Gandhi & Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age
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Gandhi & Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  530 ratings  ·  98 reviews


In this fascinating and meticulously researched book, bestselling historian Arthur Herman sheds new light on two of the most universally recognizable icons of the twentieth century, and reveals how their forty-year rivalry sealed the fate of India and the British Empire.

They were born worlds apart: Winston Churchill to Britain’s most glamorous aristocratic family, Mohanda...more
Paperback, 736 pages
Published April 28th 2009 by Bantam (first published January 1st 2008)
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Arun
In seeking to write a history/biography that is unique, the author tries to take a critical view of Mr. Gandhi and his philosohpy. Unfortunately, the author does not explain Mr. Gandhi's ideas in enough detail to explain how realities on the ground diverged from the ideals. For example, the author tries to criticize Gandhi's ideas in relation to Hitler (an interesting question of whether satyagraha works against an abominable human like Hitler). The author says that Gandhi's methods of nonviolen...more
Elliot Ratzman
History written as the acts of “Great Men” makes for fun reading, but inaccurate historiography. While the author is presumably from this school, these two erstwhile great men—Gandhi and Churchill—seem often wretched, delusional, dogmatic and odious. Their lives were intertwined with the fate of both India and Britain, but it is unclear who the hero is and who’s the villain at any time—massive blood on their hands. Churchill is a prejudiced imperialist; Gandhi a deluded idealist. Churchill callo...more
Walter
This is an epic book about two icons of history, esp. that of the 20th century. It links them in a way that I had not previously known as well as recounts their individual journeys compellingly and completely. Both emerge from the respectful treatment as more fully human - Gandhi revealed to be a leader whose followers often didn't and who had most of his protests turn out to be unsuccessful; Churchill revealed to have been bigoted, bullheaded and lucky (because he ascended to the Prime Minister...more
Agni Kirupha
It's a a decent book is what I can say. It gets a few things right but the problem is it leaves a lot of topics hanging in mid air. For example in one of the chapters, there was this sentence "Gandhi almost killed his son Harilal, with his experiments" or something along the same lines. It is a very offhand remark to make. Gandhi, in his autobiography, explains in detail this specific incident. He perceived the incident as a test of his morals/principles. (The doctors diagnose his son to be affe...more
Geetha
May 24, 2010 Geetha rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ram, dush
Gandhi and Churchill were among the most influential men of the 20th century, born within five years of each other 4000 miles apart. Though they met only once, their lives, values and goals would clash head-on several times. Arthur Herman writes a very readable book which includes not only the lives of these two Titans but incorporates also the history of the world during their lives – the two World Wars, the Depression and of course the fight for India’s independence.
The book clearly reveals wh...more
Joshua Steimle
Mar 02, 2012 Joshua Steimle rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Connor Boyack
One might expect that a book this long would be fairly comprehensive. While observing that making the book any longer might have been impractical if the author wanted anyone to read it, my main fault with the book was that it could do no more in most cases than summarize the lives of these two giants of history. But I am now motivated to read more about and by the two men.

This was virtually my first exposure to either man, and my views on both certainly changed. While appearing to have done the...more
Susan
This is a 600 page mouthful of historical clashes and as the title suggests, the downfall of the British Raj. These were the 2 most inspiring leaders of our time but they opposed each other and differed greatly in their vision, especially control of India.

Subtle, understated facts about Churchill: the only British politcian of his time to immediately detect that Hitler was sinister, took a keen interest in racial science (he passed a bill for involuntary sterlization of the mentally ill - he did...more
Bluenose
Just about any book about Churchill makes interesting reading. Gandhi I didn’t know much about – except for the adulatory movie. No, that’s not exactly true. Human Smoke, the odd pacifist history consisting of snippets from the period leading up to the American entry into WW II, has a lot of bits about Churchill (bloodthirsty warmonger) and Gandhi (man of peace and all round saint). I had just finished that book so I had a little bit of background.

This book casts the protagonists as similar in...more
Rishabh
(written for another purpose)

I am no historian, or even a scholar who is well-versed in the material that this book concerns itself with. Therefore, this review is strictly a layman’s review.

