking world.

[00:26:04] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. What do people think of Churchill in your country? 

[00:26:11] How is he remembered, if at all?

[00:26:14] Let’s get this discussion started - you can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:26:25] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:26:30] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.


[END OF EPISODE]


[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about Winston Churchill, the iconic British wartime Prime Minister.

[00:00:31] This is actually going to be the first of two episodes about Churchill.

[00:00:36] Today, we will talk about his varied life, from escaping as a prisoner of war camp in South Africa to his unorthodox daily routine, and of course his huge influence on the world we all live in today.

[00:00:50] Then in the next episode we will talk about his language, and how he used the English language to galvanise a nation, and look at what you, as a learner of English, can learn from Churchill about how to use language effectively.

[00:01:08] OK then, he survived two world wars, was almost killed numerous times, served as the British Prime Minister twice, and lived to the age of 90.

[00:01:20] There is a lot to get through, so let’s get started.

[00:01:24] In 2002 the BBC conducted a poll, a survey, a public vote.

[00:01:31] They asked the British public to vote on who was the greatest Briton ever. 

[00:01:37] This became a lively national debate – on television, radio and in newspapers. 

[00:01:43] Now, without sounding too much like I’m working for the UK tourist board, there are a lot of people to choose from.

[00:01:52] Shakespeare, the greatest playwright of all time?

[00:01:55] Isaac Newton, perhaps, the man who discovered gravity?

[00:02:00] John Lennon, the peace activist and member of The Beatles?

[00:02:04] Or even Queen Victoria, who was the longest-reigning British monarch at the time of the survey?

[00:02:11] Nope, it was Winston Churchill, the man who is believed by many to have saved Britain from Nazi invasion in the Second World War. 

[00:02:20] Indeed, many would argue that his leadership during the period when Britain stood alone against the Nazi forces gives him a worldwide significance and status, and that without him, the world would be a very different place right now. 

[00:02:36] Perhaps when you hear his name you can imagine what he looks like: quite a large man, dressed formally in the clothes we might associate with the 19th century - black jacket, bow tie and bowler hat

[00:02:51] He sometimes has two fingers raised in the “V for Victory” sign; very often he is holding a fat cigar in his mouth or in his hand. 

[00:03:03] Recently, Churchill‘s status as a wartime leader and hero has come under attack, especially with the accusation of being a racist. 

[00:03:14] After the Black Lives Matter protests, his statue in Parliament Square in London had “was a racist” written in red after his name. 

[00:03:24] As a result, his statue was covered in protective material so that it did not suffer any further damage.

[00:03:32] This caused huge controversy in the UK, with some powerful right-wing newspapers arguing that it was a disgrace that a national hero was being attacked, while protestors on the other side argued that he was far from a hero.

[00:03:50] In this episode, the first of two about Churchill, we are going to do three things: 

[00:03:56] Firstly, to outline his remarkable career and his profound influence on the Second World War; 

[00:04:04] Secondly, to assess his influence on the so-called post-World War II order; 

[00:04:10] and finally, whilst considering the influence he continues to have on British culture and the way in which the British view themselves and their history, we will consider whether the accusations made against him are justified, and to what extent they matter. 

[00:04:27] And as a little bonus, we will end with a brief list of surprising facts about this remarkable man. 

[00:04:35] So, firstly, to the extraordinary life of Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill. 

[00:04:42] Let us start with an amazing thought to do with the length of his working life: he became an officer in the British army in the reign of Queen Victoria and, five monarchs later, the current Queen Elizabeth II was on the throne when he died in 1965. 

[00:05:02] To give you an example of quite how much change he lived through, as a young soldier he took part in some of the last cavalry charges ever - battles between men on horses armed with large swords; yet when he was Prime Minister for the second time in 1952, he heard the news of the successful development of the first hydrogen bomb, the yet more powerful successor to the atomic bomb. 

[00:05:31] There is so much that is colourful and extraordinary about this man’s life so we will need to be ultra-selective

[00:05:40] He was remarkable in the range of careers that he followed: soldier, journalist, historian, lecturer, politician, not to mention the hobbies that he threw himself into – painting, primarily, but also brick laying

[00:05:56] Born in 1874 into a highly privileged aristocratic and wealthy family, he not only had a famous politician as a father, but also one of the most admired and celebrated British war heroes, John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, as an ancestor

[00:06:16] As a thank you and a tribute to John Churchill for his victories over the French in the War of the Spanish Succession, the country built him one of its grandest palaces in beautiful, landscaped grounds just north of Oxford, it was called Blenheim Palace. 

[00:06:33] Blenheim Palace was not only where Winston Churchill was born in 1894 but also where he proposed marriage to the American, Clementine Hozier, and where he and she spent the start of their honeymoon. 

