Title: The Gathering Storm (The Second World War)
Author: Winston S. Churchill
“Anyone who wants to read one book that will help explain the international crises of our time should read “The Gathering Storm” by Winston Churchill. It is not about the Middle East or even about today. It is about the fatuous and irresponsible foreign policies of the 1930s that led to the most catastrophic war in human history. But you can recognize the same fecklessness today.”
“The Gathering Storm” is part memoir, part history from the great war-time leader, statesmen and prolific author and historian in his own right.
Churchill famously warned Great Britain and the Western world more broadly of the Nazi threat during the 1930s, arguing against Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement towards the Germans, but was largely ignored.
Here’s a particularly prescient excerpt from a speech he delivered in November of 1934:
“…only a few hours away by air there dwells a nation of nearly 70 millions of the most educated, industrious scientific people in the world, who are being taught from childhood to think of war as a glorious exercise and death in battle as the noblest deed for man. There is a nation which has abandoned all its liberties in order to augment its collective strength. There is a nation which with all its strength and virtue is in the grip of a group of ruthless men preaching a gospel of intolerance and racial pride unrestrained by law by Parliament or by public opinion. In that country all pacifist speeches, all morbid books, are forbidden or suppressed and the authors rigorously imprisoned. From their new table of commandments they have omitted: Thou shalt not kill. It is but 20 years since these neighbours of ours fought almost the whole world and almost defeated them. Now they are re-arming with the utmost speed. And ready to their hands is this new lamentable weapon of the air against which a Navy has no defence and before which women and children, the weak and the frail, the pacifist and the jingo, the warrior and the civilian, the front line trenches and the cottage home all lie in equal peril.
Nay, worse still, for with the new weapon has come a new method, or has come back the most brutish method of ancient barbarism – the possibility of compelling the submission of races by torturing their civil population. And worst of all, the more civilised the country is, the larger, more splendid its cities, the more intricate the structure of its social and economic life, the more it is vulnerable, the more it is at the mercy of those who may make it their prey. These are facts. Hard grim, indisputable facts…”
“…There are some who say, indeed it has been the shrill cry of the hour, we should run the risk of disarming ourselves in order to set an example to others. We have done that already. Done it for the last five years. Our example has not been followed. On the contrary, it has produced, as I ventured to predict, the opposite result. All the other countries have armed the more heavily and the quarrels and intrigues about disarmament have only bred more ill-will between the nations. Every one would be glad to see the burden of armaments reduced in every country, but history shows on many a page that armaments are not necessarily a cause of war. Want of them has been no guarantee of peace.”