This study examines the controversial career of Winston Churchill. Each contributor is considered an expert on some aspect of his life, and the resulting interplay of sometimes unflattering and critical ideas about his policies and motives gives insight into how he came to be considered "the saviour of his nation". This book is for students of world and British history, especially political historians of the 20th century. It should also be of interest to readers of biographies and Churchill enthusiasts.
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A stirring war leader, an orator unequaled as the rallier of a nation under siege, a powerful writer - Winston Churchill was all these and more. By now he has become a figure of almost mythic proportions. To find the man within the legend is the task to which twenty-nine renowned British and American historians and political leaders dedicate themselves in this volume. It may be the last assessment possible of Churchill's life and career by those who, for the most part, came of age during the Churchill era. From his youth in the landed aristocracy through his early experiences of war to service in Parliament over seven storm-tossed decades, Churchill takes us far beyond the surface of events. Here is Winston Churchill, surprisingly, a founder of the modern welfare state, when he became a principal driving force behind the Liberal welfare reforms of 1908-11. In the 1920s, we find him astonished to be offered the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer (after accepting, he reflected that "I should have...answered, 'Will the bloody duck swim?'"). His concern with domestic affairs bracketed the years of the First World War which saw him, initially, as First Lord of the Admiralty. Churchill tasted failure in the disastrous defeat of the Dardanelles expedition in 1915. There followed two years "in the wilderness" during which he took a battalion command on the western front. "He hankered after brilliant coups, heroic adventure on a small but decisive scale" but he had learned a crucial lesson for his later years as war leader of Britain: "against an adversary as formidable as the Germans, there was no substitute for the massive organization and skillful application of force on the largestpossible scale, backed up by...science and technology...". Appointed Colonial Secretary, Churchill had to deal with some regions that were to remain trouble spots to the century's end: Palestine and Southern Africa among them. A staunch defender of the Empire, he believed that British rule would bring benefits and harmony to distant populations. Still, Churchill's finest hours were to come when, with the German army marching across the Low Countries into France, he succeeded to the Prime Ministership. The events of that crucial time are closely examined. "There was only one person I could send for to form a Government who had the confidence of his country", wrote King George VI, "and that was Winston". In fascinating detail, Churchill's conduct of the war is viewed from both diplomatic and military angles - with revealing light shed on his relationships with Roosevelt and Stalin, his handling of special intelligence, the "ceaseless" prodding "of the generals, admirals and air marshal is who were prosecuting the war whether as Defence chiefs or in the arenas of combat". The volume carries us through the postwar period and the realignment of Europe to face a formidable power to the Eastthe Soviet Union. We discover a Churchill resigned to letting the ties of Empire lessen even as, at home, a triumphant Labour party greatly alters Britain's economic and social structure. Under the scrutiny of experts, Churchill emerges very much the dominant figure of his time. His stature, as attested by the contributors to this volume, does not change; the features, however, become more finely chiseled.From Kirkus Reviews:
Expert essays on a fascinating subject, edited by Blake (A History of Rhodesia, 1978, etc.) and Louis (English History and Culture/Univ. of Texas). The editors have rounded up 29 specialists who distill their expertise into brief pieces that summarize many aspects of Churchill (``perhaps the great figure in 20th-century history,'' suggest Blake and Louis). The text glitters with gems like Russian diplomat Ivan Maisky's prophecy (quoted in an essay by Robin Edmond) that Churchill would come to power ``when the critical moment...arrives...because he is a major and forceful figure, whereas the other members of the cabinet are colorless mediocrities.'' As George Addison explains elsewhere, Churchill, even in his early career, was not only a writer/journalist but a hard fighter for humane social reform, ``a founder of the welfare state.'' David Cannadine tackles Churchill's family, the Marlboroughs, a conniving, dishonest, nearly perfect disgrace to the very idea of aristocracy--but the future politician was loyal to them, Cannadine says, and it cost him dearly. David Craig's piece on Churchill and Germany follows, illustrating the British leader's limitations (no grasp of German language, literature, or music) but also his lack of rancor and a view of Versailles that was both shrewd and enlightened. ``Churchill and Stalin,'' by Robin Edmonds, reveals Churchill's lifelong antipathy to Russia; to understand the WW II rapprochement between Churchill and Stalin, it's necessary to read other essays that stress the Britisher's practicality and absolute willingness to sacrifice anything, including his own obsessions, for his country. Churchill's old- fashioned sense of the world surfaces repeatedly in relation to ideas and people (notably, De Gaulle, in a piece by Douglas Johnson), but the point emerges throughout that with Churchill's stubborn mind-set came a realistic, flexible acceptance of life that stood England in good stead. Lacking an essay on Churchill the writer; still, a solid bet for anyone concerned with 20th-century history. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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