Churchill's Secret War by Madhusree Mukerjee
The British Empire and the Ravaging of India during World War II

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Synopsis

A dogged enemy of Hitler, resolute ally of the Americans, and inspiring leader through World War II, Winston Churchill is venerated as one of the truly great statesmen of the last century. But while he has been widely extolled for his achievements, parts of Churchill’s record have gone woefully unexamined. As journalist Madhusree Mukerjee reveals, at the same time that Churchill brilliantly opposed the barbarism of the Nazis, he governed India with a fierce resolve to crush its freedom movement and a profound contempt for native lives. A series of Churchill’s decisions between 1940 and 1944 directly and inevitably led to the deaths of some three million Indians. The streets of eastern Indian cities were lined with corpses, yet instead of sending emergency food shipments Churchill used the wheat and ships at his disposal to build stockpiles for feeding postwar Britain and Europe.

Combining meticulous research with a vivid narrative, and riveting accounts of personality and policy clashes within and without the British War Cabinet, Churchill’s Secret War places this oft-overlooked tragedy into the larger context of World War II, India’s fight for freedom, and Churchill’s enduring legacy. Winston Churchill may have found victory in Europe, but, as this groundbreaking historical investigation reveals, his mismanagement—facilitated by dubious advice from scientist and eugenicist Lord Cherwell—devastated India and set the stage for the massive bloodletting that accompanied independence.

 

About Madhusree Mukerjee

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Madhusree Mukerjee won a Guggenheim fellowship to write her previous book, The Land of Naked People. She has served on the board of editors of Scientific American. She lives near Frankfurt, Germany.
 
Published July 16, 2010 by Basic Books. 370 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Travel, War, Young Adult. Non-fiction

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Mukerjee (Land of the Naked People: Encounters with Stone Age Islanders, 2003) reminds readers that Britain’s shock at Hitler’s 1940 blitzkrieg was matched in 1942 when Japan easily conquered Burma.

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Publishers Weekly

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Mukerjee (The Land of Naked People) surveys a country seething with violence, as Congress Party militants agitating for independence turned to rioting and assassination campaigns after bloody police crackdowns, and an army of Indian guerrillas fought alongside the Japanese against the British.

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The New York Review of Books

If not the prime mover of the famine, the embattled wartime leader was at least responsible, we’re told, for a series of decisions “that would tilt the balance between life and death for millions.” Put another way, in her opening paragraph, “one primary cause” of the famine was the Briton’s readi...

Dec 23 2010 | Read Full Review of Churchill's Secret War: The B...

The Hindu

At the start, the best Indian troops were sent to the Middle East, possibly because the discovery of oil in Persia in 1908 had long meant that India was not quite the primary focus of British concern that it was for Churchill.

Nov 02 2010 | Read Full Review of Churchill's Secret War: The B...

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