"Churchill – Failure and Triump"by C.J. Sansom
It has been fascinating to feature Winston Churchill in my latest novel, Dominion.
His career has interested me all my life. It was very long; he was a major figure in British politics from 1908 until his final retirement in 1955. It was also a career that was full of contradictions and defeats; for although he was ambitious Churchill always followed his own beliefs, wherever they led.
In 1970 the historian Robert Rhodes James wrote a book, Churchill: A Study in Failure which made the point, rightly, that had Churchill died in early 1940 he would be remembered only as an eccentric failure.
Winston Churchill had risen to prominence as a radical Liberal at the start of the century, and achieved some lasting reforms, but during the First World War he was identified with the military disaster of the Gallipoli campaign against Turkey (though others shared the responsibility) and afterwards, when he rejoined the Conservative Party (where he started his career), he was known as a fanatical anti-socialist who identified the British Labour Party, quite wrongly, with the Bolsheviks, He was, by his own admission, a failure as Finance Minister in the 1920s where he cleaved to the rigid conservatism of the British Treasury, and in the 1930s became an outcast within his own party for his obdurate refusal to consider allowing India any progress towards self-government.
So why is his memory so revered? Why do I, an avowed left-winger, have a bust of him among the ornaments in my lounge? The answer is simple: 1940.
Churchill was wrong about many things, but he got one thing absolutely right – the terrible danger that Hitler and the Nazis presented to Britain, Europe and the world. Part of his concern was from a self-interested British point of view – the danger that Germany would dominate Europe; but he also genuinely, passionately loathed the fanatically nationalist, anti-Semitic, totalitarian Nazi state.
It was clear not just from Hitler's actions, but from a reading of his book Mein Kampf, that his aim was always conquest and racial domination in Europe. But British people did not want to believe this in the 1930s. After the horrors of the First World War they desperately wanted peace, and many chose to believe Hitler's assurances that his aims were limited. It was understandable, but wrong. Even when he invaded Poland and Britain and France declared war, Neville Chamberlain's war government was half-hearted.
In 1940 military failures led to Chamberlain's resignation and Churchill, the man who had been right about Hitler, became Prime Minister and joined his old foes in the Labour Party in a new coalition. Peace was an offer from the Germans, and many wanted to take it, but it would have left Germany dominant in Europe, an alternative world which I have sketched in Dominion.
But Churchill said no, and meant it. He inspired his Coalition with the will to fight on against the odds. He told his Cabinet that "he would die choking in his own blood rather than surrender." An extraordinary orator, his speeches during the year 1940 – 41, when Britain stood alone, broadcast to the nation via the radio, have to be among the most stirring and inspiring ever made. "We shall fight on the beaches…" " We shall never surrender. …" "This was their finest hour…" " If we fail then all Europe... will sink into a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more prolonged, by the light of a perverted science." These speeches, with their spirit of dogged resistance to tyranny, can be heard on YouTube and still send a shiver down the spine.
Without Churchill, I do not think Britain would have held out when defeat stared us in the face in 1940. There was every reason to take the easy option. The Nazi tyranny would have been enabled to spread much further, and lasted much longer.
That is why I have a bust of Churchill in my lounge.
About DominionPublication Date: January 28, 2014
C.J. SANSOM REWRITES HISTORY IN A THRILLING NOVEL THAT DARES TO IMAGINE BRITAIN UNDER THE THUMB OF NAZI GERMANY.
1952. Twelve years have passed since Churchill lost to the appeasers and Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany. The global economy strains against the weight of the long German war against Russia still raging in the east. The British people find themselves under increasingly authoritarian rule--the press, radio, and television tightly controlled, the British Jews facing ever greater constraints.
But Churchill's Resistance soldiers on. As defiance grows, whispers circulate of a secret that could forever alter the balance of the global struggle. The keeper of that secret? Scientist Frank Muncaster, who languishes in a Birmingham mental hospital.
Civil Servant David Fitzgerald, a spy for the Resistance and University friend of Frank's, is given the mission to rescue Frank and get him out of the country. Hard on his heels is Gestapo agent Gunther Hoth, a brilliant, implacable hunter of men, who soon has Frank and David's innocent wife, Sarah, directly in his sights.
C.J. Sansom's literary thriller Winter in Madrid earned Sansom comparisons to Graham Greene, Sebastian Faulks, and Ernest Hemingway. Now, in his first alternative history epic, Sansom doesn't just recreate the past--he reinvents it. In a spellbinding tale of suspense, oppression and poignant love, DOMINION dares to explore how, in moments of crisis, history can turn on the decisions of a few brave men and women--the secrets they choose to keep and the bonds they share.
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About the AuthorC.J. Sansom is the bestselling author of the critically-acclaimed Matthew Sharlake series, as well as the runaway international bestseller Winter in Madrid. He lives in Sussex, England.
You can find more information on C.J. Sansom and his novels at www.cjsansom.com or on Facebook.
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