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Gandhi and Churchill: parallel lives, divergent world views

How two very different world leaders were shaped.

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Compare-and-contrast biographies of great leaders which weigh the similarities and differences of each have long proved a popular and informative subgenre. Now, historian Arthur Herman (author of “How the Scots Invented the Modern World”) brings us his version of the parallel biography in Gandhi & Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age.

Mohandas Gandhi was born in rural India in 1869; he studied law at London’s Inner Temple. He subsequently found work in South Africa, serving with the Ambulance Corps during the Boer War, working for Indian rights, founding communes, and writing philosophical treatises on nonviolent civil protest. Returning to India, he founded more communes, became a key member of the Indian National Congress, and a leader in the movement for Indian independence. He was assassinated in 1947.

Winston Churchill was born in England in 1874; he served with the British Army in India; he saw action in what is now the Pakistan/Afghanistan border region, also in the Boer War in South Africa. He was a member of Parliament and served in several cabinet posts including that of chancellor of the exchequer. Throughout the 1930s, he warned of Hitler’s rearmament of Germany. As prime minister during World War II, he was, with Roosevelt, the driving force behind the Allies’ ultimate victory over Nazism, the Axis powers, and Japan. He was also a prolific author and historian, winning the 1953 Nobel Prize for Literature for his five-volume work on World War II.

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