Popular historian Arthur Herman in this book scripts parallel biographies of MK Gandhi and Winston Churchill, two titans of the last century, whose influence is indicated by their places as the runner-up to Person of the Century (1900 - 2000) and the Person of the Half Century (1900 – 1950) respectively by T...more
Socraticgadfly
Great exercise in demythologizing, especially of Gandhi

It has been said of French president Clemenceau that he had one illusion, France, and one disillusion, mankind, including Frenchmen.

Arthur Herman, in his magisterial new dual biography, shows how the same could be said of his twin protagonists over India and Indians.

Churchill's illusion was that Britain could continue to hold on to the old British Raj, even after World War II and a bankrupt British treasury. His disillusion was rather a cyni...more
Jim Good
Duel biography of Churchill and Gandhi putting special emphisis on the fight for Indian independence. Shows Churchill’s strength and weakness to be the same: steadfast resolve and issues as black and white only. Compares to Gandhi’s eccentricities and self examination. In the conflict each misjudged the other, missed opportunities to find solutions that could have prevented disaster, and became icons in their country without accomplishing their true goals. Churchill’s goal of reaffirming and pro...more
Andrew
i loved this book, very revealing portrait of political turmoil throught the first half of the 20th century,
and also great notes on the two individuals who along with Hitler, Stalin and Roosevelt, helped shape our world during that time..
many surprising notes about G and C and their personalities and beliefs, from reliable sources...
Herman's portrayal of WC is really not that flattering, but I think realistic, the man had his faults, like us all, but was able to rise,
and be remembered as 'great...more
Sueij
What an utterly outstanding (if incredibly massive) book.

Everything you ever wanted to know... and probably more than you thought existed... about Mohandas Gandhi's life and development as an activist and player in the Indian independence journey. What amazed me most is how wildly different that man was than the "little peaceful fasting naked" man we imagine in the West.

And while I'm sure there are a nearly infinite number of volumes written on Winston Churchilll, this particular one focuses on...more
anday androo
I found this rather tiresome in the end. It's focus is largely on how these two giants react to and participate in the events leading up to India's sovereignty. I found that it had the typical British pallor that doesn't allow for true, direct, criticism of anyone well respected. As someone who generally slept through my high school history classes, this definitely gave me better insight into the Raj, but I think not enough. As the title says, this is a book about Churchill and Gandhi, but if yo...more
Kristine
Very long book. Very interesting to compare the lives of these two men. I also really enjoyed learning more about the history of India and the English role in its history. I did not know much about either men. I appreciated the biography because it didn't glorify either. Rather it seemed to be an account of both men, their accomplishments, their failures, their idiosyncrasies, etc. Very interesting. I had no idea how many times each "failed." It was interesting to note the impact they have had o...more
Jeff
This was a skillfully written biography about two very interesting people who substantially shaped the politics of the 20th century.

The biggest message that I learned from this book is that their contributions were not necessarily positive, either one of them. People are fallible; great people are greatly fallible. Gandhi's campaigns, with the exception of perhaps the Salt Satyagraha, were almost exclusively failures (or at least, minor, ho-hum successes). This portion of the book could be consi...more
Matt Robinson
I think I'm a tad biased against long biographies - and this one felt really long. The men described are fascinating figures, and I got lots of glimpses of Gandhi I never would have expected. But mostly I felt like I was reading a chronology without a lot of character. Tying Churchill and Gandhi's stories together was an interesting take and a way to provide context between each others' lives, but I think I would have preferred reading shorter, more biased accounts of their lives separately.

The...more
Brian
I liked this book. I gave me a better impression of what they were like and why. It also opened my eyes to the faults and foibles that we all have.

What I learned from this book is how popular opinion can shape people's opinions of historical figures. We often get the filtered view and we really have to dig in a bit more and form our own opinions. Granted you are still reading an opinion, but there are facts and quotes that can't be denied.

I always thought Gandhi might be a good model for startin...more
Bob Schmitz
If you want to know everything about Gandhi and Churchill this is a great book. Using the theme of their conflict over India the author takes each man and traces their history from grandparents to death. It gives a very nuanced picture of both men’s strengths and weakness, their well know success and their lesser know failures. I was aware of many of Churchill’s failures and faults: Gallipoli, the partition of the Mideast, huge egotism but the book portrays all sides of these issues and the fail...more
Marcus
Excellent modern history, an authoritative but very readable 600 page study of two giants of the early 20th century – “the two came to differ on many if not most issues, but the man who would single-handedly defy Hitler in 1940 bears a striking resemblance to the man who organised the first satyagraha campaign in South Africa.”
Gandhi and Churchill were contemporaries. “Both men loved freedom and liberty but of two fundamentally different kinds.” They came to be the fiercest opponents over India...more
Raja Krishnan

Below is the review I wrote after reading this book.

