Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) was a British Prime Minister and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Churchill has undoubtedly been remembered for his public speaking and for his decisive role at the helm of Great Britain during World War II.
After enlisting in the British Army, he served in India and fought in Sudan. Later, he tried to make the leap to politics, but did not win a seat. Thus, Churchill ended up as a war correspondent in South Africa during the Boer War, in which he was taken prisoner and managed to escape.
Early years in politics
Joining the Conservative Party, he won a seat for Oldham in 1900. He had his discrepancies with the Conservatives on economic matters, as he considered that the spending dedicated to the army was excessive and he opposed tariffs that supposedly sought the commercial preponderance of the United Kingdom . Thus, his discrepancies with the Conservative Party led him to join the Liberal Party, with whom he won a seat in 1906.
Continuing with his political career, he was adding new positions to his record, being Secretary of State for the Colonies and being in charge of the Interior, Commerce and Navy portfolios.
First World War
As First Lord of the Admiralty he made drastic changes, as Great Britain went from consuming coal to providing itself with oil. In this eagerness to guarantee the supply of oil, he was responsible for carrying out large engineering works while also taking charge of obtaining the rights to extract oil in Mesopotamia. The army also underwent important changes during its stage, introducing aviation and tanks. However, he was widely criticized during his time as First Lord of the Admiralty, especially for the disastrous military defeat at Gallipoli.
In 1917 he was appointed Minister of Munitions and between 1919 and 1920 he was Minister of War and Air. With the First World War already concluded, it was not necessary to allocate colossal items to the army, so he advocated the reduction of military spending.
The interwar period
After returning to the Conservative Party, in 1924 he was put in charge of the British Treasury. Thus, Churchill took it upon himself to monitor the return of the United Kingdom to the gold standard. The consequence of that measure was a scenario marked by deflation, protests by mining workers and an increase in unemployment.
Precisely this decision to return to the gold standard would lead to strong criticism from the famous economist John Maynard Keynes and Churchill himself recognized his serious mistake.
Worried about the rise of Nazism, he warned of the danger posed by the coming to power of Adolf Hitler. To do this, Churchill emphasized that Great Britain should carry out an industrial effort that would allow it to have an air force superior to the German one. While Germany continued to increase military spending and its production of war material grew, Churchill watched helplessly as then-Prime Minister Chamberlain pursued a policy of pacts with Hitler.
The Second World War
With the strategy of appeasing Hitler unsuccessful, World War II broke out. Successive military defeats brought about the downfall of Chamberlain and Churchill's rise to power in May 1940. With Britain fighting alone against Hitler's Germany, he embodied resistance against Nazism and formed a government of national unity.
Precisely its good relations with the United States and in particular with its president Franklin D. Roosevelt allowed Great Britain to be supplied with arms and supplies through the North Atlantic. In this sense, the United States passed the so-called Lending and Leasing Act, by which countries such as Great Britain would pay for the materials provided at the end of the Second World War.
He participated in the design of the Allied victory strategy at the Washington, Moscow, Casablanca and Tehran conferences. In February 1945, in Yalta, he warned of the risk that weighed on the territories liberated by the Soviet army and of what could happen to the countries of Eastern Europe, which he called the “iron curtain”, dividing Europe into a bloc western and a communist bloc. In effect, the world was divided into a western bloc with a free market economy and a communist bloc, with a central planning system, in which the state took over the reins of the economy.
Despite his unquestionable leadership during World War II, Churchill was unpopular with soldiers and the public, especially because of his opposing position in public services such as education and healthcare. All this cost him the defeat in the 1945 elections against the Labor party Clement Atlee.
Postwar and last years
After the war, he was a firm defender of a united Europe, with states that cooperated and overcome the discords of the past. Precisely his European spirit would be worth the delivery of the Charlemagne Prize in 1956, which is awarded to those who have fought for peace and the union of Europe.
Churchill had to wait until 1951 to regain the leadership of the government, keeping alive the close friendly relationship with the United States and reducing the degree of state intervention. He remained at the head of the government until 1955 and in 1953, his literary work was recognized with the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature.