FINEST HOUR 124, AUTUMN 2004
ABSTRACT BY DAVID FREEMAN
Evelyne Hanquart-Turner. “Journalisme, Histoire et Politique: Winston Churchill, Correspondant de Guerre a la Frontiere du Nord-ouest: 1897.” Cahiers Victoriens et Edouardiens 55 (2002): 95-106.
In July 1897 the Pathan tribes of India’s Northwest frontier, a region along the border between today’s Pakistan and Afghanistan, rebelled against the authority of the British Raj. The dispute, having both a colonial and international character, aroused much interest. The British and Indians both paid attention and sought specific information about the expedition sent by their rulers to pacify the tribesmen.
News agencies sought to satisfy this interest by employing journalists who were in fact young officers accompanying the campaign. One of these officers was Winston Churchill, who was employed by the Daily Telegraph to send 300-word reports in the form of letters. [Note: today we would say that WSC was an “embedded” reporter, although perhaps not the first, since William H. Russell of The Times functioned similarly in the Crimea.] Churchill’s accounts stirred feelings of patriotism and admiration for the terrible hardships faced and endured by the humble servants of a glorious empire.
Churchill’s main goal was not to start a career in journalism but to build notoriety for himself that would enable him to pursue a political career, as his father had. Churchill knew that celebrating the ideals of empire would ingratiate him with newspaper readers, but he did not stop at simply regurgitating stereotypes about the undeniably heroic efforts of the Empire’s servants and their efforts to bring civilization to a savage situation. He openly criticized the performance of Raj administrators whom he thought guilty of mismanaging a vital asset. Churchill’s letters reveal a paternalistic understanding of the nature of Empire and a belief in national destiny.