On Tuesday, 21 April, at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, The Churchill Centre presented the 2015 Churchill Leadership Award to former United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She was introduced by Churchill Centre Chairman Laurence Geller and former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband. American journalist Tom Brokaw acted as Master of Ceremonies. We produce her speech in full.
I am deeply moved to be given an award named for a leader whom I have always revered, by an organization that has done so much to promote his legacy here in the United States and around the world. I am also delighted to be in the presence this evening of Randolph Churchill, Edwina Sandys, and so many other friends and supporters of the Centre—including David Miliband. David, thank you for your remarks, and for your tireless efforts on behalf of the world’s refugees. I am proud to call you my friend.
The size of tonight’s crowd reminds me of the time that Winston Churchill was asked, “Doesn’t it thrill you to know that every time you make a speech, the hall is packed to overflowing?” “It’s quite flattering,” Churchill replied, “but whenever I feel this way, I always remember that if instead of making a speech I was being hanged, the crowd would be twice as big.” Read More >
Jonathan Smith, The Churchill SecretKBO. Little Brown, 208 pages
Review by Robert Courts
This novel tells the story of the little-known crisis that started in June 1953, when the seventy-eight-year-old Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, suffered a major stroke while entertaining an Italian delegation at Downing Street. Anthony Eden, the heir presumptive, was at the time undergoing major surgery in the United States, leaving the United Kingdom effectively rudderless.
That Churchill not only managed to recover from this stroke but also to return to front-line politics by making his speech at the Conservative party conference in November of the same year— almost without anyone realising anything was amiss—is indeed remarkable.
Jonathan Smith dramatises and explains this story, starting with the fateful dinner, where immediately we meet the core cast: Jock Colville, Lord Moran, and, of course, Clementine. We see this unlikely group work together to spirit the stricken Prime Minister away to Chartwell and effectively conspire to keep the nation ignorant of the news. Read More >
James MacManus, Sleep in Peace Tonight. St. Martin’s Press, 2014 $27.00, Book Club: $21.60
Portrayal of Churchill **½ Worth Reading ***
Did you enjoy Lynne Olsen’s excellent book, Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour, about Edward R. Murrow, Averell Harriman and US Ambassador John Winant during the Blitz? If you did and you like historical fiction, then Sleep in Peace Tonight is a book you will want to read. The novel largely takes place from January through December 1941 and is an evocative portrayal of life in wartime London before America entered the war. The main character is FDR’s close aide Harry Hopkins. The two were so close that Hopkins actually lived in the White House and was sent by FDR to London to assess England’s ability and willingness to fight.
Hopkins is charmed by Churchill and, in due course, comes to be strongly pro-English, assisted no doubt by an affair with his beautiful young driver thoughtfully supplied by MI-5. Other historical characters with major roles include Edward R. Murrow, Eleanor Roosevelt, Cordell Hull, and Brendan Bracken. I think MacManus does them as well as he does Hopkins, and that is pretty good. So, why does his portrayal of Churchill receive only 2 ½ stars? Read More >
Jean-Pierre Langellier (ed.,) Winston Churchill—L’Anglais indomptable. « Ils ont changé le monde », #1. Paris: Société éditrice du Monde, 2014. 104 pp. €3.99.
Respected French daily Le Monde has just launched a new series of booklets on the great men who have “changed the world” since the Second World War. What better choice than Churchill to inaugurate it? The formula is both simple and clever: the booklets in the series reproduce articles dealing with the chosen figure which have appeared in the newspaper since its creation in 1944, with a short introduction by the editor—in this instance Jean-Pierre Langellier, who was the journal’s London correspondent in the 1990s.
The articles are not reproduced chronologically—we first have a warm “Portrait” of Churchill by Henri Pierre—one of Langellier’s predecessors in London—published in January 1985, on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of Churchill’s death. The first-ever piece in Le Monde specifically devoted to Churchill is an unsigned editorial (in fact written by Hubert Beuve-Méry, the founder of the paper) published 15 May 1945, on the Prime Minister’s broadcast speech of Sunday, 13 May 1945 in which he offered a summary of the main events of the war and the situation as he saw it after Germany’s defeat. Read More >
Pierre Assouline (ed.) À la recherche de Winston Churchill. Collection Tempus. Paris : Perrin, 2015. Paper. 159 pp. ISBN 978-2262049126. €7.00 (Kindle €7.95).
