Tag Archives: British

#69 – The Churchill Myth: Many Dark Hours

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In this edition of The Aidan Project, Aidan is joined by Christopher Hale, a distinguished freelance executive producer, producer/director and writer, to discuss the less distinguished elements of the career of Winston Churchill. Yet another Churchill film, Darkest Hour, was released on 12 January 2018 in the United Kingdom. The film begins in May 1940, with Churchill about to take on the role of Prime Minister. Indeed, Churchill’s charismatic resilience has defined the popular interpretation of Britain’s experience of the Second World War. However, there is far more to Churchill than his wartime leadership. Indeed, several chapters of the real Churchill story are deeply unpleasant. The Bengal famine of 1943-44, when two million people died, is such an example. What was Churchill’s attitude towards the people of British India? What type of person was Churchill? Was he a racist even by the standards of his time? These questions, and more, including a discussion on remembering the British Empire, are examined on this episode. We must understand our history, all of it, not just the patriotic triumphs, to become a modern democratic nation. ‘Become a modern democratic nation’, you say?

Christopher has numerous documentary credits to his name, for the BBC, Channel 4, Discovery, and National Geographic, amongst other broadcasters. His programs include Why Reading Matters’ for BBC4, ‘The Year the Earth Went Wild for Channel 4, Naked Science: Universe for National Geographic, Oasis of the Golden Mummies for Discovery, Accidents in Space for BBC/Travel Channel, and many more. Christopher’s 2013 book, Massacre in Malaya: Exposing Britain’s My Lai, covers the Malayan Emergency of 1948–1960, which was the longest war waged by British and Commonwealth forces in the twentieth century. Christopher has also written a number of books on wartime Nazi Germany, including Hitler’s Foreign Executioners: Europe’s Dirty Secret.

For more information on Christopher, visit http://www.christopherhalemedia.org/. You can find Christopher on Twitter at https://twitter.com/chalemedia.

Links to items mentioned on this episode:

Peter Hitchens, ‘So uniquely British, but funeral tells a tale of a different country’, Mail Online, 18 January 2015.

Blackadder star Sir Tony Robinson in Michael Gove WW1 row‘, BBC News, 05 January 2014.

The Aidan Project #46 – The Emergency: Empire, Massacre, Duterte

The Aidan Project  #48 – Project Extra: Atlantis Reimagined

Aidan Coughlan on Engel Jones’ podcast


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#55 – Notes on Monarchy: House of Wax

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Christopher Hitchens asked in The Monarchy: A Critique of Britain’s Favourite Fetish“Why, when the subject of royalty or monarchy is mentioned, do the British bid adieu to every vestige of proportion, modesty, humour and restraint?” This podcast episode seeks to explore this, and related, questions.

Why, after executing a King, did the British almost immediately experience a distinct feeling of buyer’s remorse? What purpose do the British think the Royal Family serves? And how intrinsic is the yearning for monarchy within the British identity?

In Rights of Man, Thomas Paine, wrote stridently that he thought the British monarchical system absurd. Indeed, he helped establish the United States of America in opposition to monarchy. Christopher Hitchens said the British have a ‘fetish’ for all-things Royal. George Orwell, a man who experienced, wrote and was fearful of autocracy, explained that the British see their monarchy as a safety-valve against tyranny. Orwell pointed to the dictatorships, in stark contrast to British constitutional monarchy, which had suffocated democracy in Germany and Italy in the prelude to World War 2.

These questions of national identity are, of course, subjective. But by looking at past events (such as the Civil War and its regicidal aftermath), analysing the various arguments made over time (Paine, Orwell, Hitchens and others), and seeking to understand the continued reverence for monarchy, we can gain an insight into the British identity and its apparent obsession with Royalty.

The British and their Royals (3).png

“Remember, I am your King, your lawful King, and what sins you bring upon your heads, and the Judgment of God upon this Land, think well upon it, I say, think well upon it, before you go further from one sin to a greater; therefore let me know by what lawful Authority I am seated here, and I shall not be unwilling to answer, in the meantime I shall not betray my Trust: I have a Trust committed to me by God, by old and lawful descent, I will not betray it to answer a new unlawful Authority, therefore resolve me that, and you shall hear more of me.”

So said Charles I at his trial for treason in 1649. History tells us that those conducting his trial would have been well advised to have listened to these words of defiance. Indeed, republicanism in the UK is about as able to face down the monarchy today as Oliver Cromwell was when, already dead, he was exhumed after the Restoration, and beheaded. Such memories, such ghastly memories, are as much a part of the British identity as pomp and circumstance is.

At the beginning of the podcast, Aidan briefly comments on the high emotions surrounding the Catalonia referendum, and the awful Las Vegas shooting, which both occurred on 1 October 2017.

Bibliography

Walter Bagehot, The English Constitution (Oxford World’s Classics), (Oxford: Oxford Paperbacks, 2001).

Linda Colley, Britons: Forging The Nation 1707-1837, (London: Vintage, 1992).

Christopher Hitchens, The Monarchy: A Critique of Britain’s Favourite Fetish, (London: Vintage Publishing, 2012).

‘HM Queen Elizabeth II — Coronation Day Speech — 2 June 1953’, YouTube website, https://youtu.be/S2pgmKeGEZg, 2015, accessed 1 October 2017.

Simon Jenkins, A Short History of England, (London: Profile, 2012).

John Laughland, A History of Political Trials: From Charles I to Charles Taylor (Proquest eBook), (Bern: Peter Lang AG, 2015).

George Orwell, The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell: Volume III, As I Please, 1943 – 1945, (London: Secker And Warburg, 1968).

J.A. Sharpe, Early Modern England: A Social History 1550-1760, (London: Bloomsbury, 1997).

Charles Spencer, Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I, (London: Bloomsbury, 2014).

Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, (London: Penguin, 1985 [first edition 1781])

‘The Monarchy: popular across society and ‘here to stay’’, YouGov website, https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/09/08/monarchy-here-stay/, 8 September 2015,  accessed 1 October 2017.

‘The Trial of Charles I’, BBC In Our Time website, http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00kpzd6, 2009, accessed 1 October 2017.

Clips

‘Blackadder II’, BBC Television, 1986.

‘The Devil’s Whore’, Channel 4 Television, 2008.

Images

‘Queen Elizabeth II’ at Madame Tussauds, Madame Tussauds web site, www.madametussauds.co.uk

Queen Elizabeth I portrait, Royal Family web site, www.royal.uk

Queen Elizabeth II by Andy Warhol, Guy Hepner web site, www.guyhepner.com