In the summer of 1944, shortly after Allied troops liberated Rome, Churchill was asked to set out for the Italian people the ideas that should guide them now that Italian Fascism had been overthrown – the harsh totalitarian rule of Mussolini and his Fascist Party. Churchill's message reflects his abiding personal concern for the restoration and preservation of democratic principles, wherever peoples and governments were prepared to uphold them. Echoing his Collier's article of nine years earlier, he wrote, on 28 August 1944:
“Is there the right of free expression of opinion and of opposition and criticism of the Government of the day?
“Have the people the right to turn out a government of which they disapprove, and are constitutional means provided by which
they can make their will apparent?
“Are their courts of justice free from violence by the Executive and from threats of mob violence, and free of all association
with particular political parties?
“Will these courts administer open and well-established laws which are associated in the human mind with the broad principles
of decency and justice?
“Will there be fair play for poor as well as for rich, for private persons
as well as government officials?
“Will the rights of the individual, subject to his duties to the State,
be maintained and asserted and exalted?
“Is the ordinary peasant or workman who is earning a living by daily toil and trying to bring up a family free from the fear that some grim police organisation under the control of a single party, like the Gestapo, started by the Nazi and Fascist parties, will tap him on the shoulder and pack him off without fair or open trial to bondage or ill treatment?”
"With General Alexander in the war zone, Italy, 26 August 1944" (Photo credit Field Marshal Earl Alexander of Tunis, published in Winston S. Churchill, Volume VII, Road to Victory, 1941-1945)
“These simple, practical tests,” Churchill added, “are some of the title-deeds on which a new Italy could be founded.” Ten years later, when he printed these questions in his war memoirs, Churchill noted:
“This does not seem to require any alteration today.”
In 1962 Sir Martin spent the summer driving through the United States, returning in 1965 as a visiting scholar at the University of South Carolina. It was during these early visits that he developed a love for American history and geography in all their aspects. His Routledge Atlas of American History is just one result. In 1981 he was invited to give a series of lectures in the United States, and in 1982 he began regular lecturing throughout the United States and Canada organised by a lecture agent, Ruth Wheat, an arrangement that continued for twenty-five years.
Rivers Bridge State Historical Site, photos courtesy of Daniel J Bell, Historic Resource Coordinator, South Carolina State Park Service
Sir Martin's work has been used in many educational and memorial settings, most recently to help commemorate the Battle of Rivers Bridge, an American Civil War battlefield, interestingly, also in South Carolina. During his early travels in the United States, Sir Martin visited many of the battlefields of the Civil War, though I do not know if he was in Rivers Bridge. But now, due to the designers of their Civil War memorial, Sir Martin's words are there.
It was exactly one year ago that I received an email from Daniel J. Bell, the Historic Resource Coordinator for the South Carolina State Park Service, for Sir Martin, requesting permission to use a quote from Sir Martin's book The Somme, Heroism and Horror in the First World War. This is what Dan Bell wrote:
Listen to Sir Martin discuss The Will of the People
The Book Club Winner
Meet Sir Martin's October 2016 Book Club Winner, Dennis Woodcock from the UK
In 1983 I took a school party from N. Ireland to London . On 31st March we visited Windsor, where I found a book in a sale for £1! It was the first volume in the Churchill biography (by Randolph Churchill). Thus began my obsession with all things Churchill. Soon afterwards I was visiting Israel and became interested in the history and politics of the country. The first book I read afterwards was "Shcharansky" by Martin Gilbert.
The Winner will feature in the December Newsletter and receive a copy of The Will of the Peoplefrom Sir Martin's private library Question: Who in Churchill's words was "At the bottom of all the tributes paid to democracy..." ?
20 October 2016: The Wall Street Journal, wsj.com, “Restoring the Fortunes of Zion” book review of Israel, A Concise History of a Nation Reborn by Daniel Gordis, review by Neil Rogachevsky.
“His explanations of Israel’s major wars and the grinding conflicts of recent years are often evocative, but readers would be better off with two straightforward classics: Martin Gilbert’s “Israel” (1998) and Walter Laqueur’s “A History of Zionism” (1972), which remain the works to beat.”