Academic journal article Military Review

CHURCHILL'S SECRET WAR: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India during World War II

Academic journal article Military Review

CHURCHILL'S SECRET WAR: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India during World War II

Article excerpt

CHURCHILL'S SECRET WAR: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India During World War II, Madhusree Mukerjee, Basic Books, New York, 2010, 282 pages, $28.95.

M a d h u s r e e M u k e r j e e 's Churchill's Secret War is a compelling, in-depth account of a needless and little-known famine that caused the death of about three million Indians in Bengal in 1943. The book does much more than simply recount starvation and death set against the complex and dynamic backdrop of World War II (although the author does so in a most persuasive manner, with discerning accounts of those badly affected by the famine). Instead, Churchill's Secret War highlights external factors, internal divisions, and India's long fi ght for independence, all of which played important roles in the decisionmaking progress surrounding the food crisis. Winston Churchill's abject failure to support those most in need is central to the narrative. Controversially, while many view Churchill as an inspirational war leader and loyal partner, Mukerjee paints a compelling picture of a man affl icted by racial prejudice and complicit in the unnecessary death of so many ordinary Indians. The book also sheds light on a leader who was often misleading and deeply guarded the truth, especially with his closest ally.

Churchill's Secret War is well researched, challenging, and informative. Mukerjee's style is free flowing and engaging, drawing sensibly on persuasive quotations and historical facts. …

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