Winston Churchill is remembered for leading Britain through her finest hour — but what if he also led the country through her most shameful one? What if, in addition to rousing a nation to save the world from the Nazis, he fought for a raw white supremacy and a concentration camp network of his own? This question burns through Richard Toye’s superb, unsettling new history, “Churchill’s Empire” — and is even seeping into the Oval Office. George W. Bush left a big growling bust of Churchill near his desk in the White House, in an attempt to associate himself with Churchill’s heroic stand against fascism. Barack Obama had it returned to Britain. It’s not hard to guess why: his Kenyan grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, was imprisoned without trial for two years and tortured on Churchill’s watch, for resisting Churchill’s empire. Can these clashing Churchills be reconciled? Do we live, at the same time, in the world he helped to save and the world he helped to trash? Toye, one of Britain’s smartest young historians, has tried to pick through these questions dispassionately. Churchill was born in 1874 into a Britain that was coloring the map imperial pink, at the cost of washing distant nations blood-red. He was told a simple story: the superior white man was conquering the primitive dark-skinned natives, and bringing them the benefits of civilization.
more from Johann Hari at the NYT here. (h/t Ruchira)