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Churchill's Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India During World War II

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  765 ratings  ·  107 reviews
A dogged enemy of Hitler, resolute ally of the Americans, and inspiring leader through World War II, Winston Churchill is venerated as one of the truly great statesmen of the last century. But while he has been widely extolled for his achievements, parts of Churchill's record have gone woefully unexamined. As journalist Madhusree Mukerjee reveals, at the same time that Chu ...more
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Published August 10th 2010 by Basic Books (first published April 15th 2008)
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Simon Wood
Aug 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Guess who said that? Perhaps it was Subhas Chandra Bose leader of the Japanese alligned Indian National Army? Or Nehru or Gandhi during an intemperate moment? Or some other Indian nationalist? The reality was that none of these Indian political figure made the comparison, rather it was spoken by Churchills contemporary at Harrow, his accomplice in the rearmament debates of the 1930's and his then Secretary of State for India
Neil Larsen
Apr 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I give this book an unqualifiedly enthusiastic recommendation. Here is excruciatingly documented proof that Winston Churchill is truly one of the last century's greatest war criminals and genocidal, racist autocrats. In the case of the terrible famine that swept the Indian state of Bengal during World War II, we have a clear instance of a mass extermination that could, at multiple times, have been prevented by the actions of the British government under Churchill, but that was consciously allowe ...more
Nov 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is not just another book on the horrendous famine in Bengal in 1943-44 when 3 million people died, according to most independent accounts. This book is about how Winston Churchill and his chief advisor Lord Cherwell became responsible for inducing and perpetuating the famine and how their racist and contemptuous attitude towards Indians, particularly Hindus, eventually resulted in millions of deaths and laid the foundations for partitioning India on religious lines resulting in further trag ...more
Dec 28, 2020 added it
This book angered me. It turns out that behind all that inspiring Churchilliana lived a man far from his popularized mythical rendering. Ms. Mukerjee's meticulous research reveals Winston Churchill as a supreme imperial European racist, albeit at the end of a long line of supreme imperial European racists through the centuries. What happened in Bengal—now Bangladesh— during World War II, in large measure owing to British policies, must change our perception of imperial Britons generally, and Chu ...more
May 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Living in the West, I see such an adulation for Churchill as the saviour during the WWII. The dark side of this man, his imperial arrogance, barely concealed racist views and the diatribe against India's freedom fighters, particularly Gandhi, is never talked about. As a matter of fact, most here in Canada and in the other commonwealth countries including Britain do not even know how this side exists. I suppose one good deed conceals one hundred evil ones.

This brilliantly written book base on pai
Mar 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I thought I was well read on the general subject of the Second World War, at least in terms of the Western Allies, until I read this book. I even took a University course on the History of the British Empire and Commonwealth, and I don't recall any discussion of the war time famines in India. This is clearly written from the Indian point of view, and there are some conclusions which seem speculative. Overall, the book is quite damning of Imperial policy and the comparisons between food requireme ...more
Nov 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Fucking Heartbreaking.
Iñaki Tofiño
Mar 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not every one's cup of tea, obviously, but I had a blast with it. Well researched and even better written, the book describes the implications that Churchill and his War Cabinet decisions had on the fate of India and Bengal in particular.
Due to their contempt and racism, they performed what can be considered daylight robbery: take rice and wheat from India to feed Indian troops fighting outside the subcontinent and leave Bengalis starving to death, literally. The lesser figures for 1943 indicate
Subrata Dass
Oct 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The book is an amazing look at the horrors that Indians , especially the Bengalis faced during the British Raj and especially under Churchill. As we analyze how Economics grew in India we are told repeatedly that India was an agrarian society which magically turned into a service economy in the 1990s but missed the manufacturing bus. This book dispels the myth and gives us a closer look into how the Company and her majesty's loyal servants destroyed the advanced manufacturing base already presen ...more
Ashish Iyer
This book breaks you to the core. A must read book. This kind of history are not taught in our schools and colleges. Quite a detail book it was. It solely focuses on Bengal famine of 1943.

Please also recommend me books on Great Bengal Famine, Chalisa famine, Doji bara famine or Skull famine, Agra famine of 1837–38, Upper Doab famine of 1860–61, Orissa famine of 1866, Rajputana famine of 1869, Bihar famine of 1873–74, Great Famine of 1876–78 (also Southern India famine), Indian famine of 1896–97
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Heartbreaking and disturbing - one of those books which makes you put it down because you just can't take the atrocities that humans have perpetrated against other humans. Impeccably researched and somehow written in a detached manner which makes it all the more chilling.

This is the book that brought to the forefront the horrors that Indians in Bengal had to face during the second World War, because of the British Raj, and exposed the hypocrisy of the defenders of the Raj. Never before has the p
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ww2, history, 2017, england, india
This was a tough book to read, both because of the subject matter and because of the density of the writing. In history classes and previous reading, I never learned about India’s role in WW2. What I did know was more related to Indian independence and the life of Gandhi. If I’d had any illusions that Churchill was without flaws, this book pretty much exploded then. Well worth the (albeit depressing) read.
Anant Singh
Sep 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
Some times you feel like reading the history of India time and again and everytime you come up with something new. But the sad part is the new is always very sad and disappointing.

Mukherjee in her book gives you a detailed description of Bengal famine , how Churchill and his war cabinet overlooked the necessity of controlling the Famine situation in Bengal. Her book is good work of research on various accounts giving diary notes, cables, telegrams and meeting minutes during those periods.

Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: eloor
This is one book that everyone should read.

The author explains in details how Churchill, who's celebrated across rhe western world as a great statesman, wantonly ignored the desperate and rightful needs of the starving millions in India during the second World War.

Madhusree Mukherjee builds the case that the millions of Indians died not just because of a bad crop year or two but as a direct result of the actions of the British governments who put their interest and future necessities over and ab
Vladimir Chupakhin
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, 2018
From first sight this book is on one particular topic: Famine in India caused by UK, but actually author show a tremendous slice of a history related to UK-India relationship and general politics in WWII related to East/Asia. Book is rich in psychological, religious and historical details, almost academic work.

The size of atrocities done by Churchill and his subordinates and most of the UK people in India are huge, and should not be forgotten. The democracy stars in reality are cold blooded raci
Vijay Nair
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A very rare to find analysis of Churchill's "Heroics". Proclaimed as the "Hero" of World war II with his own history books Chrurchill turns out to be a bigger war criminal than Hitler. We need bold authors like Madhusree. ...more
Dec 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Engrossing, brutal. Brutal. The things people in power will do to stay in power look much like a junkie trying to get their next fix.
Mukerjee, a physicist turned journalist, attempts to shed light on the conduct of the British government and its treatment of its colony of India, especially the provinces of Bengal, in her most recent work. Resource rich and with an extensive bibliography, she includes documentary evidence from recently released British imperial documents.

Unfortunately, the author fails to provide an adequate analysis in a coherent way to truly satisfy those searching for a good narrative on this tragic period
Dr Rashmit Mishra
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic detail on the evils of a man dubbed hero

History has mostly dubbed , Churchill , Stalin and Roosevelt as heroes and Churchill (especially after the latest movie 'the darkest hour's' success) particularly was considered a hero . However for 1940s India , Churchill and Hitler weren't a whole lot different

In fact , for much of India , Hitler was a foreign monster in a foreign land , committing atrocities on a foreign community , Churchill and the British Empire were the big bad monster
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: required-reading
Every once in a while, someone will venture forth with a pseudo-academic diatribe about how colonialism and imperialism were ultimately valuable for nations captured by European mercantile and military might.

They also tend to be the people who will tell you how clever Churchill was, how The British Raj created modern India and how the British Empire should be a source of pride.

In such cases, I recommend you point such committed imperialists to the staggering body of documentation and evidence th
Jun 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is quite a harrowing read. It is a significant examination of Churchill who was most certainly no different than Hitler in intention or actions. Mukherjee's book documents the way in which Churchill engineered and actively maintained famine in Bengal during World War II. It's an essential read if one wants a more global understanding of World War II as well as its relationship to maintaining empire. ...more
Anil Swarup
Sep 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
An extremely well researched and documented book outlining the horrors of the famine that devastated the country as Churchill "fiddled with his cigar". Churchill's "secret war" was more devastating, at least in the Indian context, than the war against the Axis Powers. He may have won the other war but will always be condemned for what he did to India.
Nov 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Impressive book, though the title is a little bit misleading,,, the book talks next to nothing about any part other than Bengal, A lot was happening across the country but book focused on Bengal.
Book is good for people who want to understand how British umpire treated its subjects and followed double standards.
Mar 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
A brilliant book. Extremely well researched. Provides detailed yet succinct account of war torn colonial economy and its exploitation.
Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Coincidencely, I started reading this book two days before an MEP from Scotland called Churchill a 'white supremist mass murder' on twitter - a statement I already agreed with from what I knew of him. I didn't start this book completely uninformed, I certainly didn't think highly of Churchill beforehand knowing what I did about his opinions on India (amongst other places and people), and I had heard the odd quote from Amery, however, reading this book was completely eye-opening and the extent of ...more
The  Conch
Jan 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
"Britnannica's soldiers trudged toward the ships that would carry them home, some marching to this chant:

Load of shit and filth and wogs
Gonorrhea, syphilis, clap and pox.
Memsahib's paradise, soldiers' hell
India, fare three f***ing well"
(wog=brown, non-white people)

This was exactly Chruchill's attitude towards India. "The Hindus were a foul race ' protected by their mere pullulation from doom that is their due. He wished that Air Chief Marshall....could send some of his surplus bombers to de
Sudip Das
Dec 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
"I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion." - Winston Spencer Churchill

This book has nicely narrated the cause and effect of the 1943 bengal famine. Although the writer was more focused on the political implications but I think that was what we have always missed whenever a man-made calamity occurs.

Will recommend this book to anyone who wants to know how a racist empire with the help of a bigoted muslim league and a traitorous communist party of India has cause one of th
Mar 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't help but agree with Leopold Amery - the parallels between Hitler's contempt for the Jews and Churchill's contempt for the Brown Man (however repentant he may have later been about it) are strikingly similar. I'm surprised he didn't see it, despite being so poisoned by the whisperings of Cherwell.

Also, going with the Hitler theme, I swear I read the name of Churchill's physician as "Dr. Morell".
Sep 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book sort of shook me to the core to a point that 4 years after I have finished reading it, there is not a single day which goes by that i didnt think about what has been described in this book. To the extent that the book I intend to write is influneces to a major degree from the events described by her
Lavanya Ajesh
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
That Churchill is no hero I’d heard- but the level of rage and pure hatred towards Indians he had is undocumented so far. This book is important. It’s good. It tells you the signs to watch for. And is poignantly written. Please- read it.
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