From right to left: ICS Chairman Laurence Geller, GWU Dean of Libraries Geneva Henry, GWU President Steven Knapp, ICS Vice-Chairman Jean-Paul Montupet, ICS President Randolph ChurchillThe National Churchill Library and Center (NCLC) officially opened on the campus of The George Washington University in the heart of Washington, D. C. on 29 October 2016. Chairman Laurence Geller of the International Churchill Society joined university president Steven Knapp, National Churchill Museum Chairman Jean-Paul Montupet, and Randolph Churchill for the official ribbon cutting.
Susan Elia MacNeal, The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent, Bantam, 2014, 306 pages, $16. ISBN 978–0345536747
Review by Michael McMenamin
Portrayal of Churchill **1/2 Worth Reading ***
The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent is the fourth book in the Maggie Hope series to be reviewed in Finest Hour. The first three are Mr. Churchill’s Secretary (FH 156), Princess Elizabeth’s Spy (FH 158), and His Majesty’s Hope (FH 160).
In The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent, Maggie is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to her last mission to Berlin. Unfortunately, Ms. MacNeal succumbs to the same temptation as other novelists who employ Churchill as a literary character and has Maggie describe her very real PTSD as something akin to Churchill’s “Black Dog” because “She’d once heard Winston Churchill describe his own melancholy as his ‘Black Dog.’” Maggie does have very real psychiatric problems, including insomnia and nightmares over her ordeal in Berlin, where she had killed a man and helplessly watched a little Jewish girl shoved into a cattle car. The reference to Churchill’s “Black Dog,” however, is gratuitous, entirely unnecessary, and wrong. As I noted in “Churchill as a Literary Character” in FH 173, “Churchill never suffered from clinical depression at any point in his life. Ever. Full stop. See “The Myth of the Black Dog” (FH 155). Hence, much as I really enjoy the Maggie Hope novels, I have docked her half a star for her portrayal of Churchill, which is otherwise very good and worth three stars.
Colin Holmes, Searching for Lord Haw-Haw: The Political Lives of William Joyce, Routledge, 2016, 494 pages, $24.95/£14.98. ISBN 978-1138888869
Review by Mark Klobas
Mark Klobas teaches history at Scottsdale College in Arizona and hosts a podcast for the New Books Network.
During the Second World War, millions of Britons tuned in regularly to the radio broadcasts from Reichssender Hamburg, the English-language propaganda station operated by Nazi Germany. The network’s leading broadcaster was “Lord Haw-Haw,” who nightly rattled listeners with his seeming omniscience about events in Britain and his confident predictions of German victory. Though the sobriquet was applied to nearly all of the British broadcasters working for the Germans, it was most frequently associated with William Joyce, who for his activities on behalf of the Nazis was arrested after the war, tried for treason, and executed by the British—the last person in British history to be put to death for that crime.
Joyce’s life was layered throughout with conflict and mystery, much of it generated by Joyce himself. One of the achievements of Colin Holmes’s new book is in the extent to which he unravels many of these mysteries using the available sources. To that end, the author engaged in years of research, interviewing many of the people who knew Joyce and researching recently declassified documents in archives throughout Britain as well as abroad. The result is a book that offers us our best understanding yet of the circumstances of Joyce’s life and the factors that led him to become both a fascist and a servant of the Third Reich.
What I love about this book is the love within it. Edwina Sandys is not only a granddaughter of Sir Winston, she is herself a professional artist. “People frequently ask me if my grandfather was a good painter,” she recalls. “I always answer emphatically ‘YES!’ He was good because he painted the things he loved.”
We have had important books about Churchill as a painter before, most notably those by his daughter Mary, his granddaughter-in-law Minnie Churchill, and the leading authority on Churchill canvasses David Coombs. This newest volume must be considered another essential element in the library about Churchill the artist.
The impetus for Winston Churchill: A Passion for Painting was a wonderful exhibit of Churchill canvasses put on with the support of the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri, and displayed at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis. Timothy Riley, paintings curator at Fulton, put the exhibit together and provides the information about each painting reproduced in this book. An interesting detail includes a list of all the exhibits each canvas has appeared in before.
Tom Curran, Grand Deception: Churchill and the Dardanelles, Big Sky Publishing, 2015, 416 pages, $29.95. ISBN 978–1925275001
Iain Sproat, Adam Sykes, Pat Morgan, editors, The Wit & Wisdom of Sir Winston Churchill, G2 Entertainment, 2015, 134 pages, £8.99, $14.95. ISBN 978–1909040052
Review by David Freeman
David Freeman is the editor of Finest Hour.
Hard to find and hardly worth it, the latest “wit & wisdom” book came out in 2015 as an obvious attempt to capitalize on events commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Churchill’s death. Paradoxically, the book’s initial availability through online sellers seemed harder to nail down than the smoke from Sir Winston’s cigar. By 2016, though, the book had been remaindered and sold at a steep discount.
Churchill quote books have proliferated for decades. Most are worthless, and this is no exception. The editors provide a list of books at the end from which they apparently have drawn their material. Most quotations are not cited, however, except for a few extracts from speeches. Unsurprisingly, then, the text includes its fair share of misquotes and misattributions. Once again, readers are reminded that their best resource for this genre is Richard M. Langworth’s Churchill in His Own Words.
Leslie Hossack, Charting Churchill: An Architectural Biography of Sir Winston Churchill, 2016, CAD $196.49. Available exclusively online at www.chartingchurchill.com
Review by Stefan Buczacki
Professor Stefan Buczackiis the author of Churchill and Chartwell: The Untold Story of Churchill’s Houses and Gardens (2007). His latest book is My Darling Mr. Asquith: The Extraordinary Life and times of Venetia Stanley.
There is a late nineteenth-century volume in my library in which the author begins his introduction thus: “There are already so many books in the world that it is incumbent upon anyone writing another to justify its existence.” It is a maxim I have used many times, but when Leslie Hossack’s book arrived on my desk, my first impression was that this glorious and sumptuous work surely had no need to defend itself. It is without doubt the most beautiful book ever published about Churchill’s life; it has the finest photographs, and it ventures down some seldom explored by-ways. And it is innovative in offering us such unexpected images as those of his tailor’s premises and his London wine merchants, as well as of more familiar and expected places: the Houses of Parliament, Chartwell, and Blenheim Palace.
So much for this large, splendid, if costly volume and what it is; but now for what it is not. It is certainly not, as Ronald Cohen in his foreword suggests, the first to tell the Churchill story “via the buildings…which were part of his life.” Nor does the book even cover all his residences, because there are several inexplicable exclusions. For instance, his first, albeit brief, childhood home at 48 Charles Street in Mayfair was arguably the most attractive of all the town
David Cannadine, Heroic Chancellor: Winston Churchill and the University of Bristol, 1919–65, Institute of Historical Research, 2016, 78 pages, $15. ISBN 978-1909646186
Review by Christopher Sterling
Of the many “Churchill and…” or “The Untold Story of…” titles, this brief book really is an untold story of one aspect of Churchill’s life few of us know. A man who never attended university, Churchill served as chancellor of the University of Bristol for the last thirty-six years of his life. This booklet is based on a lecture Sir David Cannadine delivered in observance of the half-century anniversary of Churchill’s death.
A word of background for those used to American university practice: in Britain, a university chancellor normally plays only a ceremonial role (as when conferring honorary degrees at graduation, for example), rather than being a fulltime, active administrator. Further, in Churchill’s time an appointment as a university chancellor was typically held for life. This is no longer the case at Bristol, which leaves Churchill the university’s longest-serving chancellor and likely to remain so.
Kevin Ruane, Churchill and the Bomb in War and Cold War, Bloomsbury, 2016, 402 pages, $34.95. ISBN 978–1472523389
Review by Christopher Sterling
Chris Sterling, recently retired after thirty-five years of teaching and administration at George Washington University, is a frequent reviewer for Finest Hour.
One of those relatively rare academic writers who can make document-based research both readable and interesting (and I say that as a retired academic), Kevin Ruane takes his readers back to the 1940–55 era of rapid atomic and thermonuclear weapon development to illustrate just how dominant fear of the bomb was in policymaking circles. He centers his history on the socalled “special relationship” between the US and Britain, though for much of this period, “special” meant precious little, as the British quickly learned.
Following by only three years Graham Farmelo’s well-received Churchill’s Bomb: How the United States Overtook Britain in the First Nuclear Arms Race (Basic Books, 2013) [Reviewed in FH 162], Ruane had a difficult task on his hands. The two British authors take a different approach to their accounts of the same period and people. For one thing, Farmelo is a physicist, while Ruane is an historian. The differences in their studies build on the authors’ academic training by emphasizing different aspects of the complex story. Briefly, Farmelo focuses more on the scientists who did the work while, Ruane centers his study on Churchill himself.
Ruane sees Churchill as playing three related yet quite different roles: the “bomb-maker” during the Second World War; the “atomic diplomatist” during the decade after 1945; and the “nuclear peacemaker” toward the end of his second period as prime minister (1951– 55). His well-written study melds Churchill and key figures close to him—Frederick Lindemann (the “Prof” as the simplifier of complex technologies), Anthony Eden (frustrated by years of waiting for Churchill to retire), Sir John Anderson (chief official of the British “tube alloys” research), Roosevelt (the American president with on-again, off-again views on working with the British in tube alloys), and many others on both sides of the Atlantic.
