Barry Phipps is Director of Studies in the History of Art at Churchill College, Cambridge.
Paul Rafferty, Winston Churchill: Painting on the French Riviera, Unicorn, 2020, 208 pages, £35. ISBN 978–1913491093
In this lavish book, introduced by HRH the Prince of Wales, artist Paul Rafferty takes us on an exhilarating journey around the South of France. As a resident of the Riviera, Rafferty feels an enthusiasm for this region as compelling as Churchill’s own joyride in a paint box. It is clear from the outset that the author has revelled in tracking down the subjects of Churchill’s paintings, using every resource at his disposal to identify the point where the easel was positioned and the canvas was produced. The reader is carried along from Pont du Gard to Roquebrune, into Provence and Cannes, and every other important stop along the way of Churchill’s painterly travels. This trail is brought to life by detailed location information, historical documentary photographs, and rich biographical sketches, as well as insights into the influences, techniques and methods of the artist at work—and sometimes at play.
The mainstay of the book is a series of beautifully reproduced images of Churchill’s paintings positioned alongside lavish contemporary photographs. It is a voyage through the series of canvases Churchill produced in a part of France that he often visited and clearly adored. In so doing Rafferty places the reader both in front of the painting and amidst the landscape—albeit seventy or so years later—affording the opportunity to see the world as the painter saw it; watching the radiant sun as it dances and sparkles across the sea, or sitting in the dappled shade of a terrace looking out onto the dusky hills in the distance. As a result, one invariably reflects on both the artist’schoice of a particular point of view and the nature that he laboured hard to capture. Those in many ways are the legacies of this remarkable book.
David Stafford is author of Oblivion or Glory: 1921 and the Making of Winston Churchill (2019).
Paul Addison and Jeremy Crang, eds., The Spirit of the Blitz: Home Intelligence and British Morale, September 1940–June 1941, Oxford University Press, 2020, 544 pages, £30. ISBN 978–0198848509
A plague shadows the land. Death stalks the streets. Normal daily life comes to an abrupt halt. In its place descends a host of safety regulations that many fellow citizens choose simply to ignore. Friends are cut off from one another; travel is severely restricted. Familiar social rituals suddenly present danger rather than comfort. It is difficult to get hard news and rumours run rampant. When will it end? Is there light to be spotted at the end of tunnel?
The COVID-19 pandemic? Certainly. But also that dark time that Britain faced some eighty years ago during the Blitz when Hitler’s Luftwaffe unleashed lethal waves of bombing attacks against British cities and towns, and life was turned upside down amidst a pandemic of fear, dread, and anxiety. The resonances between these two historic moments are eerily similar. For that reason alone, this is a book well worth hunkering down with during whatever lockdown each of us is currently enduring.
Imam Ahmed Abdel Rahman El Mahdi
presenting at the 2015 International Churchill Conference in Oxfordshire,United Kingdom
Finest Hour 191, First Quarter 2021
By Imam Ahmed Abdel Rahman El Mahdi
Imam Ahmed Abdel Rahman El Mahdi is the grandson of the Mahdi—Mohammed Ahmed ibn Abdallah—who led a jihadist uprising by the Ansar (as the Mahdi’s followers were known) against Turco-Egyptian rule in Sudan in the late nineteenth century. This brought about the death of General Gordon in Khartoum in 1885, which in turn led to the River War of 1896–1899 involving a young Lieutenant Churchill. The Imam spoke at the thirty-second International Churchill Conference on 28 May 2015. The full text of his speech is printed in FH 170. Here follow extracts.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to be here today to take part in this important conference and to speak in this session on Churchill and Islam. Churchill’s involvement in the Sudan was an important aspect of his amazing life. Churchill showed a remarkable degree of interest and insight into Islam. The Muslim world formed an important part of the British Empire. Apart from the relations with the Ottoman Empire, which governed most of the Muslim world, there were millions and millions of Muslims under British rule.
Churchill’s earliest contact with Islam was in India in 1896, when he must have had direct and practical relationship with Muslims. He is known to have had positive views about Muslims whom he fought with or against.
