🔖 Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom by Thomas E. Ricks

Bookmarked Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom by Thomas E. Ricks (Penguin Press)

New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 2017

A dual biography of Winston Churchill and George Orwell, who preserved democracy from the threats of authoritarianism, from the left and right alike.

Both George Orwell and Winston Churchill came close to death in the mid-1930's—Orwell shot in the neck in a trench line in the Spanish Civil War, and Churchill struck by a car in New York City. If they'd died then, history would scarcely remember them. At the time, Churchill was a politician on the outs, his loyalty to his class and party suspect. Orwell was a mildly successful novelist, to put it generously. No one would have predicted that by the end of the 20th century they would be considered two of the most important people in British history for having the vision and courage to campaign tirelessly, in words and in deeds, against the totalitarian threat from both the left and the right. In a crucial moment, they responded first by seeking the facts of the matter, seeing through the lies and obfuscations, and then they acted on their beliefs. Together, to an extent not sufficiently appreciated, they kept the West's compass set toward freedom as its due north.

It's not easy to recall now how lonely a position both men once occupied. By the late 1930's, democracy was discredited in many circles, and authoritarian rulers were everywhere in the ascent. There were some who decried the scourge of communism, but saw in Hitler and Mussolini "men we could do business with," if not in fact saviors. And there were others who saw the Nazi and fascist threat as malign, but tended to view communism as the path to salvation. Churchill and Orwell, on the other hand, had the foresight to see clearly that the issue was human freedom—that whatever its coloration, a government that denied its people basic freedoms was a totalitarian menace and had to be resisted.

In the end, Churchill and Orwell proved their age's necessary men. The glorious climax of Churchill and Orwell is the work they both did in the decade of the 1940's to triumph over freedom's enemies. And though Churchill played the larger role in the defeat of Hitler and the Axis, Orwell's reckoning with the menace of authoritarian rule in Animal Farm and 1984 would define the stakes of the Cold War for its 50-year course, and continues to give inspiration to fighters for freedom to this day. Taken together, in Thomas E. Ricks's masterful hands, their lives are a beautiful testament to the power of moral conviction, and to the courage it can take to stay true to it, through thick and thin.

Syndicated copies to:

🎧 Season 2 Episode 5 The Prime Minister and the Prof | Revisionist History

Listened Season 2 Episode 5 The Prime Minister and the Prof by Malcolm GladwellMalcolm Gladwell from Revisionist History

How does friendship influence political power? The story of Winston Churchill’s close friend and confidant — an eccentric scientist named Frederick Lindemann — whose connection to Churchill altered the course of British policy in World War II. And not in a good way.



S2e5 content
Winston Churchill (second from right) with his scientific advisor Lord Cherwell (extreme left), watching a display of anti-aircraft gunnery in 1941.

Several interesting ideas in this episode:
* What unseen influence do friends and advisors have on political leaders? Should this be better disclosed?
* Did Churchill, while trying to stop the atrocity of the Holocaust, cause one of his own in India through inaction and selfishness?

The famine caused in India is not too dissimilar to the havoc and death wreaked in Puerto Rico following the hurricane in late 2017 for which the US Government very likely did not do enough to mitigate the aftermath.