Steve Cliffe, Churchill, Kitchener, and Lloyd George: First World Warlords, Fonthill, 2014, 160 pages, £14.99.
Of the three “First World Warlords” who are the subject of this enjoyable volume, it is Horatio Kitchener who presents the greatest enigma. Churchill was an extremely prolific writer and speaker. Although he was not always straightforward, he frequently wore his heart on his sleeve; he sometimes attempted to be devious but he was not very good at it, so it was generally fairly clear to other people what he was up to. Lloyd George was—in his prime—a much more effective manipulator and, unenthusiastic about letter writing, left a much less extensive paper trail for historians to follow. Nevertheless, the records of three key diarists (Lord Riddell, Frances Stevenson, and A. J. Sylvester) allow a great deal of insight into his views and actions.
Kitchener, by contrast, was closed-off and inscrutable. He had insight and talent—if not quite as much as was popularly attributed to him—but was a difficult colleague, particularly after he joined the cabinet at the outbreak of war in 1914. He was one of the first to predict that the conflict would be long and drawn-out and would require an enormous number of Read More >
In the winter of 1945–46, the first after the war, Winston Churchill was still an exhausted man. Having just celebrated his seventy-first birthday in November, and with his Lake Como rest holiday in August already a mere memory, Churchill found his doctor less than sympathetic with the level of his activity as Leader of the Opposition, not to mention his devotion to his writing.
Medical pressure and his own desire to travel for pleasure after so much wartime movement for necessity made Churchill decide to take two months off from his always ferocious schedule to rest and recuperate. Even though he knew that there would be considerable speculation over such a lengthy period away from the House of Commons, and that some would see it as a prelude to his retirement from political life after his stunning electoral defeat of July 1945, there was little choice but to take a rest, and a lengthy one after his doctor insisted.
After so many wartime winters in England, Churchill wanted to take his break somewhere in the sun where he could paint and relax. The perfect solution arose when a Canadian friend invited Churchill to use his winter home near Miami. Read More >
Mark Herman, Churchill: Big Three Struggle for Peace, GMT Games, 2015, $70. ASIN: B013SCRACW
Three personalities dominated the allied conferences of the Second World War, whether or not they were all present in person: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, US President Franklin Roosevelt, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin. Now the ten major conferences are the subject of a new board game, appropriately named Churchill: Big Three Struggle for Peace, a 2015 release from GMT Games, one of the leading producers in the genre of table-top, conflict simulations.
Though technically classified as a “war game,” Churchill is more of a political design of simultaneous cooperation and competition where each of the three sides (the US, the UK, and the USSR) strives to advance its own national agenda. Long-time conflict simulation designer Mark Herman has injected a series of innovative concepts into the game that compel players to think and act in a manner similar to their historical counterparts.
This is not a family board game along the lines of Monopoly or Risk, nor is it nearly as easy to learn and as quick to play as chess. A session requires a minimum commitment of three hours for the tournament game (the last five conferences) and may take the majority of a day for all ten conferences. But the game is never boring because, unlike other multiplayer games, players are constantly involved, with almost no “down time.” Read More >
Charles L. Mee, Jr., The Deal: Churchill, Truman, and Stalin Remake the World, New World City, 2014, 348 pages, $2.99 on Kindle. ASIN B00HO6ZEHC
In 1975 Charles L. Mee published Meeting at Potsdam. His account of the July 1945 summit between the victorious “Big Three” Allied leaders became a standard popular history of the subject, one frequently reprinted for new audiences. Last year, on the eve of the seventieth anniversary of the conference, a book by Mee on the same subject but with a different title was released by Kindle. Has Mee revisited his work?
