Historians blast BBC for ‘unbalanced’ News At Ten report on ChurchillHistorians in the News
tags: colonialism, famine, Winston Churchill, British Empire, India, public history
Historians have criticised the BBC for an ‘unbalanced’ News At Ten report claiming Churchill was responsible for the ‘mass killing’ of up to 3million in the 1943 Bengal Famine.
A section broadcast on Tuesday examined how modern Indians view the wartime prime minster as part of a series on Britain’s colonial legacy, and featured a series of damning statements about his actions.
Rudrangshu Mukherjee of Ashoka University in India, said Churchill was seen as a ‘precipitator’ of mass killing’ due to his policies, while Oxford’s Yasmin Khan said he could be guilty of ‘prioritising white lives over Asian lives’ by not sending relief.
The Bengal Famine was triggered by a cyclone and flooding in Bengal in 1942, which destroyed crops and infrastructure.
Historians agree that many of the three million deaths could have been averted with a more effective relief effort, but are divided over the extent to which Churchill was personally to blame.
Yogita Limaye, the BBC News India correspondent who led the report, said many Indians blamed him for ‘making the situation worse’.
But historians suggested the report attributed too much of the blame onto Churchill when other factors were more significant.
Tirthankar Roy, a professor in economic history at the LSE, argues India’s vulnerability to weather-induced famine was due to its unequal distribution of food.
He also blames a lack of investment in agriculture and failings by the local government.
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