[00:06:48] Blenheim Palace is actually open to the public, it’s possible to visit it today, and I would definitely recommend a trip. 

[00:06:56] The reason I mention it now is because it is an important setting to bear in mind when you consider Churchill‘s career: his heritage or tradition of political and military success makes his ambition, drive and sense of historical destiny much more understandable. 

[00:07:15] Young Winston was acutely aware of his own talents and seems, from an early age, to have had an unusual sense of his own destiny. 

[00:07:26] In a letter to Violet Bonham-Carter, a lifelong friend, he wrote in 1906: “We are all worms, but I do believe that I am a glow-worm”. 

[00:07:38] Glow-worms are the worms that give off light in the darkness. 

[00:07:43] Self-belief, courage, resourcefulness and the connections he had in the ruling establishment – so that's the people at the top of British society – this all meant that he became famous very early on in his life. 

[00:07:58] His first taste of celebrity came during the Boer War in South Africa.

[00:08:05] He had travelled to South Africa as a journalist in 1899, taking with him a collection of servants and a vast liquor cabinet containing 18 bottles of whisky.

[00:08:17] He was on an armoured train when it was attacked by the Boers. 

[00:08:22] Despite being only a journalist, he jumped into action and bravely defended the train, taking command of the British troops.

[00:08:31] He was captured and kept as a prisoner of war, deep in enemy territory, but he managed to escape. 

[00:08:39] There was a huge manhunt to try to find him, but he managed to evade capture, which turned him into a national celebrity overnight.

[00:08:49] He had a great talent for writing, and wrote a best-selling book about his adventures during the Boer War.

[00:08:56] Even more profitable than selling books was a lecture tour of the United States, where he cultivated his talent for public speaking. 

[00:09:06] But he didn’t have his heart set on becoming a writer. He wanted to make as much money as possible from writing so that he would have complete financial independence in order to pursue his career as a politician. 

[00:09:20] He became an MP, a member of parliament, in 1900, and served from 1900 to 1964, apart from a two-year break between 1922 and 1924. 

[00:09:33] This still makes him the longest serving MP in British history.

[00:09:38] And although he belonged to two different political parties during the course of his life – the Liberals and the Conservatives – his own distinctive approach to political life often did not naturally fall within the boundaries of political parties, and he was not afraid to propose controversial, unorthodox ideas. 

[00:10:00] During the 1st World War, as Minister of War, he proposed a bold military move in order to unlock the stalemate, the deadlock, that was causing so many deaths on the Western Front. 

[00:10:15] The idea was to open up a new front through the invasion of Gallipoli on the Dardanelles Peninsula in Turkey. 

[00:10:23] This complicated naval and military plan failed spectacularly, resulting in the deaths of a quarter of a million allied soldiers; Churchill‘s reputation was severely damaged as a result, and throughout his political career he was taunted, he was made fun of, by his opponents with the phrase “Remember the Dardanelles”. 

[00:10:47] It took him quite some time to recover, and it was during the 1930s when Churchill again came to political prominence

[00:10:56] The background to this was that, as a response to the popularity of pacifism, or the idea of “No more war”, and the tragic loss of young life in World War I, the Western democracies were trying to cut down the size of their armed forces. 

[00:11:13] The word for this in English is disarmament.

[00:11:17] Britain and France felt that they should do this, partly in order that Germany did not have the justification to build up its army; however, Churchill, who called out the nasty actions of the fascists from early on, felt that disarmament was leading to a disastrous situation whereby the fascist powers would have superior military strength. 

[00:11:42] In retrospect, he had the vision to see what was happening: that the two prominent European dictators who had come to power in the 1920s, so, Adolf Hitler in Germany and Benito Mussolini in Italy, they were building up their armies, navies and air forces. 

[00:12:00] Churchill, who had learnt to fly in the early years of aviation, was a particularly strong campaigner for Britain to build up its air force. 

[00:12:10] Alas, or unfortunately, the government did not act on his proposals. 

[00:12:16] Along with the policy of disarmament, the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, led a policy of appeasement towards Hitler; this meant trying to keep Hitler happy through conceding or giving in to him. 

[00:12:29] Churchill opposed this policy energetically; for example, when in September 1938, Chamberlain came back from Germany with the so-called Munich Agreement, waving the treaty in the air and saying it represented “Peace in our time”, Churchill called it “a total and unmitigated defeat.” 

[00:12:50] When finally, Czechoslovakia having already been sacrificed to the Nazis, Poland was invaded in September 1939, it became clear to everyone that these policies of disarmament and appeasement had failed disastrously

[00:13:07] Chamberlain fell out of favour, and was replaced by Churchill, who became Prime Minister and led a coalition government which was in power for the wartime years of 1940 to 1945. 

