Churchill's "Iron Curtain" Speech Fifty Years Later

Churchill's "Iron Curtain" Speech Fifty Years Later

Churchill's "Iron Curtain" Speech Fifty Years Later

Churchill's "Iron Curtain" Speech Fifty Years Later

Synopsis

Winston Churchill's visit to Fulton, Missouri, on March 5, 1946, marked the first public recognition of the cold war that was to follow World War II. Churchill delivered his most famous speech, 'The Sinews of Peace, " which became best known by the phrase he used to describe the cold war division of Europe, the "iron curtain."

In the United States and Britain, wartime alliances had fostered favorable feelings toward the Soviet Union. By 1946 democratic citizens on both sides of the Atlantic had begun to consider communist Russia a friend. In his speech at Fulton, Churchill exhibited breathtaking flexibility and a clear recognition of the main threat as he reminded the public that true friendship must be reserved for countries sharing a common love of liberty. The "Iron Curtain" speech defined postwar relations with the Soviet Union for citizens of Western democracies. Although it initially provoked intense controversy in the United States and Britain, criticism soon gave way to wide public agreement to oppose Soviet imperialism.

Opening with the full text of the address Churchill delivered in Fulton and concluding with Margaret Thatchers fiftieth anniversary address surveying the challenges facing Western democracies in this post-cold war climate, the book brings together essays that reflect on the past fifty years, recognizing Churchill's speech as a carefully conceived herald of the cold war for the Western democracies. These powerful essays offer a fresh appreciation of the speech's political, historical, diplomatic, and rhetorical significance.

Excerpt

From his days as a schoolboy, when he was fascinated by lectures and learned his father's speeches by heart, Winston Churchill aspired to oratory. As he tells us in his autobiography, he delivered his first speech while still a cadet at Sandhurst, and his first address to an organized political meeting came soon afterward. During his years as a soldier in India he explored the power of public speaking in an unpublished article, “The Scaffolding of Rhetoric, ” and in his only novel, Savrola. His speeches advanced his political career as he sought election to the House of Commons, and after his victory in 1900 a speaking tour made him financially independent for several years. When he took his seat in Parliament, the young man's speeches gained the attention of the House and laid the foundations for his career as a minister.

Churchill was quick at repartee and excelled at impromptu remarks, but success as an orator did not come without effort. Not only did he take lessons to overcome his difficulty in pronouncing sibilants, but also, after losing his thread in an early address to the House of Commons, he settled into the habit of preparing speeches word for word and learning them by heart. Memoirs by associates attest to the pains . . .

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