The answer is no. Mee’s The Deal is simply Meeting at Potsdam in a new format. Apart from the title, everything in the original text has been imported intact into the electronic version, with no effort to correct, modify, or update Mee’s original work. The only difference in the new format is the addition of Wikipedia links embedded within the text, which provide a useful way for readers to learn more about the principals and some of the other subjects that the author mentions in the text. Yet this alone is poor compensation for the deficiencies it contains. For all of the strengths that The Deal inherits from Mee’s original book, it is now burdened with an even greater share of weaknesses. Read More >
Richard Crowder, Aftermath: The Makers of the Postwar World, London and New York: I. B.Tarus, 2015, xii + 308 pages, $35. IBSN 978-1784531027
Most histories of the early Cold War, especially those written by Americans, give center stage to US statesmen, notably Harry Truman, Dean Acheson, and George Marshall. Richard Crowder, a youngish British diplomat educated at Oxford and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, focuses his engagingly readable account on the other side of the Atlantic. His narrative provides equal time to such British figures as Clement Attlee, Ernest Bevin, and Duff Cooper. It also gives more attention to continental European leaders than they customarily receive.
It is significant that a Labour government led Britain into the Cold War with remarkably little internal dissent. Bevin, a former trade union leader with a rudimentary formal education was at first glance an unlikely foreign secretary. He is perhaps too easily caricatured. The author quotes him as telling the eminent career diplomat Gladwyn Jebb, “Must be kinda queer for a chap like you to see a chap like me sitting in a chair like this….Ain’t never ’appened before in ’istory” (120). At times Bevin could be too rough and blunt for his own good— as when, in an incident Mr. Cooper passes over, he accused American leaders of supporting mass Jewish immigration to Palestine because “they did not want too many of them in New York” (quoted in Robert J. Donovan, Conflict and Crisis, 317). Read More >
Warren Dockter is a Research Fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge, and the author of Churchill and the Islamic World, reviewed on page 36.
Few friendships shaped history as much as that between Winston Churchill and T. E. Lawrence. In Great Contemporaries, Churchill reminded his readers that Lawrence “flew best and easiest in the hurricane.” The same might be said of Churchill.1 Both were men of genius littered with paradoxes; both had an unyielding sense of justice; and both were products of the British Empire. Churchill admired Lawrence as a sort of Napoleon and undoubtedly saw traces of himself in Lawrence. Both men were early enthusiasts of air power, and both enjoyed not only making history but writing it. This helps explain the nature of what might appear to have been an unlikely friendship, especially after their first meeting in Paris during the 1919 Peace Conference.
The two were both attending a luncheon when Churchill was told a story about Lawrence refusing honours to be bestowed upon him by King George V. Churchill’s impression was that Lawrence, wishing to make a political statement, declined the honours during an official public ceremony. Churchill was outraged and quickly rebuked Lawrence, calling his actions “most wrong.”2 Only later did Churchill learn that Lawrence had refused the honours in a private reception with the King in order to demonstrate that “the honour of Great Britain was at stake in the faithful treatment of the Arabs and that their betrayal to the Syrian demands of France would be an indelible blot on our history.” Lawrence’s cool demeanour and “good humour” regarding the incident stood out in Churchill’s mind.3 Read More >
The author with Professor James W. Muller at the 32nd International Churchill Conference, May 2015
Finest Hour 170, Fall 2015
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 demise 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.
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.
On 9 December 1905, Winston Churchill was given his first government post by Prime Minister Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman as the new Under-Secretary for the Colonies. As then required by law, an MP taking a government position had to contest his parliamentary seat in a by-election. The next day, 10 December 1905, Churchill was electioneering as the key speaker at a Manchester North West public protest meeting on the ill treatment of Jews in Russia.
As a third of the Manchester North West electorate was Jewish, a gathering of Jewish residents was present to hear Churchill speak. On the meeting’s podium when Churchill spoke was a Jewish chemist and Zionist named Dr. Chaim Weizmann.1
With the general election of January 1906 close at hand, Churchill later approached Weizmann through his representative to help swing the Jewish vote in his favour in Manchester. Weizmann, although he recognized Churchill’s authority, was disinclined to intervene so overtly in British politics, and he just referred the matter to David Wolffsohn, President of the Zionist Organization. Shortly afterwards, Weizmann met with Churchill “for a brief, introductory and uneventful talk.”2 Read More >
Winston spent Christmas at home with his brother Jack and their parents. Lord Randolph wrote to his mother, the Duchess of Marlborough, on 30 December that “Of course the boys have made themselves ill with their Christmassing, & yesterday both were in bed…Jack is better this morning but Winston has a sore throat & some fever.” WSC’s son writes in the Official Biography that “this did not seem to have prevented Lord and Lady Randolph from going away.”