The Rt. Rev. Herbert Hensley Henson
as caricatured in Vanity Fair
Finest Hour 191, First Quarter 2021
By Julia Stapleton
Julia Stapleton is Reader in Politics at Durham University
Winston Churchill would have met many leading Churchmen during the course of his career, often at public dinners. This is clear in a letter from Arthur Winnington-Ingram, Bishop of London, early in the war, requesting permission to dedicate a book to him, and reminding him of the acquaintance they had made on such occasions.1 Yet scarcely any could have struck him so favourably as Herbert Hensley Henson (1863–1947), Bishop of Durham from 1920 until 1939. Henson was an astute political observer, an early critic of Nazi Germany, and—rare among bishops of his generation—a vociferous opponent of socialism. He paid lavish tribute to Churchill after the war in the dedication of the third volume of his autobiography:
To Rt. Hon. WINSTON CHURCHILL O.M., M.P., &c.Statesman, Historian, Orator, the valiant and untiring champion of personal liberty and modern democracy, in recent years threatened both by external power and by ‘class-conscious’ political theories, the one man who has come through the Great Tribulation of the Second World War with a clear title to be hailed, as the Ancients hailed those citizens, who by their personal exertions and character saved the State, as Pater Patriae.2
WASHINGTON—24 September 1950 [excerpts] My dear Mr. Justice [Felix Frankfurter], I think you may be interested to hear that I have met Mr. Winston Churchill. He was good enough to invite me to call on him on September 14th….Accordingly I went to his flat in Hyde Park Gate, where I found him in bed; the hour was 12:30 p.m., and he had evidently been at work for books and papers were all about him. Mr. Churchill, who was smoking his customary large cigar, received me with the utmost cordiality, saying that he always saw his friends in bed; he offered me a whisky and himself drank to the success of Israel.
Mr. Churchill spoke with great admiration of our President [Chaim Weizmann], saying that Providence had blessed Israel by giving us one of the few great men of our time as leader and guide, a role for which he was eminently fitted by his statesmanship and scientific attainments.
St. Louisan Nancy Carver has a talent for making history come alive on the written page. Thanks to her insatiable sense of curiosity and deep research talents, Carver includes details and stories previously unpublished in nonfiction works to captivate readers.
With her latest book, The Inspiring History of a Special Relationship, she can add the word “magnanimous” to her approbations. All proceeds from the sale of this meticulously researched book, which U.K. Bookbag declared one of the top ten self-published books of 2020, will be allocated to the ongoing preservation work on Christopher Wren’s historic Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, a part of America’s National Churchill Museum on the campus of Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri.
“Nancy Carver has given us a gift in more ways than one,” says Timothy Riley, the Monroe E. and Sandra L. Trout Director and Chief Curator of America’s National Churchill Museum. “The book is not only exceptionally written and researched, but it has a direct financial benefit to one of its subjects: the beautiful Wren church that Winston Churchill described as a symbol of ‘the ideals of Anglo-American association on which rest, now as before, so many of our hopes for peace and the future of mankind.’” Since 2019, the Museum has invested over $1.2 million into preservation—part of a $5 million campaign to preserve the historic building, which was severely damaged in the Blitz in London before it was rebuilt as a centerpiece of the Churchill Museum in Fulton during the 1960s.
Gail Rosseau is Clinical Professor of Neurosurgery at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, where she is actively involved in the National Churchill Leadership Center.
Allister Vale and John Scadding, Winston Churchill’s Illnesses 1886–1965, Frontline, 2020, 522 pages, £30/$52.95. ISBN 978–1526789495
In Winston Churchill’s Illnesses, readers will be delighted to discover the definitive book on the health of one of the most important patients in modern history. We are treated to this magnum opus by two outstanding medical professionals, who have labored for more than three decades to get the story and tell it right—a story that many thought could never be told.
Readers familiar with this subject may recall that a furious public debate over patient confidentiality ensued when Churchill’s personal physician, Charles Wilson (Lord Moran), published his own book in 1966, just a year after the death of his famous patient. For their much more objective and complete account of Churchill’s illnesses, Allister Vale, Consultant Pharmacologist from the University of Birmingham, and John Scadding, Consultant Neurologist Emeritus at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery at Queen Square, London, meticulously and patiently secured multiple personal, institutional, and archival permissions and combed thousands of source pages to create a most important contribution to the Churchill literature.
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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.