In the tradition of The Rape of Nanking and A Problem from Hell, this account will change the way we think of Churchill and World War II.
In 1943 Winston Churchill and the British Empire needed millions of Indian troops, all of India's industrial output, and tons of Indian grain to support the Allied war effort. Such massive contributions were certain to trigger famine in India. Because Churchill believed that the fate of the British Empire hung in the balance, he proceeded, sacrificing millions of Indian lives in order to preserve what he held most dear. The result: the Bengal Famine of 1943-44, in which millions of villagers starved to death.
Relying on extensive archival research and first-hand interviews, Mukerjee weaves a riveting narrative of Churchill's decisions to ratchet up the demands on India as the war unfolded and to ignore the corpses piling up in the Bengali countryside. The hypocrisy, racism, and extreme economic conditions of two centuries of British colonial policy finally built to a head, leading Indians to fight for their independence in 1947.
Few Americans know that World War II was won on the backs of these starving peasants; Mukerjee shows us a side of World War II that we have been blind to. We know what Hitler did to the Jews, what the Japanese did to the Chinese, what Stalin did to his own people. This story has largely been neglected, until now.
©2010 Madhusree Mukarjee (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
"[W]ell-researched…This gripping account of historical tragedy is a useful corrective to fashionable theories of benign imperial rule, arguing that a brutal rapaciousness was the very soul of the Raj." (Publishers Weekly)
It's a pretty good audiobook. I've just listened to all of Simon Schama's "History of Britain" which ended off with some scathing commentary on the mismanagement of the Raj so it's interesting to move from that to an in-depth exploration of the Bengal Famine and India in the war effort.
Probably Madhav Sharma, who did a superb job with Kim. Mr Adams isn't a bad narrator per se, but the main problem is that he can't code switch accents when pronouncing a number of Indian terms and names which means that they sound tortured and very odd in his rather plummy British accent. This is, I suppose forgivable in the first couple of chapters where we get fleeting references to "die-wanns" (diwans) and so forth but in a book dealing primarily with India in the Inter-War period, the Second World War and it's aftermath, an inability to pronounce "satyagraha" or "Bose" (protip- it's not "Bo-Say") can be really jarring and jerks one out of the flow. It's as if I were listening to a history of the American Revolution and kept hearing about "George Wossingteen" (not that I'm trying to equate Bo-say with General Wossingteen) and the "Con-TINE-ental Congroos".
I wouldn't choose not to buy this audiobook just because of the narrator- in all else he's reasonably easy to listen to and Mukarjee's narrative itself is compelling and well written.
50 something, retired professional, mother, grandmother, wife.
I did learn a lot about India and its colonization by Brittan. the book is full of numbered statistics which are hard for me to absorb just hearing them. this might have between a better read than a listen.
I was not aware of this part of WWII history and it is certainly something I should have been aware of. While parts of the book are hard to listen to, particularly the suffering and dying of the starving, it is compelling listening.
When Churchill met Indira Ghandi during the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
Love having someone read me a story. Fires in the hearth, rain on the roof, sunny days and surf. Good friends, good food and J S Bach.
This is a record that had to be told.
Please remember though that the mindset that Churchill had expressed in his own words is still held today by others about others.
While this is mostly about World War Two, the history of British Colonial Rule is important.
The English company that opened India to Colonial Rule also had been supported by the British Government in their drug running into China that led to the Opium Wars. The Free Traders were not only British.
This is not an easy listen.
How much more difficult was it to research and write?
Extremely well researched book that lays out an air tight case of Churchill's beastiality towards his Indian subjects. A must read/listen for any one who wishes to learn about the Indian history under British clonial rule. Narration is top notch with few minor flubs. Highly recommend!
It's very interesting to hear Mukerjee's analysis of the Bengal famine of 1943. The narrator was annoying with his constant mispronunciation of Indian names ("Bosay" instead of "Bose" being the most common error), and constantly refering to dates as, for example, "twenty-two February" instead of "twenty-second February". No names of British origin were mispronounced though!
I usually don't write reviews but this book compelled me to write one. After reading this book and how Churchill treated Indians during the World War II era, Hitler and his atrocities seem less cruel. A kind of sad book but stating historical facts and heinous war crimes committed by Churchill. A tad bit longer but definitely a must read for all the history buffs out there!!
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 requirements for the home islands and India, are a stark comparison. I particularly enjoyed deepening my understanding of the conflict and the post war Independence and Partition of India. The audio version is read by an English narrator which adds some interesting flavor somehow.
Author Madhusree Mukarjee deserves credit for bringing attention to a part of WWII that Westerners have conveniently forgotten - over a million Indians died of starvation caused at least party by British demands for India to provide supplies during WWII.
However, the author goes too far in implying repeatedly that Indians would be rich people if the British would disappear. The reality is that most Indians have no ability to earn money and anyway they have lots of babies and cannot support those babies.
The narration was very good.
John Christmas, author of "Democracy Society"
"Interesting reading, marred by pronunciation"
This was an engrossing listen, but the narrator could have bothered to learn how to pronounce the names of the people better. That was a really jarring experience.
"Very easy to listen to"
Great book! And very well read. Highly recommended
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