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Churchill: A Biography

Churchill: A Biography [Kindle Edition]

Roy Jenkins
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)

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Amazon Review

Book buyers will never tire of reading about Winston Churchill, for "the greatest adventurer of modern political history" (RA Butler's verdict) led a life of action-packed drama and global significance. Roy Jenkins' Churchill is the latest biography of this great Briton, following closely in the tailwind of Geoffrey Best's Churchill: A Study in Greatness. Where Best restores altitude to Churchill's dipping reputation, seeing off academic critics of the last decade or so, Jenkins provides a jumbo-size old-fashioned biography, lauding his subject's achievements, sympathising with his quirks, and stepping lightly over his well-known mistakes. As he did in his earlier biographies of Dilke, Asquith and Gladstone, Jenkins sticks closely to the published record, utilising in particular the definitive researches of Martin Gilbert, but he brings the authority and the inside knowledge of British politics to his book, slipping in his own memories of Churchill, and his own comparable experience sat the Cabinet table. It is all here, from the Boer Wars to the nuclear bomb, from the hustings in Oldham to the diplomacy of Yalta, with due coverage of the big moments--at the Board of Trade and at the Admiralty in Asquith's peacetime and wartime cabinets, taking on the appeasers in the 1930s and Hitler in the 1940s. All the books are here, and all the political relationships tetchy and touchy alike, from Lloyd George to Baldwin, Smuts to Stalin, and of course, the British people. Like its subject the book is bulky and at times indulgent, but impossible not to enjoy.--Miles Taylor


Roy Jenkins' Churchill is an exhaustive biographical picture of one of the most enigmatic and important figures of the 20th century. From the Admiralty to the miners' strike, from the Battle of Britain to the Nobel Prize, Churchill oversaw some of the most important events the world has ever seen. Roy Jenkins deals with these events in an objective and accessible fashion, while also successfully conveying the contradictions and quirks in Churchill's divided character. In-depth analysis and brilliant historical research make this a striking one-volume biography of an extraordinary life written by a man who knows the cut-throat world of politics very well indeed. As a companion piece to his excellent biography of Gladstone, Jenkins' Churchill is packed with insights that only a fellow politician could convey.

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine work worthy of a fine man. 21 April 2009
Perhaps it takes a politician of Roy Jenkins' stature to write a work worthy of a man who was once described as "The greatest living Englishman." Whilst not an uncommon surname, the very word "Churchill" conjures up an image of one man and one man only. That man was Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill - soldier, journalist, painter, Nobel laureate, politician and leader of nations. I am not given to defacing books but I well remember being 15 years old when this great man died and going to the school library to read a short biography of his life. Directly after his name were brackets inside which was printed the year of his birth followed by a dash and a blank space reserved for the year of death. Having read the item, I carefully wrote "1965" into that blank space and closed the book.

For those who may not be unaware, Roy Jenkins was a leading British politician who, in post-war years was a fellow Member of Parliament alongside Churchill - although of a different political persuasion. In his preface, Jenkins describes having met Churchill as a boy and observing him at work in later years - although he is very careful to admit he did not know the man. With an honest and intuitive comment, he also declares his belief that a biography does not necessarily demand or even profit from such personal knowledge and that such familiarity can "distort as much as it illuminates."

