DAVID FREEMAN is The Churchill Centre’s Director of Publications
The Chartwell Bulletin recently met with David Freeman to discuss his responsibilities as editor of the Bulletin and Finest Hour, The Churchill Centre’s quarterly journal that appears in both print and electronic format.
CB: How did you come to be The Churchill Centre’s Director of Publications?
DF: My interest in Churchill started as a teenager, when I began reading his books. I soon joined what was then called the International Churchill Society, which later evolved into The Churchill Centre. I began contributing articles to Finest Hour when I was a student in college and continued this through the years until I was invited to take over as editor of the Chartwell Bulletin at the start of 2013. When Richard M. Langworth retired as editor of Finest Hour at the end of the following year, he recommended me as his successor to the Board of Trustees. And so here I am.
CB: What did you do before taking over as editor?
DF: I earned my Ph.D. in modern British history at Texas A&M University and continue to teach history at California State University, Fullerton. I have taught classes in world history, US history, European history, British history, and the Second World War. Students have learned to expect all of my classes to be heavy on Churchill regardless of what the class is called.
CB: What are your responsibilities as editor of the Chartwell Bulletin?
DF: The CB goes out monthly for free to more than 30,000 subscribers. Each issue consists of six or seven stories about current developments in the world of Churchill studies and events. Sometimes I write the stories. Sometimes they are supplied by others. There is a Churchill Quiz edited by James Lancaster that is published quarterly, and this summer we will start another quarterly feature focusing on the world of Churchill collectables. In the CB we can also publish lengthier book reviews than space allows for in Finest Hour, and we also have the capability of delivering audio and video content to our subscribers.
CB: What are your responsibilities as editor of Finest Hour?
DF: FH is published quarterly and goes only to members of The Churchill Centre. It is our “premier” publication and contains in-depth articles examining Churchill’s life, career, and legacy. Each issue has a theme so that the articles contained therein compliment each other. I choose the themes, commission the stories, edit the copy, go over the layout, and work with the rest of the editorial staff to proofread everything before we go to print. We also carry reviews of absolutely each and every new book published about Churchill as we aim to be the journal of record in this area. I have to identify the books and find the reviewers. We also review films, documentaries, exhibits, and “curiosities” such as the strategy-board game Churchill that came out last year.
CB: How have the publications changed over the years?
DF: The Churchill Centre was founded long before the existence of the internet. Originally, Finest Hour was the only medium through which we could communicate with our members, and therefore it had to serve every purpose. Initially, the Chartwell Bulletin was also a quarterly-print journal created as a way to separate out from FH stories about the Centre’s activities. With the development of new technology and social media, we have more options about where best to place different types of content, and our publications have evolved accordingly. While FH remains home to material that contributes to the study of Churchill, the CB has become a monthly, online journal that covers current events related to him. The Churchill Centre website archives both the CB and FH while providing a wealth of other material about Churchill’s life and career as well as information about the Centre’s own activities. Social media is perfect for local chapters to organize events, report on these, and also allow us to post stories of a topical nature. I would be surprised if things have not evolved further in ten years’ time.
CB: What have you been able to achieve since taking over as Director of Publications?
DF: Our achievements depend primarily on the support of our members. As The Churchill Centre has grown through the years, we have been able to work with increasingly larger budgets. This enables us to remunerate contributors to the journals as well as speakers at the conferences. As editor I have been able to reach out to an ever-increasing number of professional writers, journalists, and academics to provide high quality content for our readers. Some of the people we have published for the first time in just the last year include: John Campbell, Peter Clarke, Con Coughlin, Keith Dovkants, Bill Dwyre, Alonzo Hamby, Ashley Jackson, David Lough, Candice Millard, Sonia Purnell, Anne Sebba, Michael Sheldon, D. R. Thorpe, and Jeremy Wilson. To continue to build on this, we need our members to continue contributing generously to The Churchill Centre.
CB: What do you do to promote the study of Churchill in schools?
DF: In addition to speaking to local chapters of The Churchill Centre and the Centre’s annual conference at which students are sponsored to attend for free, I speak at schools other than my own when invited. In our publications, we promote stories and letters involving teachers and students at all levels who are studying Churchill.
CB: Are you involved with this year’s international Churchill Conference in Washington, D.C.?
DF: I am serving as Program Chair, which means that for the last few months I was busy asking people to speak or introduce those who will. This year’s theme is “Churchill: Friends and Contemporaries” so I tried to secure speakers well-qualified to present about some of the many different personalities whom Churchill knew or worked with. Last year’s conference in England set the bar very high. We do not expect to surpass that accomplishment, but if we can match it, we will have a great show.
CB: Why do you think people continue to be inspired by Winston Churchill more than fifty years after his death?
DF: Courage. Churchill embodied it. He survived repeated experiences in combat and decades in the rough-and-tumble world of politics without losing his basic sense of human decency and intense respect for democracy. They say honesty in politics always gives you the advantage of surprise precisely because it involves courage, and courage involves a willingness to lose votes. Churchill’s willingness to tell the truth as he saw it nearly sank his career on several occasions, but it won him the reputation that led people to turn to him in their hour of greatest need. They knew he had what it would take to weather the storm.
CB: What does David Freeman do when he is not in the classroom or immersed in publishing on all things Churchill?
DF: I like to take full advantage of the weather in Southern California where I live and go sailing as often as possible.