Winston Churchill and the Story of Two World Wars Critical Context - Essay

Olivia Coolidge

Critical Context

For young adult readers this is a work of serious intent and substantive depth. While Churchill’s principal biographers—among them Churchill’s son Randolph, William Manchester, Lord Moran, Ronald Lewin, and Martin Gilbert—have pursued their subject more exhaustively than Coolidge, she nevertheless has produced a well-balanced, generally objective account in one slim volume. No more than other historians and biographers does she question Churchill’s heroic stature, but she sees it as a consequence of her subject’s evolving character in confrontations with events during his warlike times.

Coolidge has the good judgment, moreover, to give depth to Churchill by deft mention of his many failings and weaknesses. As a youngster, for example, he was an indifferent scholar; as a young man, he was brash, very much in a hurry, opportunistic, and fully capable of soliciting whatever influences he could. Early in his career he was an awkward speaker. He also suffered from an overactive imagination, which, as at Gallipoli, in the Norwegian campaign, and in his quest for a Balkan front, could produce calamitous results. He often behaved rashly, sometimes cruelly. He was an old-line imperialist, and much of the time he was singularly disinterested in twentieth century domestic politics. Furthermore, his eccentricities were not always lovable. As Coolidge makes clear, his character evolved through his address to the adversities posed by two unprecedented wars.