[00:13:20] With the defeat of France in June 1940 and the chaotic evacuation of British and French troops from Dunkirk in France, Britain‘s situation was terrible: Russia was in its temporary alliance with Germany; the USA remained neutral; and Hitler‘s main focus was therefore on continuing his march westwards, with the invasion of the British Isles a strong possibility. 

[00:13:47] At this time there were plenty of British politicians who, under a different person’s leadership, would have wanted to seek peace with Hitler through some form of concessionthereby giving in and falling under German control in one way or another. 

[00:14:04] Churchill‘s repeated, powerful statements against the horrors of the Nazi regime meant that there was no possibility of seeking to find agreement with the Nazis. 

[00:14:15] We will go into this in detail in the next episode, but here is just a little taste of his oratory, of how he used language. 

[00:14:25] In Parliament he warned against German aggression and refers to how “the concentration camps pockmarked the German soil”. 

[00:14:34] Pockmarked means covered by the scars that are left after spots on your skin.

[00:14:40] His sense of destiny and history were evident when, with Britain in a dangerous situation and morale low, he referred to the “high honour” of the British being the “sole champions now in arms” against Nazi tyranny

[00:14:57] During the darkest of times, with the retreat from Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, which was when the air forces of the two countries fought in the skies above Southern England, and the Blitz, which was the German bombing of English cities, Churchill rallied the British public, he encouraged the public, through his famous speeches. 

[00:15:19] His words had a powerful effect on national morale through speeches such as “We will fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds…we shall never surrender.” 

[00:15:30] And, as we know, Britain did not surrender, the US joined the war effort, and Hitler and the Nazis were defeated.

[00:15:38] Although for many people the reputation of Churchill is mainly based in the period between the fall of France and the arrival of the USA as an ally in the war in December 1941, he had a significant impact in creating the shape of alliances and the institutions which have influenced all our lives since 1945. 

[00:15:59] Let me try to describe to you how Churchill did this. 

[00:16:04] He had a good knowledge of the USA, partly based on his mother‘s American heritage, but also on visits there, such as his lecture tour in his 20s. 

[00:16:15] He had cultivated the American President, Franklin Roosevelt, or FDR, from the early days of the war, persuading him to lend Britain military equipment in order to resist the Nazis. 

[00:16:28] As soon as the USA joined the war in December 1941, Churchill went straightaway to visit Roosevelt in order to plan the next stage of the war. 

[00:16:40] They also started to talk about how the post-war order should be arranged. Central to this was the United Nations. 

[00:16:48] Other significant institutions were founded to prevent the recurrences of future economic depressions that had helped the growth of fascism; so institutions such as the World Bank and the Bretton Woods agreement were also established

[00:17:05] As for Europe, Churchill had a clear vision for some form of United States of Europe, with France and Germany at its core

[00:17:14] Although he had tried to reach agreements with Stalin, the leader of the USSR, Stalin‘s determination to control Eastern Europe and the fact that his armies had advanced so far meant that all the promises given by Stalin to Churchill about democratic elections meant nothing. 

[00:17:32] In the end, Soviet military might and Communist authoritarian rule were to dominate Eastern Europe for almost 45 years. 

[00:17:41] Churchill saw what was happening: he had an instinct, you could say a knack or skill, of seeing the shape of the future. 

[00:17:49] Speaking in Fulton, Missouri in the USA in 1946 he first used the words which came to describe the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe, saying: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.” 

[00:18:09] Churchill wasn’t the first person to use that phrase, but he was the most famous. 

[00:18:14] And it stuck, it has remained the most common way of describing the division between East and Western Europe during that era. 

[00:18:23] Now, to the complex question of Churchill‘s iconic status and the accusations of racism. 

[00:18:31] The debate over Britain‘s role within Europe and the resulting withdrawal from the European Union revived the image of Churchill; for Brexit supporters, the idea of the revival of British greatness is linked closely with the image of Churchill and a time when Britain was a global superpower. 

[00:18:50] But opponents of Brexit see such ideas as dangerous dreams of a time or era which has gone for ever, it no longer exists. 

[00:19:00] There is no doubt that Churchill‘s own writings and the memory of him in popular folklore has had a strong influence on how British and colonial history was taught in schools until quite recently. 

[00:19:13] In other words, as the vote in 2002 showed, Churchill and what he stands for is still a powerful force in the British imagination.

[00:19:23] But, was he a racist? 

[00:19:25] By today‘s standards, undoubtedly yes; but a high proportion of his contemporaries, people living at the same time as him, would also be viewed as racists by today’s standards. 

[00:19:37] This isn’t by any means to excuse his views, but to try to understand them in the context of the time he lived in.

[00:19:44] He certainly viewed white people as superior to other races - in some kind of a social Darwinian hierarchy

[00:19:52] Although he held these views that we would now find completely unacceptable, this didn’t mean that he felt it was right to treat non-white people in an inhumane way and, even from his early days in British Imperial India, he objected strongly when he saw this behaviour taking place. 