Alan Watson, Churchill’s Legacy: Two Speeches to Save the World, Bloomsbury, 2016, 204 pages, $25/£16.99. 978–1408880210
Review by Peter Clarke
Peter Clarke’snew book, The Locomotive of War: Money, Empire, Power and Guilt, will be published in February by Bloomsbury in London and New York.
Winston Churchill, like many old men, very much enjoyed the sound of his own voice. Unlike most of them, he still had some important things to say at seventy-one, his age in 1946 when he delivered two famous speeches: one in February at Fulton, Missouri, and the other in Zurich, Switzerland, in September of the same year. He had recently been voted out of power in Britain but was probably the most famous person in the world at the time and was now free to accept invitations to countries less afflicted than Britain by postwar privations. The Fulton speech was titled “The Sinews of Peace” but is often hailed as recognizing the beginning of a cold war that was to polarize the world for most of the next half-century. It is remembered in particular for its graphic comment on the state of Europe: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.” The Zurich speech projected a more optimistic view, but one equally striking, in saying that “we must re-create the European family in a regional structure called, it may be, the United States of Europe.”
One of our debts to Alan Watson in producing this slim but fascinating book is that he gives us the full text of both speeches in an easily accessible form. Each of them has been selectively quoted in the course of the last seventy years and, at the very least, it is good to read them for ourselves and see what all the fuss was about. Churchill’s secretary, accompanying him to Fulton to type out last-minute amendments, wrote home to her parents after the speech’s delivery: “it hasn’t half kicked up a shindig here” (83). True enough, Churchill was taken by many Americans to be stirring up trouble with the Soviet Union; and
Candice Millard, Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill, Doubleday, 2016, 400 pages, $30. 978–0385535731
Review by Con Coughlin
Con Coughlin is the author of Churchill’s First War (2013).
When the young Winston Churchill set off to cover the Boer War as a newspaper correspondent in 1899, his overriding ambition was to make a name for himself. Aged just twenty-four, Churchill had already risked life and limb on two previous occasions in his bid to win public acclaim serving as an officer with the British Army in India and Sudan. But it was not until he travelled to South Africa as a war correspondent for London’s Morning Post that his heroic exploits succeeded in making him a household name. And it was as a direct result of this experience that his was able to fulfil his ultimate ambition—to win election as a Member of Parliament.
The three-year conflict between Britain and the Boers was brutal and bloody, with heavy casualties suffered on both sides. But, as Candice Millard explains in her well-researched and highly-readable account of Churchill’s exploits in South Africa, Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape and the Making of Winston Churchill, young Winston could not wait to get to the centre of the action.
But Churchill’s high hopes for his assignment were thwarted soon after he arrived in South Africa when he suffered the indignity of being captured and taken into captivity. This major setback occurred when the armoured train Churchill was travelling on suddenly came under attack by a well-organised group of Boer guerrillas. After the train was brought to a shuddering halt, Churchill displayed enormous bravery in his efforts to rally the British force to defend their positions.
125 Years ago
Autumn 1891 • Age 17
“He is just at the ‘ugly’ stage”
Lady Randolph had written Lord Randolph in late July that Winston “has improved very much in looks.” She wrote to him again on 25 September that “on the whole he has been a very good boy— but honestly he is getting to be too old for a woman to manage and he really requires to be with a man…He is just at the ‘ugly’ stage—slouchy and tiresome.” In the first volume of the Official Biography of his father, Randolph Churchill wrote of his grandmother that “Unless Winston’s looks greatly fluctuated, it would seem that Lady Randolph was somewhat capricious in her judgment for only two months earlier she had written that he had improved very much in looks.”
His mother’s “ugly” comment, however, was not directed toward her son’s looks. Rather, it was directed at Winston’s manners and maturity, especially towards his mother. That “ugliness” of which she wrote was in full bloom as he reached his seventeenth birthday. The occasion for such a prolonged display of “ugliness” was the desire of Harrow’s Head Master that Winston stay the Christmas holidays with a French family so as to improve his French in preparation for the Sandhurst exams. In this, the Head Master was simply carrying out Lord Randolph’s desire that everything be done at Harrow to ensure that Winston made it into Sandhurst.
“Leadership This Day” illustrates how Winston Churchill’s example guides and motivates today’s leaders. Contributors come from many fields, including business, politics, and the military.
Every day, as I sit in the Speaker’s Chair in the Chamber of the House of Commons, I am acutely aware of the enduring consequences of one of Winston Churchill’s lesser-known “big decisions.”
In the late 1940s plans were being drawn up to rebuild the House of Commons, which had been so badly damaged during the War. The planners considered the basic facts. There were just over 600 MPs at that time, so they produced drawings for a Chamber that would seat 600 people.
Churchill challenged this. He insisted that the Chamber should be rebuilt to approximately the same size as it had previously been—to seat about 400 people.
