November 10, 2019

The 36th International Churchill Conference took place at the end of October in Washington, D.C. Nearly 300 members of the International Churchill Society gathered together with scholars and students along with members of the Churchill family to hear presentations on topics from Churchill’s Cold War strategy to the best depictions of him by actors on film.

Attendees praised the range of speakers, which included scholarly analyses of Churchill as prime minister, personal memories from children of people who worked close to Churchill, and a study of Churchill’s famous affinity for animals. For the first time, all panel sessions were live streamed on the ICS YouTube channel. More than 2,500 people followed the conference online.

Panel sessions began on the morning of Wednesday the 30th with Professors Klaus Larres and Angela Stent examining how Churchill managed matters with the Soviet Union during and after the Second World War. Jill Rose then spoke about the time her mother nursed Churchill during the war. To watch the video of this session, please CLICK HERE.

At lunchtime, Churchill’s granddaughter Edwina Sandys, a professional artist in her own right, discussed her sculptures Breakthrough and Break Free, which can be found at the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri, and the Franklin Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park, New York, respectively. Both works were made from sections of the Berlin Wall, which was brought down thirty years ago last month.

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In the afternoon John Maurer analyzed Churchill’s actions leading to the outbreak of war in 1939. Film historian and critic Leonard Maltin followed with a more lighthearted presentation in which he assessed the performances of famous actors who have portrayed Churchill on film. His choice for best performance ever went to the late Robert Hardy, who spoke at several Churchill conferences himself over several decades.

Andrew Roberts ended the first day with his survey of the state of Winston Churchill’s relationship today. Roberts cataloged both the highs and the lows. While for many Churchill remains the most admired Briton of all time, there continue to be those on both the far left and the far right constantly seeking to denigrate him. At the same time Churchill’s notoriety also leads to occasional claims that must be categorized as just plain strange such as a recent newspaper headline stating that Churchill was a non-smoker. To watch a video of the afternoon sessions, please CLICK HERE.

On Thursday the 31st, John von Heyking and James Muller discussed how friendship formed an important element in Churchill’s leadership skill set. Lady Aurelia Young then spoke about her father the sculptor Oscar Nemon, who produced the most admired three-dimensional representations of Churchill including the statue that flanks the entrance to the House of Commons in London. Piers Brendon concluded the panel sessions with his whimsical look at Churchill’s menagerie. To watch the video of this session, please CLICK HERE.

The conference concluded with a screening of Churchill and the Movie Mogul, a documentary about Churchill’s relationship with Alexander Korda, the flamboyant Hungarian-Jewish immigrant who virtually founded the British film industry. Filmmaker John Fleet spoke afterwards about how he came to make the film and pieced together the history.

During her closing remarks, honorary conference co-chair Celia Sandys proclaimed the conference a great success and praised all of the speakers as well as the documentary.

Next year’s conference will take place October 22–24 in London.

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