This reissue in the budget- priced Tempus series of a collection of essays first published in 2011 is most welcome. The origin of the publication is a radio program on the highbrow public station France-Culture, which was broadcast in July 2010. The format was a series of debates between a number of British and French historians moderated by Pierre Assouline, a well-known media figure and author in France. I remember listening and am pleased to see that the book version forms a near-complete verbatim transcript of the discussions. The only additions are very useful footnotes, giving references to the books cited, and a general preface by the editor.
That preface offers a very short survey of the biographical literature with the not unexpected conclusion that it was the events of 1940 that “made” him. Most of Assouline’s introduction is rightly devoted to a re-assessment of Churchill’s standing in the world today. A very unusual—and most welcome—line of attack for what largely remains an intractable problem is that Assouline cites media other than books, film, radio, and television: he points to the success of unconventional ways of celebrating the Great Man, on Twitter, on Facebook, and a “Churchillisms” app for iPhone. In other words, interest in Churchill is not confined to older people. Read More >
Alain Frerejean, Churchill et Staline: Biographies croisées. Paris: Perrin, 2013. Paper. 506 pages. ISBN 9782262037970. €24.00
The “parallel lives” format is now a well-established one, after Alan Bullock’s pioneering Hitler and Stalin (1991) and Andrew Roberts’s Hitler and Churchill (2003). This book follows what we could call a Y-structure, with two separate branches merging into one. Thus, in Part I, “Churchill’s unhappy youth” (Chapter 1) is followed by “Stalin’s unhappy youth” (2); “Churchill’s unruly adventures” (3) by “Stalin’s unruly adventures” (5), and so on. It is in Part II that their paths start to converge, with “Churchill against the Bolsheviks (1) and “Stalin’s irresistible rise” (2).
Finest Hour readers will not discover anything new about Churchill in the early chapters, which are based on familiar second-hand sources, though they may learn quite a few nauseating details about Stalin’s attitude to his numerous wives and lovers, the children who resulted, and the long list of former revolutionary associates whom he sent to their death. The real meat of the volume starts with the increasingly worrying question of how to deal with Hitler’s evident expansionist ambitions—there the preoccupations of the two begin to converge, but with radically different conclusions on the approach to adopt. Read More >
Roberto Festorazzi, Mistero Churchill. Pietro Macchione Editore, 2013
In Finest Hour 149 (Winter 2010–11), I reviewed a book, Il Carteggio Churchill-Mussolini, that deals with a supposed exchange of letters between the British Prime Minister and the Duce of Italian Fascism.
In recent yeas this topic has been subject to analyses, or rather rehashes, in various books and newspapers, despite the fact that no one has ever been able to produce anything but photographic reproductions and not the original letters.
My earlier review focused on the details seen in the photographs to show that all of the letters are undoubtedly fakes. That has not stopped Roberto Festorazzi from writing this new book that attempts to show the real reason for Winston Churchill’s visit to Italy in September 1945, soon after the end of the Second World War, was not to have a relaxing painting holiday but to recover his alleged correspondence with Mussolini. Read More >
Kevin Donnelly, Taming the Black Dog, Australian eBook Publisher, 2013, 100 pages, $10.99 AUD. ISBN: 9781925029666
Review by Harry Atkinson
When asked to review this book, I felt apprehensive. I expected it to be another long-winded screed about depression and Churchill’s supposed struggles with his Black Dog. I was surprised to find instead a short and thought-provoking autobiography about a man from less-than-normal beginnings struggling through life’s hardships and how this prepared him for an even greater challenge: dealing with the death of his son.
Dr. Kevin Donnelly graduated from La Trobe University in 1974 and has been teaching in Australia for the past 20 years. He is a controversial figure in Australian educational circles due to his ardent conservative values and belief that the Australian school system has been hijacked by leftists. Donnelly attributes his conservatism to growing up the son of an alcoholic father who belonged to the Australian Communist Party. Donnelly’s mother also suffered from alcoholism and was a victim of domestic violence.
