I’m sure that if I had to ask most people for the name of a British PM, Churchill would be one of the names that came up. He’s famous for many things. His books, his speeches, his leadership during WWII and the bombings in England, The Crown, his very forceful personality. One thing that never came to my mind was his imperialistic point of view. Sure, I realized he had it, like most British men in that time period, but it never stuck out as something to examine in depth. But, that’s probably why Richard Toye is around.
While I’ve always admired Churchill for all the things he did during his political career, his imperialism bothers me the most. It reminds me of the primitivism, racism, sexism, and sexualization that you see during that time period, especially in works of literature that mirror the perception of that age. And it bothers me, seeing people framed as “savages”. Churchill is no different in that respect.
Toye approached this topic perfectly. Imperialism is bound to upset people no matter what, yet Toye comes at the topic from a middle ground. He portrays Churchill as the man he was. A person who was shaped by the things going on around him, then the feedback that he got from the world as he helped shape it. Churchill was a product of the Victorian age and his politics show that his whole life.
Everything was very narrow and focused, which I appreciate. I know next to nothing about Churchill’s personal life and if Toye had come in, talking all about things that happened in his life, then it would have overwhelmed me like Victoria: A Life or Victoria: The Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire. I would have wound up not finishing it or just stopped paying attention as I listened. Churchill’s Empire narrowed in on Churchill’s policies about this one issue, only mentioning major life events when prudent. While I sometimes got lost without years as reference, I appreciate the narrowness of the topic. It’s hard to narrow a topic this specifically, but Toye made it look easy.
If you find modern British history interesting or just want a specific read on this political topic, I suggest you check this out. It was very interesting even when the topic seems that it would be dry.