What elements of the Second World War are we in denial about?

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Historian Keith Lowe answers...

"It starts with the fact that we celebrate the war an awful lot; we like to look back on the war with rose-tinted spectacles.

"As far as what we are in denial about, we don't like to look too closely at some of the things that we did. The Bengal famine [of 1943] is the obvious one, and what it meant to the people who actually lived through it and the responsibility for it, which started with the Bengal government, went up to the Indian government and ended, really, with the British government and [Winston] Churchill.

Churchill was no saint – just like none of us are saints

"Nobody likes to say bad things about Churchill because, of course, he's our symbol of British fortitude during the war. But, you know, he was no saint, just like none of us are saints. So people don't like to criticise Churchill.

"There are plenty of other things, too. In Africa, we rounded up Africans and basically set up slave labour camps and made them work for us on plantations against their will. And these things are not really talked about. So, yeah, I suppose that counts as denial."

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Keith Lowe's book, Prisoners of History, is a study of Second World War monuments around the world, and what each of these monuments say about the societies that put them up. You can find him on Twitter @KeithLoweAuthor.


Keith Lowe was speaking to Rachel Dinning at BBC History Magazine's History Weekend 2017.


Rachel Dinning, Premium Content Editor at HistoryExtra
Rachel DinningPremium Content Editor

Rachel Dinning is the Premium Content Editor at HistoryExtra, website of BBC History Magazine and BBC History Revealed.