[00:20:11] However, there is one especially serious accusation against Churchill of inhumane treatment of people of colour. 

[00:20:19] This was in 1943 when he failed to take action in order to help limit deaths through famine in Bengal, a region in North East India, which was still part of The British Empire at the time.

[00:20:31] He insisted that India continued to export rice in order to support the European war effort - in other words to feed Europeans who might not have enough to eat. 

[00:20:43] The problem was, exporting the rice abroad would mean that the people in Bengal would suffer food shortages.

[00:20:50] It is thought that Churchill’s decision made the situation much worse; a cyclone and flooding were also factors but Churchill’s policy was a major cause of the deaths of three million people. 

[00:21:05] There are plenty of other racist accusations that can be made against Churchill – anti-Semitism in particular; but again, there are contradictions. 

[00:21:14] Yes, he was certainly guilty of the casual anti-Semitism which was an element of so many of the British ruling class of the time, but he was also an ardent supporter of the foundation of Israel. 

[00:21:28] In July 1944 he also acted swiftly to stop, or at least limit the amount of, Hungarian Jews who were being sent to concentration camps by the Nazis.

[00:21:40] And closer to home, although he was accused of using violent methods to stop Welsh workers who were on strike or refusing to work, he was a strong supporter of the reform of working conditions and an early architect of the modern welfare state. 

[00:21:57] In conclusion, the length of his political career - remember, the longest political career in British history - and the extreme demands of what he faced in World War II meant he faced thousands of critical decisions; for sure, he had his faults and his failings, but the positive effect he had on the world in keeping the torch of liberal democracy burning between 1940-45 means that there are certainly some strong arguments that his virtues and his positive impact far outweigh his failings. 

[00:22:32] I will leave the last words on this to Queen Elizabeth II and also to Churchill‘s political opponent and successor as Prime Minister, Clement Atlee; they were made after Churchill’s death in 1965. 

[00:22:46] The Queen described him as “a national hero”. 

[00:22:50] And Clement Atlee remarked on how Churchill combined to a remarkable extent “energy and poetry“, saying that he was “the greatest Englishman of our time – I think the greatest citizen of the world of our time.“ 

[00:23:03] OK, so that is a brief summary of the life of Winston Churchill, and we will learn more about the rhetoric and the language of the man in the next episode. 

[00:23:14] But, as promised, let’s end with a few weird and wonderful facts about this amazing man. 

[00:23:21] Firstly, near death experiences: there were many. 

[00:23:25] For a man who believed he was destined for greatness, he was certainly careless about his personal safety and he loved danger. 

[00:23:34] When he was 18 years old, playing with his 12-year-old brother and 14-year-old cousin, he jumped off a bridge and fell almost 9 metres, landing on the hard ground. 

[00:23:45] He was almost killed, and spent 3 months in bed recovering.

[00:23:50] He had several plane crashes, he nearly drowned in a lake, he consistently fell from running horses, and was knocked down and almost killed by a car whilst visiting New York.

[00:24:02] What’s more, he actively chose to become a soldier in World War One, and served on the Western Front.

[00:24:08] It’s remarkable that he lived as long as he did.

[00:24:12] His working regime often involved him working until three or four o' clock in the morning. 

[00:24:18] He would sleep for a short period, four or five hours, then eat a very large cooked breakfast and continue to work from his bed.

[00:24:27] As well as loving those big fat cigars, he did not hold back with alcoholic drinks, loving fine wine, champagne and brandy especially. 

[00:24:37] He began with “a daily whisky mouthwash” he called it, and it is estimated that he drank 42,000 bottles of Pol Roger champagne during his lifetime.

[00:24:48] Again, with a lifestyle and diet like that, it is even more amazing that he lived to 90 years old.

[00:24:55] And back to his political life, after victory in Europe there was a general election. 

[00:25:01] Although Churchill was widely credited with leading the country very well through the war, Britons chose a Labour government with a radical programme of social reform, and a new prime minister was chosen.

[00:25:14] But Churchill’s relationship with politics didn’t end there. He was to remain an MP, albeit in the opposition, until the ripe old age of 89.

[00:25:24] So, while there is certainly plenty of value in debating some of the views that Churchill held, and the policies that he presided over, it is undeniable that he lived a fascinating life, shaped the world that we all live in today, and was one of the most important figures of the 20th century

[00:25:45] OK then, that is it for today's episode on Winston Churchill, A British Icon.

[00:25:52] As a reminder, in the next episode we will talk about his language, and how he used English to galvanise and excite the British population, and the entire English-speaking world.

[00:26:04] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode. What do people think of Churchill in your country? 

[00:26:11] How is he remembered, if at all?

[00:26:14] Let’s get this discussion started - you can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:26:25] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:26:30] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.


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