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Churchill and the Lion City

Edited by Brian Farrell

Publication Year: 2011

British imperialism profoundly influenced the development of the modern world order. This same imperialism created modern Singapore, shaping its colonial development, influencing its post-colonial reorientation. Winston Churchill was British imperialism's most significant 20th-century statesman. Churchill never visited Singapore, yet their two stories heavily influenced each other. Singapore became a symbol of British imperial power in Asia to Churchill, while Singaporeans later came to see him as symbolising that power. The fall of Singapore to Japanese conquest in 1942 was a low point in Churchill's war leadership, one he forever labelled by calling it "the worst disaster in British military history". It was also a tragedy for Singapore, ushering in three cruel years of occupation. But the interplay between these three historical forces -- Churchill, empire, and Singapore -- extended well beyond this most dramatic conjuncture. No single volume critically examines that longer interplay. This collection of essays does so by analysing Churchill's understanding of empire, his perceptions of Singapore and its imperial role, his direction of affairs regarding Singapore and the Empire, and his influence on the subsequent relationship between them.

Published by: NUS Press Pte Ltd

Title Page, Copyright

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Foreword

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pp. vii-

This book has come about from a unique and very special collaboration between the National University of Singapore and Churchill College in the University of Cambridge. Its birth was a well attended one-day conference held at the NUS Cultural Centre on Friday 9 April 2010 — an event that deliberately brought together historians and experts from the United...

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Acknowledgements

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pp. ix-x

One of the more pleasant customs of scholarship is to acknowledge, with thanks, the many people who helped make it possible to publish this book. This is particularly true for a volume combining the efforts of several scholars, such as this one. The symposium which produced this volume, and the book itself, were the result of the initiative and generous support...

List of Illustrations

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pp. xi-xii

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Introduction: Last Lion and the Lion City: Churchill, Singapore and Empire

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pp. 1-9

The British Empire had a profound influence on world history in the 20th century. So did Winston Spencer Churchill. The two also had a profound influence on each other. During an active public life that ran from 1900 to 1955, Churchill promoted the vision and reality of empire from a unique array of vantage points: statesman, politician, diplomat, orator, journalist...

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1. Churchill and Empire

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pp. 10-35

From the beginning, Winston Churchill acted out his life on an imperial stage, which he valued for its own sake and because it enhanced the role he played. He was born in Blenheim Palace, a monument to his great ancestor’s famous victory over Britain’s hereditary foe and chief colonial rival. He spent much of his youth in the Viceregal Lodge in Dublin, a...

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2. Churchill and Imperial Defence 1926–1940: Putting Singapore in Perspective

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pp. 36-55

Few people left behind as many quotable quotes as Winston Spencer Churchill. Many defined him. Some stigmatised him. But some cast more shadow than light. One of the most celebrated came from a speech at the Mansion House in London on 10 November 1942: “Let me, however, make this clear, in case there should be any mistake about it in any...

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3. Heart versus Head: Churchill Comes to Terms with the Fall of Singapore?

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pp. 56-67

Of course, this letter is problematic. It was written years after Kelly’s relationship with Churchill ended, and years after the supposed dinner conversations took place. Moreover, as Kelly admits, there were no witnesses, and as Duff Cooper so memorably put it in the title of his memoirs, “Old Men Forget”. Old men can also exaggerate, and here...

Image Plates

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4. Churchill, Strategy and the Fall of Singapore

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pp. 81-107

“A complete amateur of strategy, he swamps himself in detail he should never look at and as a result fails ever to see a strategic problem in its true perspective”. So wrote General Sir Alan Brooke of Winston Churchill, after a particularly difficult session of the COS Committee, meeting in July 1944. The aim of this chapter is to assess the validity of this view...

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5. An Imperial Defeat? The Presentation and Reception of the Fall of Singapore

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pp. 108-129

In his memoirs, Churchill described the loss of Singapore as “the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history”. The future Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, apparently discerned at the time that the battle foretold “the end of the British Empire”. The defeat resonated around the world, giving a field day to German propagandists such...

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6. Churchill, Singapore and Australia’s Strategic Policy

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pp. 130-138

Australians have long been ambivalent towards Winston Churchill. His courage and leadership during Britain’s, and his, finest hour have been fully recognised; his reputation as perhaps the greatest statesman of the 20th century seldom challenged. Australians were among the most generous donors to the Churchill Trust that established the Churchill...

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7. “The Times they are a-Changin’”: Britain’s Military Commitment to Singapore, 1967–1971

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pp. 139-173

Harold Wilson’s experiences in and out of the corridors of power in Whitehall had led him to see politics as an intensely volatile environment in which even the most elaborate government plans could be undone — almost at a moment’s notice — by some dramatic event occurring either at home or abroad. Long before the Lebanese market quant Naseem...

Bibliography

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pp. 174-184

Contributors

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pp. 185-186

Index

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pp. 187-194


E-ISBN-13: 9789971696047
Print-ISBN-13: 9789971695651

Page Count: 208
Illustrations: 10 plates, 5 maps
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: New

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Subject Headings

  • Imperialism -- History -- 20th century -- Congresses.
  • Churchill, Winston, 1874-1965 -- Military leadership -- Congresses.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Campaigns -- Singapore -- Congresses.
  • Singapore -- History -- Siege, 1942 -- Congresses.
  • Great Britain -- Colonies -- Asia -- Defenses -- Congresses.
  • Singapore -- History -- 20th century -- Congresses.
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