There's a famous quote by Winston Churchill that, when asked to cut arts funding in favour of the war effort, he replied: “Then what are we fighting for?” (it can be found here, among other places).
Is this true?
According to the Telegraph the quotation is bogus.
Spend enough time on Facebook or Twitter and you'll eventually come across a quote which purportedly emerged from that bulldog visage in the darkest days of World War II. It has Churchill responding to a plan to cut money for the arts to fund the war effort by saying: "Then what are we fighting for?"
It's a pithy line and it sounds a little Churchillian but the great man never said it.
If we want the next generation to have any notion of real history beyond warmed-up, fabricated aphorisms, we'd best start teaching them to fact-check.
Rischard Langworth, a Churchill historian reports
This alleged quotation was raised a few years ago in the Village Voice and is all over the web, but it is not in any of Churchill’s 15 million
speeches[words in his], papers, letters, articles or books.
The alleged quotation suggests that cutting money for arts could provide a significant source of additional funding for the war effort. However the amounts involved are so trivial that the preservation of arts funding is hardly heroic.
According to the History of the Arts Council
1940 Committee for Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA) set up by Royal Charter
1941 John Maynard Keynes becomes Chair of CEMA
1945 46 arts organisations are funded by CEMA
According to theV&A Museum
The initial objective of the committee was to give financial assistance to cultural societies finding difficulty in maintaining their activities during the War. The committee was funded by £25,000 from the Pilgrim Trust, of which Lord Macmillan and Dr Thomas Jones were also the chairman and secretary respectively.
In 1940 the committee, enlarged by the inclusion of several new members, was formally appointed as the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (CEMA) by Lord De La Warr, President of the Board of Education. The new Council began to receive direct funding from the government.
In 1940 Britain spent £643 million on defence
Adding any sum similar to 25,000 to the existing 643,000,000 defense expenditure was almost certainly not going to shorten the war noticeably. It seems unlikely that Churchill was really faced with an important choice between the two.