One of my favorite tourist things that I have done in London is the Churchill Museum and War Rooms. The whole thing was absolutely fascinating. They have preserved the underground areas from which Churchill and his advisers ran the war in Britain. I never thought much about Churchill except to note that many people named their bulldogs Winston. I enjoyed learning more about him in the museum attached to the War Rooms as well. I have also always been interested in WWII though I think that was a byproduct of growing up in my house- any holiday like Memorial Day, Veterans’ Day, or the like was spent watching the WWII movie marathon that some channel was always showing on the couch with my dad.
Fast forward to two weeks ago. I was reading the free paper in the tube when an advertisement caught my eye. There was going to be debate on Churchill’s leadership skills on September 3rd in Westminster with some pretty heavyweight historians. I couldn’t decide so I plugged it into the calendar in my phone and told it to remind me the day before. I got the reminder and we didn’t have any plans and so I got on the internet and bought myself a ticket. I was expecting 75ish people to be there. It was in the Methodist Central Hall in Westminster. I was quite surprised when there were over 1,000 people filling every seat in the hall! The whole thing was fascinating.
The motion up for debate was this: Churchill was more of a liability than an asset to the free world.
There were three for the motion and three against. They were:
Speakers for the motion:
Pat Buchanan: Senior advisor to three US Presidents and two-time candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.
Nigel Knight: Political scientist and economist at Churchill College, Cambridge.
Norman Stone: Historian and Professor of International Relations at Bilkent University, Ankara.
Speakers against the motion:
Antony Beevor: Historian and author of the bestselling book “Stalingrad”.
Professor Richard Overy: Historian who has written extensively on the Second World War and the Third Reich.
Andrew Roberts: Historian who has spent 20 years researching, writing and broadcasting extensively about both Churchill and the Second World War.
Chair: Joan Bakewell: Journalist and broadcaster.
Each speaker had a chance to speak alternating from one side to the other and then they took questions from the audience. I learned a very important lesson last night. Never insult Churchill in front of a room full of Brits. They are not afraid to yell. Before the debate even began there was a man who stood up and shouted about what a disgrace it was to even entertain this motion. The debate took place anyway. All of the speakers were excellent and since I don’t have a definite opinion either way, I just listened and tried to soak up all of the information. I still don’t have a definite opinion one way or the other but I know that I want to try and learn more. The debate was put on by IntelligenceSquared and they have a whole season of debates on many different topics. I think that it would be a great thing to go to more often!
What are your thoughts on Churchill?