Thursday, January 12, 2012

Listened: "'Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat'" by John Lukacs

Listened: "Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat": The Dire Warning—Churchill’s First Speech as Prime Minister by John Lukacs, 2008 (audio anyway), OverDrive download.

A BBC Audiobooks program. I'm not sure if this is a book or a radio production.BBC radio productions often include multiple voices. Let me look....according to the weasels at wikipedia it's a book. Narrated by the Great and Mighty John Lee.

Centered around Churchill's early 1940 speech right after he was installed as PM. The speech to Parliament was not even broadcast. The key sentence used for the book title was actually was misquoted by BBC radio and the newspapers.

Churchill knew they were in trouble. At that point the krauts were still working into the low countries, and France. Churchill's position was in trouble as well. He was not a well liked or trusted man. Churchill took over from Chamberlain but Chamberlain was still very popular among MPs and was the party leader.

Churchill's position as PM was precarious for the first several months. His "years in the wilderness" were foremost in people's minds. His reputation as an outsider, or even a crockpot, had been earned and carried on. It took a few months for many politicians and policy people to believe in Churchill. Even those in his cabinet took time to arm to him and develop loyalty.

1940 was very much in flux as the Germans kept driving on. The British public were unaware of the task and threat ahead of them but Churchill was aware and the Blood reference was a clue to that. Churchill wrote all his speeches but was not that great a speaker. The content of his speeches 'built up' over time with the populace. Events and reminders by Churchill clued the Limeys that the fight was going to be long and bloody. Many Brits still thought they could swoop in and clobber the dirty, rotten, filthy stinking nazis.

In fact, there was the very real prospect that the British may have to surrender to Germany. But, Churchill absolutely refused to even consider the idea. Churchill immediately knew the need for the U.S. to join the war either materially or martially. He asked for assistance in personal correspondence with Roosevelt and in public speaking.

Churchill also knew that Hitler would invade Russia if he did not invade England. As the momentum turned Churchill feared the Russian advance into Eastern Europe and proposed going North through Italy into Europe rather than through France. (Did I remember that correctly? I think so.)

1. The book is a little odd. Lukacs at first focuses on that first, overlooked speech as a good key to understanding Churchill and his initial policies and ideas. Then he just runs on through a few other speeches and the war.
2. The book was still interesting and only three hours long.

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