Any biography should be a dispassionate account of whoever is under the microscope and should include those good, bad and even ugly aspects which combine to comprise the very qualities which made that subject exactly who and what they were. As biographies go, this is a first-class work. As a life story on Churchill, this will very probably stand the test of time to become recognised as the best ever.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FASCINATING ONE VOLUME BIOGRAPHY 1 Sep 2003
A review by Luciano Lupini:This book by Roy Jenkins, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, of the Oxford University, member of the House of the Lords and President of the Royal Society of literature is a very readable biography of Sir Winston Churchill. Very well written, outstanding in the breadth of material researched and deliciously witty, this one of the best single volume approach to the life of one of the human milestones of the 20th Century.
Unless you have the time and purpose to go through the 8 volumes of the official biography started by Randolph Churchill but really attributable to Sir Martin Gilbert (ed. from 1966 to 1988), you will not be able to get a better factual assessment of the life and deeds of THE PRIME MINISTER par excellence. It covers every important aspect of Churchill's life, and then some. From birth to schooling, his first exposures to war and politics, then early triumphs, despair, resurrection and demise, we get a clear picture of one of the principal players in English politics for almost 60 years.
The book has a very well organized index, for reference purposes. For instance, under Churchill, Sir Winston Spencer, we have subtitles that address topics such as Characteristics and qualities (memory, self-confidence, personal bravery, argumentativeness, etc.) Education, Health, Honors, Military Career, etc. that much facilitate a cross reading of important topics. We derive the impression that in such a difficult task ( a portrait of a man so complex and about whom so many have written) Jenkins has succeeded.
WHY READ THIS BOOK ? This work might be even superior to Jenkins biography about another giant of English politics: Gladstone.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A statesman on a statesman 7 Feb 2003
By Jimbo
Jenkins is famous principally as a Labour cabinet minister and European President of some repute. His biography of Churchill now adds another field in which he deserves to be remembered: biographer.
The release of the biography has been timely becasue of Churchill's sucess in being named the "greatest Britain" in a recent BBC poll. The boom therefore allows a timely re-evaluation of his life, and perhaps in the wake of Jenkin's death, a chance to study the qualities of the author as well.
Jenkins writing style is slightly pompous. He obviously has a vast knowledge of parliament and its' members, and he was particularly adept at realting Churchill's experiences not only to his own, but also to more recent events, providing a useful yard staick for younger readers. However, he can occasionally deviate: do we really need to know in a book on Churchill that Clement Attlee deliverd a speech at Jenkins' wedding. Also, his constant use of French phrases tends to irritate, expecially when one cannot find a French-English dictionnary in the house.
Despite these problems of accessibility, the book is a triumph. Churchill packed so much into his life that one might a single-volume biography ambitious, especially considering his decisive role in WWII. He deals in depth with every phase of his life, summarising effectively and being scrupulously fair in his evaluation. He also succeeds in capturing his personality, and the many humorous anecdotes make the book a real pleasure to read.
I would agree with the criticisms levelled at Jenkins about the lack of detail on his post-45 political career. The running of the Conservative party between 1945 - 51 was mostly left to RA Butler, but some insight here would have been useful, as would an axplanation as to why he was the best PM ever.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating!
A thorough and balanced view of an incredible life...epic! I particularly enjoyed it when Roy Jenkins was able to offer his personal insight (based on his own political... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mr. C. Hirst
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb biography
This magnificent big biography of the great Prime Minister and war leader, written by the former Labour Cabinet member and Social Democratic Party founder Roy Jenkins, was the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by John Hopper
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent, fascinating and a very easy read.
Published 1 month ago by Mr. Andrew Godber
4.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening
So many interesting facts revealed in this book.
You start to understand the complex character of WC and what influence he had
Published 3 months ago by CharlieS
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
An excellent biography which benefits by being written by an experienced and distinguished politician
Published 3 months ago by John Hern
5.0 out of 5 stars Well done Roy
Roy Jenkins tells this wonderful life story with all its ups and downs of this great man
Published 4 months ago by Stephen R. Marsh
1.0 out of 5 stars Do not rate this book-Geoffrey Best's book is much better
It is well researched but a rather cold,cautious work devoid of inspiration..In fact it reveals more
about the writer than the subject-Jenkins comes across as rather a pompous... Read more
Published 4 months ago by mr d b cunnigham
4.0 out of 5 stars obsessively-detailed biography
The detail is obsessive at times, and in some cases on subjects that are of less interest at this distance of time. But overall an excellent biography and well researched. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Andrew
1.0 out of 5 stars Dull
I have to say this book is phenomenally dull. If you haven't thrown it away by page 20 then you have displayed great perseverance. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Mr. H. T. K. Sanders
5.0 out of 5 stars Best bio of the Great man by far...
Key thing is that this is written by a practising politician (sadly deceased now) so it has a unique insider's perspective on the blood, sweat and tears of the political life of... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Peter Matthews
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