The book was written as a guide to help others who are suffering with grief, loss and hardship—factors often associated with serious depression and illness. The author takes you on a journey through his life as a young boy, a teenager, a man, and finally through the unbearable pain of a grieving father. Read More >
Thomas Kielinger, Winston Churchill, Der Späte Held. C.H. Beck, 2015. €24.95
Review by Alan Watson
Thomas Kielinger has been doing his best to explain the British to the Germans since 1998, when he became the London correspondent of the powerful German newspaper Die Welt. He has now decided to explain the Churchill phenomenon to the Germans, a daring venture, since most Germans who know about Churchill focus entirely on his role in defying Hitler in 1940 and his subsequent leadership of Britain through the Second World War. A smaller number of them are aware of Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech at Fulton, Missouri, and even fewer know of his speech six months later in Zurich, Switzerland, in which he startled his audience by calling for a partnership between France and Germany to lead Europe’s economic revival and moral regeneration.
Kielinger tells a much richer and more complex tale that embraces Churchill’s youth, his adventures as a journalist and a soldier—in particular as a lieutenant in the Fourth Hussars, his spectacular escape from imprisonment by the Boers in Pretoria, his early-established celebrity status, his entry into parliament, his time as a trade minister, and then his decisive role in the first two years of the First World War in charge of the Admiralty but culminating catastrophically in the Dardanelles Campaign. Read More >
Brian A. Dementi, Churchill & Eisenhower Together Again, Dementi Milestone Publishing, 200 pages, $40. Available from www. dementimilestonepublishing.com
Review by David Freeman
This large, handsome, and lavishly illustrated new book brings together photographs and memories of Winston Churchill’s triumphant post-war visit to historic Williamsburg, Virginia, in the company of his wife and General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Churchill had just returned with President Truman from Fulton, Missouri, where he delivered the famous “Iron Curtain” speech. After a brief rest in Washington, Churchill set off by railway with his wife Clementine in the private coach of the President of the United States, bound for Richmond. Joining them was the victorious Supreme Commander Allied Forces Europe, Gen. Eisenhower. In the state capitol, Churchill and Eisenhower both addressed the Virginia General Assembly.
From Richmond the party made the one-hour train ride to Williamsburg, where Churchill and Ike were driven about the city in a horse-drawn carriage. At the Raleigh Tavern, the women in the party took tea in the Apollo Room, while the men assembled in the Tap Room for Scotch and soda. The capstone of the visit was a banquet at the Williamsburg Inn hosted by John D. Rockefeller III, whose father was responsible for the restoration of the famous colonial city. Read More >
Gregory Bell Smith, M.S., The American Ancestry of Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill
Review by Richard Mastio
Winston Churchill wrote in 1948: “There is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues, the most dominating virtues of human society, are created, strengthened, and maintained.” In 1950 he posited: “Where does the family start? It starts with a young man falling in love with a girl. No superior alternative has yet been found!” These words, quoted in the first pages of this wonderful work, might just motivate you to research your own family’s history and lead to a connection with the Greatest Man of the last thousand years.
If you have ever wondered if you were related to Sir Winston, this is a book that you need in your library. It is a fascinating and well-researched monograph by a genealogy genius and author with superb skills.
As most Churchill buffs know, Sir Winston was half American; his mother, Jennie Jerome, was born in Brooklyn in 1854. Many of his near and distant relations in the United States were also people who made names for themselves. Should you want to know which US Presidents were cousins of Churchill, this book will tell you. Could it be that he “ratted” and “re-ratted” because his ancestry connected him with Democratic and Republican Presidents alike? Read More >
Nigel Hamilton, The Mantle of Command: FDR at War, 1941 to 1942. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014. $30.00/$24.00
Review by Richard A. McConnell
“The American unknown soldier who lies here did not give his life in the fields of France merely to defend his American home for the moment that was passing. He gave it that his family, his neighbors, and all his fellow Americans might live in peace in the days to come. His hope was not fulfilled.”
These remarks, taken from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier shortly after the US invasion of North Africa in 1942, give insight into the kind of leader who piloted the United States through the Second World War.
