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In the autumn of 1895, he and Reginald Barnes traveled to Cuba to observe its war of independence; they joined Spanish troops attempting to suppress independence fighters and were caught up in several skirmishes. In North America, he also spent time in New York City, staying with the wealthy politician Bourke Cockran at the latter's Fifth Avenue residence; Cockran profoundly influenced the young Churchill. Churchill admired the United States, writing to his brother that it was "a very great country" and telling his mother "what an extraordinary people the Americans are!" With the Hussars, Churchill arrived in Bombay, British India, in October 1896. They were soon transferred to Bangalore, where he shared a bungalow with Barnes. Describing India as a "godless land of snobs and bores", Churchill remained posted there for 19 months, during the course of which he made three visits to Calcutta, expeditions to Hyderabad and the North West Frontier, and two visits back to Britain. Believing himself poorly educated, he began a project of self?education, reading the work of Plato, Adam Smith, Charles Darwin, and Henry Hallam. Most influential for him were however Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Winwood Reade's The Martyrdom of Man, and the writings of Thomas Babington Macaulay. Keenly interested in British parliamentary affairs, in a private letter he declared himself "a Liberal in all but name", but added that he could never endorse the Liberal Party's support for Irish home rule. Instead, he allied himself to the Tory democracy wing of the Conservative Party, and on a visit home gave his first public speech for the Conservative's Primrose League in Bath. Reflecting a mix of reformist and conservative perspectives, he supported the promotion of secular, non?denominational education while opposing women's suffrage, referring to the Suffragettes as "a ridiculous movement". Churchill decided to join the Malakand Field Force led by Bindon Blood in its campaign against Mohmand rebels in the Swat Valley of Northwest India. Blood agreed on the condition that Churchill be assigned as a journalist; to ensure this, he gained accreditation from The Pioneer and The Daily Telegraph, for whom he wrote regular updates. In letters to family, he described how both sides in the conflict slaughtered each other's wounded, although he omitted any reference to such actions by British troops in his published reports. He remained with the British troops for six weeks before returning to Bangalore in October 1897. There, he wrote his first book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force, which was published by Longman to largely positive reviews. He also wrote his only work of fiction, Savrola, a roman à clef set in an imagined Balkan kingdom. It was serialised in Macmillan's Magazine between May?December 1899 before appearing in book form. While staying in Bangalore in the first half of 1898, Churchill explored the possibility of joining Herbert Kitchener's military campaign in the Sudan. Kitchener was initially reticent, claiming that Churchill was simply seeking publicity and medals. After spending time in Calcutta, Meerut, and Peshawar, Churchill sailed back to England from Bombay in June. There, he used his contacts?including a visit to the Prime Minister Lord Salisbury at 10 Downing Street?to get himself assigned to Kitchener's campaign. He agreed that he would write a column describing the events for The Morning Post. He sailed for Egypt, where he joined the 21st Lancers at Cairo before they headed south along the River Nile to take part in the Battle of Omdurman against the army of Sudanese leader Abdallahi ibn Muhammad. Churchill was critical of Kitchener's actions during the war, particularly the latter's unmerciful treatment of enemy wounded and his In the autumn of 1895, he and Reginald Barnes traveled to Cuba to observe its war of independence; they joined Spanish troops attempting to suppress independence fig