Had Winston Churchill not come to power in Britain in the Forties, the entire history of the world would be different.

The political leaders of Britain that succeeded him could never compete with his iconic legacy. But the truth is, because of his triumph over Hitler’s despotic regime, they haven’t had to.

Thanks to his strong leadership during World War Two, the nation prospered in the face of idealistic adversity and against stark odds to defeat the threat of Nazi Germany. And it hasn’t faced such a challenge to its freedom since.

But his career – which included being an officer in the British Army, as well as a historian, a Nobel Prize-winning author and an artist – was not without its darker moments.

Here are some of his biggest controversies.

He was so taken with Islam and the culture of the Orient as a young man that his family wrote to try and persuade him not to become a Muslim…

In a letter dated August 1907 Churchill’s soon to be sister-in-law urged: “Please don’t become converted to Islam; I have noticed in your disposition a tendency to orientalise, Pasha-like tendencies, I really have.

“If you come into contact with Islam your conversion might be effected with greater ease than you might have supposed, call of the blood, don’t you know what I mean, do fight against it.”

Churchill’s inexperience as a chancellor was a major factor in bringing about the Great Depression…

According to heralded economist John Maynard Keynes, who believes it was his decisions that put Britain back onto the gold standard in the 1920s, ultimately causing the largest national economic downturn in the 20th century.

However, as a politician in the 1930s, his attitudes towards some nations bordered on racist…

As Mahatma Gandhi launched his campaign for peaceful resistance, Churchill, who fought as a young army officer in British India, said he “ought to be lain bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi, and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new Viceroy seated on its back.”

“I hate Indians,” he later stated as the resistance movement strengthened. “They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.”

He didn’t believe Native Americans had been wronged when they were invaded between 1776 and 1887…

Nor the Aborigines of Australia. Speaking to the Palestine Royal Commission in 1937, he wrote: “I do not admit… that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America, or the black people of Australia… by the fact that a stronger race, a higher grade race… has come in and taken its place.”

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