June 10, 2013

EDITOR’S ESSAY: FINEST HOUR 134, SPRING 2007

TRENDS IN CHURCHILL STUDIES

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Our new President and Board of Governors have asked me to implement important changes in Finest Hour which are immediately evident in this issue—beginning with the new subtitle on our cover: “The Journal of Winston Churchill.”

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What this means to signify is the shift of “institutional” articles—messages from or about officers, events coverage, affiliate news, and business matters—to an expanded Chartwell Bulletin, leaving Finest Hour with The Churchill Centre’s “meat and potatoes”: a dedicated exploration of Winston Spencer Churchill’s life and times (warts and all); a quarterly guide to Churchill’s abiding relevance, inimitably summarized by Sir Martin Gilbert: “…as I open file after file of Churchill’s archive, from his entry into Government in 1905 to his retirement in 1955,1 am continually surprised by the truth of his assertions, the modernity of his thought, the originality of his mind, the constructiveness of his proposals, his humanity, and, most remarkable of all, his foresight.”

Thus “The Journal of Winston Churchill”—which has, in the words of our chairman of academic advisers, Professor James Muller, “the quiet dignity that is in keeping with the idea of attaining permanent scholarly respectability for Finest Hour.” The previous subtitle, “Published by The Churchill Centre for Churchillians Worldwide,” did not define what is inside and, given page 2, is redundant.

Finest Hour will also be expanded in size, as this issue already is, reaching upwards of sixty pages, encompassing the important scholarly speeches and papers delivered at major Churchill meetings from conferences to teacher seminars to the increasingly significant programs developed by our local affiliates and chapters. This material, if we found room for it at all, formerly had to wait up to three years before appearing in our biennial Churchill Proceedings, which is now to be absorbed by Finest Hour.

Nor will these increased articles and papers be strictly limited to The Churchill Centre. The editors will enthusiastically seek out and arrange to publish work from many sources: lectures, theses, and material from fraternal organizations like the Churchill Museum in London or the Churchill Memorial and Library in Fulton, which they might deem suitable for these pages. Some papers may actually be published on our website in advance of their appearance here, to solicit comment and debate; President Geller has appointed a website committee to delve into all that, and it is already at work.

Finally, Finest Hour’s complimentary distribution list will be greatly expanded, to reach more scholars laboring in the Churchill vineyard, more students, more college and high school libraries, more national and international leaders with a serious, established Churchill interest.

The object of all this is to turn what was formerly always in part a kind of “club publication” into a true journal of Churchill studies—not a dry-as-dust academic journal, but one with the established personality that has produced its loyal following.

Professor Warren Kimball, whom we consulted on all of this, had encouraging advice: “The Churchill Centre doesn’t have to conform to someone else’s definition of a professional society. Professional yes—but on our terms. So what if some of our admired columns, like Around & About or Wit & Wisdom or the Quiz, aren’t what you might find in more scholarly periodicals? If they get the public to read it, great; perhaps they will then also read the professional articles it contains.

“You know of course that a more ‘professional’ approach could limit the editor’s ability to intervene and argue a different case, as in the Second Front debate (FH 124). I’m not sure there are many in this world, who can do that as you do. We’ve had our public and always pleasant disputes, and I don’t think that such argumentation is by definition a bad thing. Will the editor tend more to be aloof, at least in print? Is that a good thing? Perhaps, but is it good for Finest Hour? That’s worth some discussion.”

Those are very kind words from my friend and sometime debate partner Warren Kimball; and let me reassure our readers. Don’t worry—the revealing stories, the lively debates, and the reviews of new books on Churchill that readers have long enjoyed in FH will not disappear. —RML

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