Is Churchill overrated?

I don’t personally think that he is not the best britain, but may in the british public are somewat getting sick and tired of him being the ‘greatest at everything’

Recently, we have had a ‘great britons’ vote it consisted of diana, lennon, churchill, brunnel, shakespeare, newton, cromwell, darwin, and I can’t remember the other two…

Do you think Churchill is the greatest briton?

Ryan, he may not have been. But if he had not been around, there’s at least a 50% chance that you’d be posting from Das Anglische Reichsland, an outlying province of Der Grossdeutsche Reich, right now – if you were permitted to access this board, of course.

Just my 10c, from someone who was a child during the end of his Premiership, and has read extensively about him and the politics of his times.

Try reading a biography of the man. I don’t think anyone has ever had such a full and accomplished life. And his speeches just electrify me.

There were two fairly long threads covering the Greatest Briton subject:

Who is the Greatest Briton?, and
Cromwell! Shakespeare! Admiral Nelson! Churchill! …and Brunel??! Wha?

so I’m sure you’ll find most people’s opinions there. Personally I couldn’t make up my mind between Shakespeare, Darwin and Newton. The scale, duration and international effect of their contributions made them great IMHO. I do think Churchill was overrated as the overall No.1, but it seems that people voted stupidly for the Top 100, then very intermittently after the “Top 10” programmes.

Churchill seemed to win because people were so fearful of the consequences of losing WWII, rather than any claim that he did it single-handedly.

Well, of the hundred greatest Britons in the BBC poll, 22 are still alive today. Are Britons not fortunate to be living in such an age?

Churchill was fortunate to be the right man in the right place at the right time, but the same is true of many who we consider great.

You can make a strong case for Churchill having been among the greatest Britons. I don’t think you can meaningfully go further than that, for him or anyone else.

None of them could be that great. They can’t muster a single capital letter between them.

A German newspaper recently called Churchill a war criminal, for Britain’s bombings of known civilian targets during WWII.

YMMV, of course, but obviously there is some difference of opinion out there. :slight_smile:

The German newspaper in question is only Bild though, so we needn’t take it too seriously. I recall there were protests from Germany when a statue was erected to Arthur Harris, and some opposition to it from the British side too.

This quotation from your link:

may suggest that Friedrich’s anti-Churchill propaganda won’t please everybody in Germany either.

Ryan wrote:

One of them was Diana, I think.

He’s mentioned Diana (hard to spot in lower case I know). The other two were Horatio Nelson and Elizabeth I.

Oops. Sorry.


Try reading a biography of the man. I don’t think anyone has ever had such a full and accomplished life. And his speeches just electrify me.
Don’t fall of your chair now grieny… I fully agree. I’ll add the recommendation to pick up Martin Gilbert’s “Churchill – A Life” which is the abridged version of Gilbert’s eight-volume official biography.

I’ll also say that I think calling him the greatest Britain is hardly enough. Think what you will of his person, but he unquestionably belongs on any short list of the most influential humans ever to walk this planet. His achievements during WWII would be enough, but then you have to add to that his efforts for social equality, universal suffrage, the creation of the UN, founding the European Movement which eventually led to the EU, his monumental historical literary works and to not mention the flood of quotable prose and diatribe the man produced… his list of achievements is long and full, just like his life was.


Well, it’s not mentioned much, but Churchill was regarded as something of a drunken buffoon and a demagogue before the war. He WAS an imperialist. He was especially obsessed with squelching Gandhi’s revolution, and made some racially disparaging comments about Gandhi himself.

But he gave England what she needed when she needed it. That “fight them in the fields” speech was pretty cool. Iron Maiden used it on their Powerslave album.

How Curchill (great leader and politician as he was) could come before Newton is simply baffling to me…

No he was not. He was oft enough charicatured as such by his political enemies, but never was that a serious slur. Churchill was a respected and venerated politician. Quite feared by most camps since he had a known tendency to get what he wanted even whent he went his own way, to boot he would change alliances according to his needs. Like most people he of course had his ups and downs. His worst down was probably the debacle at Galipoli during WWI, a mess that he himself did not really create, but which shadow never quite left him. Nevertheless he was not widely considered to be a buffon although he had a reputation to be somewhat disorderly, disruptive and unpredictable - a well deserved reputation I might add.


IMHO, the BBC underestimated how seriously the results of the vote might be taken until it was too late to organise it better. Seeing it discussed on a message board by international contributors like this might suggest that the result is being taken too seriously.

I don’t believe that the results of the poll reliably indicate that the British people believe Winston Churchill was the greatest individual born in Britain. The number of votes cast in the original poll (to establish the Top 100) was remarkably small, and was not taken seriously by the people who did vote. This resulted in several “joke” nominations, a very unrealistic rating for many of those that were included and numerous worthy names not appearing in the list at all.

When the Top 10 had been taken from that original poll, a further poll was taken over several weeks. There were widely varying viewing figures for the accompanying television programmes, due to competition from other shows. It also seems likely that far more people voted after the first few shows than for later ones.

So the results really only reflect the varying opinions of people who could be bothered to call a phone number after watching a TV show, not a serious and considered opinion for consumption by an international audience. Nobody should give the result more validity than the result of any poll in a popular entertainment show.

As an outsider, it looks to me like Churchill was up and down. Actually, wasn’t his political career just about over at the time he became Prime Minister in 1940? He had a superb stretch there during the German air blitz on London, et. al., but played second fiddle most of the rest of WWII. He was also promptly repudiated as soon as Germany surrendered. And when he came back later on as Prime Minister his tenure wasn’t strikingly successful.

Of course the same thing could be said about Lincoln. He was just another lawyer who had a couple of mediocre terms in the House of Representatives. Then he seemed to be just what the doctor ordered in the Civil War. But how do we know that? What standard of comparison do we use? The Union, as compared to the Confederacy was richer, had the industry, people and existing organization on its side. Maybe almost any good executive could have done the same thing. Who knows? Lincoln of course was then shot, and thus was “saved” from damaging what he had built up.

Lincoln supposedly said, “Some men are born great, some men achieve greatness and some men have greatness thrust upon them.” Maybe he and Churchill were in Group III.

That was Shakespeare, and as for Churchill, he was old when he was in office in the 50’s so we can spare him that can’t we?

That’s why I said that Lincoln was spared damaging what he had built up. Besides, I have no time whatever for old people.