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Iron Curtain Speech | Study Guide

Winston Churchill

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Winston Churchill

Year Delivered



Primary Source


History, Speech

At a Glance

  • Former British prime minister Winston Churchill (1874–1965) gave this speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, on March 5, 1946.
  • The speech was delivered a few months after the end of World War II (1939–45). The Allies (including Britain, France, the United States, and the Soviet Union) had defeated the Axis Powers (led by Germany, Italy, and Japan).
  • Churchill urged his audience to be vigilant regarding the expansion of Soviet communism.
  • Churchill and other Western leaders were suspicious of the Soviets' postwar ambitions to spread communism throughout war-weakened regions of the world.
  • Churchill used the metaphor of an "iron curtain" to describe the ideological and geographical division of Europe into democratic countries and communist states.
  • Defining war and tyranny as urgent threats against innocent, ordinary people around the world, Churchill called on democratic countries to take preventative action.
  • Churchill called for a strong alliance between the United States and Britain, arguing that it would be essential in the effort to prevent war and totalitarianism. He described a special relationship between English-speaking democracies.
  • Along with a powerful British-American alliance, Churchill hoped to see the newly founded United Nations become a strong institution, able to preserve peace and prevent conflict.
  • Churchill's warning about the danger of the spread of Soviet power and influence was a precursor to the policy of containment that the United States and other Western nations developed in the decades following World War II.


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