June 18, 2008

About The Official Biography

by Randolph Churchill & Martin Gilbert

Churchill Never DispairChurchill had long wished to write his father’s biography, and by the end of the 1950’s was making strong efforts to win his father’s confidence. In May 1960 Winston Churchill wrote to his son:

‘My dear Randolph, I have reflected carefully on what you said. I think that your biography of Derby [Lord Derby, by
 Randolph Churchill, Cassell: London 1959] is a remarkable work, and I should be happy that you should write my official biography when the time comes. But I must ask you to defer this until after my death. I would not like to release my papers piecemeal, and I think that you should wait for the time being and then get all your material from my own Archives and from the Trust. In any case, I do not want anything to be published until at least five years after my death. — Your loving father, Winston S. Churchill’

The first volume of Winston S. Churchill was published in 1966, the year after Sir Winston died. After Randolph’s death in 1968 Martin Gilbert, who had joined Randolph as a research assistant in 1962, was appointed by the Churchill family to be the official biographer.

Sir Martin died in 2015 and since that time his former assistant, Dr Larry Arnn now of Hillsdale College is working to complete the biography companion volumes, known as The Churchill Documents. Sir Martin included the following acknowledgement: ‘The publication of [The War Papers] was made possible by the exceptional generosity of Wendy Reves, and by the determination of the International Churchill Society… to bring the Churchill document series, known as the Companion Volumes, back into production.’

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The following volumes of the Official Biography have been published to date:

Narrative Volumes

Volume I. Youth, 1874-1900 by Randolph S. Churchill
Volume II. Young Statesman, 1901-1914 by Randolph S. Churchill
Volume III. The Challenge of War, 1914-1916 by Martin Gilbert
Volume IV. World in Torment, 1916-1922 by Martin Gilbert
Volume V. Prophet of Truth, 1922-1939 by Martin Gilbert
Volume VI. Finest Hour, 1939-1941 by Martin Gilbert
Volume VII. Road to Victory, 1941-1945 by Martin Gilbert
Volume VIII. Never Despair, 1945-1965 by Martin Gilbert

‘The Churchill Documents’, Companion Volumes

Volume 1.  Youth 1874-1896
Volume 2.  Young Soldier 1896-1901
Volume 3.  Early Years in Politics 1901-1907
Volume 4.  Minister of the Crown 1907-1911
Volume 5.  At the Admiralty 1911-1914
Volume 6.  At the Admiralty July 1914-April 1915
Volume 7.  The Escaped Scapegoat May 1915-December 1916
Volume 8.  War and Aftermath December 1916-June 1919
Volume 9.  Disruption and Chaos July 1919-March 1921
Volume 10. Conciliation and Reconstruction April 1921-November 1922
Volume 11. The Exchequer Years 1922-1929
Volume 12. The Wilderness Years 1929-1935
Volume 13. The Coming of War 1936-1939
Volume 14. At the Admiralty September 1939-May 1940
Volume 15. Never Surrender May 1940-December 1940
Volume 16. The Ever-Widening War 1941
Volume 17. Testing Times 1942
Volume 18. One Continent Redeemed January-August 1943
Volume 19. Fateful Questions: September 1943 – April 1944
Volume 20. Normandy and Beyond: May – December 1944
Volume 21. The Shadows of Victory: January – July 1945
Volume 22. Leader of the Opposition: August 1945 – October 1951
Volume 23. Never Flinch, Never Weary: November 1951 – February 1965

“‘Why study Churchill?,’ I am often asked.  ‘Surely he has nothing to say to us today?’  Yet in my own work, as I open file after file of Churchill’s archive, from his entry into government in 1905 to his retirement in 1955 (a fifty-year span) I 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.”

-Sir Martin Gilbert

You will help to support the International Churchill Society by purchasing your hardcover or digital editions at Amazon.com by following this link.

Not Really “Official”

Incidentally, the name ‘Official Biography’ is somewhat misleading, as Sir Martin Gilbert noted in a 1991 interview with Brian Lamb on C-Span’s ‘Booknotes’: ‘I’m called the official biographer, though to the enormous credit of the Churchill family they’ve never asked to see a single word of what I was writing until the books were printed and bound and ready for sale to the public. They never asked me to delete a word or to skirt around a particular issue. So ‘official’ is a misnomer if it’s thought to mean a censored or restricted biographer.’


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