Winston kept his mother advised, writing on January 2nd: “My throat is still painful & swelled – I get very hot in the night – & have very little appetite to speak of…How slow the time goes – I am horribly bored – & slightly irritable – no wonder my liver is still bad – Medicine 6 times a day is a horrible nuisance. I am looking forward to your return with ‘feelings, better imagined than described.’” Read More >
Mr. Hensley was a New Zealand diplomat (1958-80), who subsequently served two premiers as head of the Prime Minister’s Department and was Secretary of Defence. Retiring in 1999, he was honoured by being appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. A prolific writer on Pacific and Asian affairs, he is the author of a memoir, Final Approaches (2006); Beyond the Battlefield (2009), a history of New Zealand’s relations with its World War II allies; and Friendly Fire (2013), on nuclear politics and the collapse of ANZUS, 1984-87.
They couldn’t have been more different in outlook and in background—yet Winston Churchill and Peter Fraser had greatness, a quality more easily recognised than pinned down, but which might be summed up as the ability to rise to any large occasion.
Both Britain and New Zealand acquired their true -war leaders after war had broken out—and both almost by accident. Neither Winston Churchill nor Peter Fraser had been heads of government, and both were distrusted by large elements of their own parties. But for both countries, half the globe away from each other, World War II was the direst emergency of their existence. Both sensed the need for someone who could rise to the challenge, and both were lucky that the lottery of politics threw up the right answers. Read More >
Churchill Seemed to Regard Most Highly the American Presidents Who Didn’t Return His Admiration
Winston Churchill experienced eleven American presidents—as many as the Queen. He did not personally meet them all, as she has; but each contributed to his outlook and policies. His relations with the seven presidents from McKinley to Hoover are only stage-setters to the main events: FDR, Truman, Eisenhower. But one of them, Theodore Roosevelt, offers interesting insights.
Churchill, aged 26, and TR, aged 42, got off to a thoroughly bad start. When Churchill met the hero who had charged up San Juan Hill two months before the Englishman had charged at Omdurman, he professed vast approval of then-Governor Roosevelt. But TR, doubtless aware of young Winston’s reputation as a publicity seeker, did not return the compliment.
“I saw the Englishman, Winston Churchill…he is not an attractive fellow,” Roosevelt confided to a friend after the meeting.1 The negative impression proved as enduring as their parallel careers—both were to shift party allegiance; both were to achieve the highest political office; both were awarded a Nobel Prize. TR was, incidentally, the only president who profusely wrote books: eighteen, against Churchill’s fifty-one—mostly about hunting and outdoor life, though it is noteworthy that both he and Churchill wrote about the War of 1812.2 Read More >
Comparative Texts – “The Truth about Hitler,” 1935 “Hitler and His Choice,” 1937
By Winston S. Churchill
How different was Churchill’s first Hitler article from his chapter in in Great Contemporaries? Let readers decide! Ronald I. Cohen herein provides the complete text of the original Strand article, showing (in colored type and strikeouts), what Churchill altered in Great Contemporaries. This is incidentally instructive on WSC’s skill as an editor. Note: Some paragraphing differs; for example, paragraph 3 below is part of paragraph 2 in Great Contemporaries.
Did Churchill Ever Admire Hitler? The Hitler articles and Great Contemporaries
By Richard M. Langworth
One of the most controversial chapters in Great Contemporaries (And in the opinion scholars the one least like the rest) is “Hitler and his choice.” Some critics maintain that the essay implies approval of Hitler, rendering Churchill a hypocrite. Others ask if the Great Contemporaries version was a milder form of an earlier article—Andifso, whether Churchill pulled his punches. (Paintings: National Archives and Wikimedia Commons.)
The Hitler chapter in Great Contemporaries, like the rest of the book, was derived from a previous article. In this case the original was “The Truth about Hitler,” in The Strand Magazine of November 1935 (Cohen C481). Ronald Cohen notes that Strand editor Reeves Shaw, who paid him £250 for the article, wanted Churchill to make it “as outspoken as you possibly can… absolutely frank in your judgment of [Hitler’s] methods.” It was.
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