August 14, 2016

Finest Hour 173, Summer 2016

Page 04

By David Freeman, July 2016

Churchill and EuropeThe subject has never been more relevant. During the campaign in the United Kingdom this past spring to decide whether the nation should remain in the European Union or depart after more than forty years as a member, voices on both sides of the “Brexit” debate invoked the spirit and words of Sir Winston Churchill. The theme of this issue, however, was chosen to commemorate an event from the past: the seventieth anniversary of Churchill’s call for “a kind of United States of Europe” made in Zurich on 19 September 1946.

This issue looks not at what people in the English-speaking world make of Churchill’s views on Europe but rather what people in Europe today make of Winston Churchill. Writing from the Netherlands, Felix Klos makes the important point that no one today can say what position Churchill might have taken in the United Kingdom’s recent referendum debate. What Klos does do is analyze the statements Churchill made about European unity— and Britain’s relationship to it—in the context of the times in which they were made.

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Without doubt, France was the continental nation with which Churchill was most deeply involved and which he most loved. Antoine Capet charts the long history of this affaire de cœur. Churchill found Italy to be equally “paintacious” and  relaxing, but the long years of Fascism made for dark times, as Patrizio Romano Giangreco and Andrew Martin Garvey explain. Werner Vogt shows how Switzerland was another  nation for which Churchill developed a deep affection, and the Swiss people also did for him.

Only once did Churchill ever visit Iceland, Europe’s westernmost outpost, but the circumstances could not have been more dramatic or the impact more electric. Magnús Erlendsson, now eighty-five, remembers the summer day when he was just ten years old and personally witnessed the arrival of his nation’s most famous visitor.

From Portugal, Britain’s oldest ally, João Carlos Espada provides an outsider’s perspective on Churchill’s political philosophy and the government and legal traditions developed in Britain and imparted to the nations that emerged from its empire.

Even our book review section has a notably European perspective, including a new novel about Churchill and Charlie Chaplin written by an Austrian in German. The publication in English translation of the diaries of Ivan Maisky, Soviet ambassador in London from 1932 to 1943 provides an important new primary source for the Russian view of Churchill. And finally, we also have a fresh perspective on Churchill from Ireland, the European nation with a relationship to Britain that even now continues to be redefined.

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