Winston Churchill Analysis

Early Life

(20th-Century Biographies)

Winston Spencer Churchill was born on November 30, 1874, at Bleinheim Palace in Oxfordshire, England; he was two months premature. He was the son of Lord Randolph Churchill (1849-1895), a prominent Conservative politician and a descendant of the Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722), a statesman and one of the greatest military commanders in history. Bleinheim Palace was the gift of a grateful nation to the Duke of Marlborough for the first of his famous victories at Bleinheim (1704) in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714). Churchill grew up within this background of military glory and patriotism and always had it in mind to preserve and to enhance the grandeur of the British Empire. Churchill’s mother, Jennie Jerome, was the daughter of Leonard Jerome, described as an “American freebooter” and the “King of Wall Street.” Winston adored his mother, although she shared little of her fashionable life with him. In his efforts to shape American opinion during World War II and afterward, he made the most of his American ancestry. He worshipped and stoutly defended his reckless, flamboyant, and self-destructive father—even writing a biography of Randolph (1906) in justification of his father’s life. All these qualities—filial piety, loyalty, pugnacity, grandiloquence, and enormous courage—were to make of Churchill a unique figure in the twentieth century, for he was almost a throwback to an earlier age, more like an eighteenth century soldier statesman and man of letters than a modern politician.

Churchill was educated at Harrow and Sandhurst, the latter a school for the training of military officers....

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Life’s Work

(20th-Century Biographies)

It became Churchill’s life’s work not only to rehabilitate his reputation but also to fulfill his early promise and destiny: to become prime minister and supreme military leader. Churchill’s talents were not ignored, but in various cabinet positions he was not allowed to get near the center of power. He was, successively, minister of munitions (1917), secretary of state for war and for air (1918-1921), colonial secretary (1921-1922), and Chancellor of the Exchequer (1924-1929). None of these offices required Churchill’s broad-based talent for mobilizing a whole nation during periods of crisis, and he lacked real interest in domestic matters. From 1929 to 1939, he had no government position. As a member of Parliament he was a steadfast anti-Communist and an early—if not always consistent—opponent of the Fascists. Yet by the time of Neville Chamberlain’s “peace in our time” capitulation to Adolf Hitler at Munich in the summer of 1938, Churchill had become fixed in his country’s imagination as the prophet who had foreseen Great Britain’s involvement in World War II and who had demanded military preparedness. Whereas his vitriolic “empire first” speeches had once seemed dangerous and ridiculous affectations belonging to an earlier age, now his evocations of moral and military grandeur spoke eloquently to a nation that needed to be aroused to fight for its own freedom.

At various points in the 1930’s, Churchill, physically and politically, had looked...

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(20th-Century Biographies)

Alldritt, Keith. Churchill the Writer: His Life as a Man of Letters. London: Hutchinson, 1992. Discusses Churchill as a writer.

Barrett, Buckley. Churchill: A Concise Biography. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2000. A look at Churchill’s life, writings, and other work.

Bonham Carter, Violet. Winston Churchill: An Intimate Biography. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1965. A sympathetic biography by a friend who first met Churchill in 1906 and was in a position to observe his public and private behavior, his leadership in times of war and peace, and his reactions to both victory and defeat.

Brendon, Piers. Winston Churchill. New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1984. A succinct, lively, and colorful one-volume biography.

Churchill, Randolph, and Martin Gilbert. Winston S. Churchill. London: Heinemann, 1966-. This is the definitive multivolume life begun by Winston’s son, Randolph, and carried on by Gilbert, whose work is still in progress. This is a minutely detailed (sometimes day-by-day) account of every aspect of Churchill’s life and career which is partial to his own view of himself.

Churchill, Winston. Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” Speech Fifty Years Later. Edited by James W. Muller. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1999. Analysis of the speech which coined a household phrase and how Churchill’s take on international relations is relevant in the twenty-first century.

Churchill, Winston. The Complete Speeches of Winston Churchill. Edited by R. R. James. New York: Chelsea House, 1974.

Churchill, Winston. My Early Life: A Roving Commission, 1930. Reprint. London: Cooper, 1989. Essential reading for the Churchill scholar.

Parker, Robert. Churchill and Appeasement. London: Macmillan, 2000. Describes the events prior to World War II and Churchill’s history-making involvement.

Taylor, A. J. P., et al. Churchill Revised: A Critical Assessment. New York: Dial Press, 1969. Studies of Churchill the statesman by Taylor, the politician by J. H. Plumb, the military strategist by Basil Liddell Hart, and the man by A. Storr.

Thompson, R. W. Generalissimo Churchill. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1973. A study of Churchill’s skill as a military commander based on both secondary and primary sources, including interviews with his close friends and associates. Covers Churchill’s “long apprenticeship” as a war leader and his overall performance in World War II.

Wood, Ian. Churchill. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. An excellent biography.