For those of you intimidating by reading History, I would encourage you to give it a chance. Yeah, history books are long, hundreds of pages; it at first appears that it can be dry. This is not the case when well written, and when reading History patience does have its rewards. Oh, now there might be a lot of names, places, dates and it might be tough to follow. Again if well written and presented, then it should be easy to follow, stay with it...more
Jacob
This is a fascinating (albeit lengthy, dense, and complex; an index of names to keep all the important players straight would've been greatly appreciated) history of two of the most famous people of the early Twentieth Century: Winston Churchill and Mohandas Gandhi, two hugely influential individuals, born thousands of miles apart, who only met once when both were powerless and unimportant but whose feud later in life over the future of India and the British Empire lasted decades and did almost...more
Ankit Mahato
`Frankly, if you had to choose the greater man between Gandhi and Churchill, there's no contest.'
A.A. GILL

Two men, born five years and four thousand miles apart, meet once when both are unknown. Then they go their separate ways and become two of the most revered figures of the 20th century. From time to time they pass each other as they pass through history, each bent on his own course. otherwise they find very different destinies. One saves his country and secures victory in the greatest war th...more
Greg Tatum
It's quite interesting how different contemporary historical figures have lives that are very similar in their arcs, and provide a unique way to compare and contrast two different cultures; the way the thematic elements in their lives came together, and the way that they diverged apart. Churchill and Gandhi were very different people, and yet they were at the forefront of two nations that had a very tightly integrated and yet disparate relationship.

Arthur Herman writes a largely engaging account...more
Ann Alton
I am not an historian, and I REALLY have very little knowledge about this period and these countries, so I feel like it was over my head. I got confused sometimes with the author's way of teasing you with an event, then explaining the backstory (mainly because I am so unfamiliar with the subject matter). That said, it was well written, paced well, and provided insights into each man and the times in which they lived. The observations seemed nuanced and fair, and the author did well in portraying...more
Kamani
Dec 07, 2009 Kamani rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Any history and political biography nerds
Recommended to Kamani by: I found it
The first 300 pages of the book describe the younger years; the influence of the father figure on each man; the way Indians were perceived in Britain at the time when the empire was at its peak; and the formative "colllege years" of both Gandhi & Churchill. These pages made up the most interesting part of the book. It started to drag towards the end, but that's bound to happen if you manage to push 700 pages through final edits.....part of the problem was I think as the men approached 40, th...more
Derrick Flakoll
Actually read this a while ago. An excellent portrait of two men similar only in their influence, and goes beneath the heroic myths of each to reveal their human flaws with (what I remember to be) nuance and depth. Perhaps slightly too unsympathetic to Gandhi, but a small and uncertain flaw in a great book.
Gokul
Herman's take on Gandhi was fascinating, especially as he follows him through his nearly half century political career. Most interesting to me was Gandhi's evolution of thoughts and ideas, especially relating to British imperialism as well as racial prejudice.

Some themes I thought were overstated - the emphasis on Victorian values, and the influence of Sepoy Mutiny in three generations of British politics. Churchill's political life and Herman's coverage of it were abrupt and confusing, maybe He...more
Joy
I'm not a big Arthur Herman fan - in fact, I had forgotten that I'd read another book of his. His writing style is hardly compelling, but at least he picked a subject that kept my interest. This dual biography does a good job at comparing/contrasting two major figures (kind of like a high school essay, only longer). He does some silly things like pointing out that they both had father issues (because there are so many people who don't), and he's definitely more pro-Empire and white man's burden...more
Mark Wood
This one helps you understand both figures as well as their times. To understand Gandhi is to understand India in the first half of the 20th Century.
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“The two came to differ on many, if not most, issues. But the man who would single-handedly defy Hitler in 1940 against all odds bears a striking resemblance to the man who organized the first satyagraha campaign in South Africa.” 1 likes
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