Empire First: Churchill's War Against D-Day

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“Graeme Bowman has done the daring thing, criticizing Britain's iconic wartime leader. Churchill is revealed as an old-fashioned imperialist and an incompetent strategist… a lively read with a strong central argument.” Prof. Richard Overy

“I greatly enjoyed Empire First. It is well-researched, clear, fluent… a convincing indictment of the Churchill myth. A book with immense appeal for both specialist and lay readers.” Prof. Sir Tom Devine

Winston Churchill is usually portrayed as the great champion of democracy - the doughty bulldog who defied Hitler in 1940 and inspired the grand crusade of 1944. 
Empire Firstchallenges this mythology by detailing Churchill’s efforts to sabotage Overlord in favor of a Mediterranean strategy which prioritized British oil and Empire interests. Bowman achieves this by starting his story in 1874-75 (with Churchill’s birth and British acquisition of Suez Canal shares) to reveal how Suez dominated British thinking for six decades prior to 1939 and shaped the PM's wartime priorities. This Mediterranean obsession inspired Churchill’s ‘soft underbelly’ strategy which presented heavily-mountained south-eastern Europe as an arena in which the Allies could win easy victories and generated friction with his American Allies who knew that landings in north-western Europe offered the surest means of beating Germany. Marshall and Roosevelt emerge as Empire First's real heroes, steering Churchill away from his Mediterranean fantasies towards reluctant acceptance of Overlord.

Empire First considers WWII within its true historical context as a massive game of ‘multi-dimensional chess’ featuring multiple players on both sides, pawns who frequently disobey orders and allies who - given half a chance - happily back-stab each other. Empire First is entirely evidence-based and - as Profs. Devine and Overy note – its a lively and accessible read. This is a book for history buffs who enjoy overturning orthodoxy and Bowman deploys 72pp of bibliography and reference to support his singular thesis. Empire First blends Churchill biography with WWII analysis and the decline of Britain’s Empire to offer three books in one. It dissects the major Allied military conferences in commendable detail and contains dedicated chapters on the Bombing of Germany, the Battle of the Atlantic and Churchill’s Japan strategy which - as with Europe - prioritized British imperial interests over efforts to secure victory. And Empire Firstreveals how Churchill’s Mediterranean obsession aggravated the tragedy of Bengal’s Famine.

Empire First re-writes popular history and encourages readers to re-think everything they think they know about WWII and Churchill’s role within it. And its a real page turner - there’s scarcely an unnecessary word in Bowman’s lean, muscular prose.