Richard Toye, Steven Fielding, and Bill SchwarzJun 22, 2021
The Churchill Myths
Oxford University Press 2020
This is not a book about Sir Winston Churchill. It is not principally about his politics, nor his rhetorical imagination, nor even about the man himself. Instead, it addresses the varied afterlives of the man and the persistent, deeply located compulsion to bring him back from the dead, capturing and explaining the significance of the various Churchill myths to Britain's history and current politics.
In The Churchill Myths (Oxford UP, 2020) by Richard Toye, Steven Fielding and Bill Schwarz, the authors look at Churchill's portrayal in social memory. They demonstrate the ways in which politicians have often used the idea of Churchill as a means of self-validation - using him to show themselves as tough and honest players. They show the man dramatized in film and television - an onscreen persona that is often the product of a gratuitous mixing of fact and fantasy, one deliberately shaped to meet the preferences of the presumed audience. They discuss his legacy in light of the Brexit debate - showing how public figures on both sides of the Leave/Remain debate were able to use elements of Churchill's words and character to argue for their own point-of-view. Au fond, this is not simply a work of history, but something more in terms of its thesis and point of view. And while one might not agree with the three authors entirely, that cannot gainsay the intellectual adventure involved in reading this most interesting of books.
Charles Coutinho Ph. D. of the Royal Historical Society, received his doctorate from New York University. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written for Chatham House’s International Affairs, the Institute of Historical Research's Reviews in History and the University of Rouen's online periodical Cercles.