Having served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy during the First World War, FDR was determined to learn from and avoid repeating the mistakes of that conflict. Nigel Hamilton provides an engaging description of how the President masterfully established relationships, built coalitions, and established the conditions for an enduring peace, all while grappling with what it means to be the Commander-in-Chief. Read More >
Timothy Heppell, The Tories From Winston Churchill to David Cameron Bloomsbury, 216 pages, $104.50, Kindle $20.22
Review by William John Shepherd
A politics professor at Leeds University studies the postwar Tories in a book without illustrations and one of the most outrageous prices we have seen. Heppell offers a good index and an impressive bibliography, though readers should note the use of in-text references listed parenthetically, as opposed to standard footnotes or endnotes.
Heppell examines electoral strategies, governing approaches, and ideological thought of the Conservative Party over five postwar periods. The first (1945–64) involved successful adaptation of the non-ideological “one-nation” strategy after the Second World War, with an orientation to the state and appeal to median voters. The Edward Heath era (1964–75) was characterized by failure of statecraft, as Tories were unable to dominate political debate or demonstrate governing competence. The Thatcher era (1975–92) embraced the free market while moving away from the state, taking advantage of disarray in the rival Labour Party and winning four successive general elections. The post-Thatcher phase includes includes the John Major government (1992–97) and opposition years (1997–2005), including three devastating electoral defeats at the hands of Tony Blair’s revamped “New Labour.” The fifth and current period, following Blair and his successor Gordon Brown, is David Cameron’s “Big Society” strategy, combining Thatcherite skepticism towards the European Union with a liberal social outlook. Read More >
Bradley P. Tolpannen, Churchill in North America, 1929: A Three Month Tour of Canada and the United States, McFarland and Company, 2014. 272 pages, paperback. $45, Kindle, $16.49.
Review by William John Shepherd
Churchill traveled for profit, politics, or pleasure, combining all three when in Canada and the United States, which he respectively termed the “Magnificent Dominion” and the “Great Republic.” Altogether he made eighteen roundtrips across the Atlantic.
For Bradley P. Tolppanen, a librarian at Eastern Illinois University, the visit that shaped Churchill’s thinking the most was the three-month tour made from 3 August to 5 November 1929. In the company of his brother Jack, nephew Johnny, and son Randolph, Churchill covered nearly 18,000 miles traversing Canada from east to west, the Pacific coast from north to south, and the United States from west to east.
Churchill said he was “extremely comfortable” during the trip (185). And well he should have been, since much of the journey was via private rail car, either the Mt. Royal provided by the Canadian Pacific Railroad or the Loretto from American steel mogul Charles Schwab. Read More >
Jonathan Schneer, Ministers at War: Winston Churchill and his War Cabinet, Basic Books, 320 pages, $29.99/$34.50 (Can).
Review by Mark Klobas
Though Winston Churchill stands today as the man who led Britain to victory in the Second World War, the nature of the British political system meant that he did not do so alone. Running the nation during wartime was a team effort requiring the assistance of some of the most able figures from across the political spectrum. One of Churchill’s responsibilities as prime minister was ensuring that this group of talented individuals worked in relative harmony towards their common goal.
Jonathan Schneer seeks to explain how Churchill accomplished this task. Borrowing openly from the approach adopted by Doris Kearns Goodwin in her study of Abraham Lincoln’s administration, Team of Rivals, Schneer describes Churchill’s ongoing efforts to keep his Cabinet members in harness throughout the war, something we see was no easy task.
From the start of the coalition formed in May 1940, Churchill faced a cabinet composed of many men hostile to his presence. Party loyalty was of little help to him, as many of the men most skeptical of his ascension were members of his own party. Most of these men were ardent supporters of Neville Chamberlain, and they felt that Churchill lacked steadiness for the top job. The preferred successor for these men was the Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, whom Schneer argues was waiting in the wings to replace Churchill should the new Prime Minister falter. Rivals indeed. Read More >
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The International Churchill Society (ICS), founded in 1968 shortly after Churchill's death, is the world’s preeminent member organisation dedicated to preserving the historic legacy of Sir Winston Churchill.
At a time when leadership is challenged at every turn, that legacy looms larger and remains more relevant than ever.