Those who relied purely on statistics—and don’t we all encounter such people all too frequently—thought it was obvious that a parliamentary chamber should comfortably accommodate everyone who had a right and duty to sit in it. But they missed the point. They misunderstood the essential nature of the place.
Churchill adored the Commons Chamber. It was the forum in which he delivered his greatest speeches. It was his natural habitat. It was his home. He understood it. He knew instinctively how it worked. He had a feel for it that eluded others.
Andrew Roberts is the author of many books, including, most recently, the major new biography Napoleon. His next book will be a full-scale biography of Churchill. This article is adapted from his speech to the 33rd International Churchill Conference in Washington, D. C., 29 October 2016
The concept of the British stiff upper lip was invented by the Victorians, and was especially prevalent in the upper classes, where it was considered infra dig to show one’s emotions openly. It was widely believed that the British Empire itself depended on the capacity of officers and gentlemen to rise above their natural human emotions and stay calm and collected, regardless of whatever appalling thing was happening. The very centre of that British belief-system was to be found in the British Army.
In earlier periods tearfulness did not imply a lack of manliness or self-control. At Admiral Horatio Nelson’s funeral in January 1806, for example, every single one of the eight admirals who carried the coffin down the Nave of St Paul’s Cathedral was in tears, as were at least half of the all-male congregation. Regency men were not expected to have to control their emotions in the way that their Victorian grandsons and great-grandsons were.
Yet there was one Victorian upper-class British Army officer and gentleman who cried in public to such an extraordinary extent that it was remarked upon on so many occasions that we need to regard him instead as a Regency figure born out of his time. Winston Churchill was a man of such powerful emotions, with
David Lough is the author of No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money (2015). He received the International Churchill Society’s 2016 Somervell Award for Outstanding Original Contribution to Finest Hour.
Note: All sums of money earned by Winston Churchill from film are given in the currency (£) and amount paid to him at the time. To convert these to an approximate equivalent today, multiply by the following factors: 1930s– £ x6o, $ x80; 1940s–£ x40, $ x55; 1960s–£ x20, $ x27.
Churchill’s Favorite FilmWinston Churchill and the film industry grew up together. As a schoolboy, Churchill witnessed the demonstration of an early projector; full-length films first appeared in cinemas as he entered government in 1906; and an early Pathé newsreel captured him as home secretary in 1911 at the siege of Sidney Street in London.
Churchill first took a close interest in the new industry in 1929, when his friend Bernard Baruch included the Los Angeles suburb of Hollwood in the itinerary for Churchill’s two-month American tour of 1929. US film-makers had by then pulled so far ahead of their European counterparts that Hollywood was producing four out of every five of the world’s films.
The newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst acted as Churchill’s host in California. After a few days with the official Mrs. Hearst in San Francisco, the party moved south to the domain of Hearst’s unofficial partner, the film star Marion Davies. Her party for Churchill was attended by Hollywood’s social élite, including Charlie Chaplin, who invited his fellow Englishman to witness the filming of City Lights. Churchill may have returned to Britain financially poorer after losing money in the Wall Street crash, but his memories of Hollywood were vivid enough to inspire a newspaper article entitled ‘The Peter Pan Township of the Films.”1
Fred Glueckstein is the author of Churchill and Colonist II (2015).
Lady Randolph Churchill loved the literary world. She particularly enjoyed meeting American authors who visited England and often spoke with delight a story of her friend Mark Twain.
Lady Randolph told of a London gathering where Twain asked Mrs. J. Comyns-Carr, “You are an American, aren’t you?” Mrs. Carr explained that she was of English stock and had been brought up in Italy. “Ah, that’s it,” answered Twain. “It’s your complexity of background that makes you seem American. We are rather a mixture, of course. But I can pay you no higher compliment than to mistake you for a countryman of mine.”1 While American-born Lady Randolph found Twain’s comments extremely amusing, it is doubtful that Mrs. Comyns-Carr did.
Other social events often brought Lady Randolph into contact with writers. When Stephen Crane and his wife rented Brede Place, a feudal home in Sussex built in 1350, Lady Randolph and her sisters attended a three-day party that Crane gave for sixty guests, which included Henry James, Joseph Conrad, H. Rider Haggard, and H. G. Wells.
Lady Randolph’s esteem of literature and writers inspired her in late 1898 to conceive the idea of starting a literary magazine. She envisioned a quarterly miscellany edited by herself that contained articles of verse, fiction, and essays by contributors considered to be among the finest writers on both sides of the Atlantic. Each issue was to be individually decorated in a stylish pattern of gilt tooling on leather covers.
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Churchill was delighted when a little girl surprised him with flowers one day in Italy. Gratefully moving his cane aside, he gave her a kiss on the cheek. Missing his own family, and beset with troubles, he truly loved this moment. I guess we’ll never know the little chap behind the bouquet. … See MoreSee Less
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.