- Also check our best rated Biography reviews
Churchill Paperback – 26 Jun 2002
|New from||Used from|
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Would you like to tell us about a lower price?
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"There is no doubt that he has surpassed himself. This is the biography of the year." Robert McCrum, Observer; "This is a first class, well-sustained work of history and a masterpiece of biography "Andrew Roberts, Sunday Telegraph; "Lord Jenkins of Hillhead is an outstanding biographer...it has the narrative power, sweep and sparkle of the author in his prime." John Grigg, TimesSee all Product description
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
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. It really is all here; From an opening Chapter entitled; "The Brash Young Man (1874-1908)," through two world wars (Churchill was one of only two people holding ministerial office at the outbreak of both WW1 and WW2 (he was First Lord of the Admiralty on both occasions although he did hold other posts in between) and, of course the post-war years right up to 1965. In a word, this book is complete.
I always begin reading such factual works by studying the illustrations in order to get a feel for the product. In this instance, I spent almost 30 minutes just reading the captions and comparing them to the relevant image. There are 84 historic photographs arranged together in 2 areas and another selection of 12 pictures which are works of art reproduced in colour. Whilst some of these are portraits of Churchill, others reveal his own skills with a paintbrush.
This is a comprehensive work on one of the greatest statesmen of all time. Consequently, I would suggest would-be students of Churchill ensure this work is elevated to the top of their list as far as their own studies are concerned.
Jenkins, as another reviewer writes, is fond of public school French and Latin and can come across as pretentious, but he is even positively risible in some places: - I can stomach his preference for 'nepotic' over the more common 'nepotistic', but to describe a woman as 'uxorious' towards her husband is downright stupid. The Canadian prime-minister is described as a 'tertium quid'. This can have various possible meanings, especially in the context of American political history (see Wiki), and it's not clear which Jenkins intends. If he meant a third wheel (or gooseberry, if you prefer), he should have said so; and if he meant something cleverer than that, he should have said it in English. He uses the verb "resile" at least half a dozen times. I wonder if he ever used it in conversation.
This book contains a lot of material you can use for a critical appraisal (although it ignores a huge amount too), but you have to read between the lines. Jenkins is sometimes fair in admitting when Churchill's writings contain lies or misrememberings or hindsight, but Jenkins does come across mainly as an apologist - "Churchill was not a war-monger" he declares within a few pages of his description of Churchill's 1919 failed 'pilot' invasion of Russia which cost the tax-payer an estimated 73 million (3 billion or so in modern money). This, according to Roy, was not war-mongering, it was merely 'military adventurism'! Jenkins at least gives more weight to this affair than AJP Taylor does in his volume of the Oxford History of England.
In the same vein, a common trick of Jenkins is to dispute a commonly-held derogatory claim against Churchill, then glibly take for granted a few pages later that the claim was true all along. I've spotted this tendency on 3 or 4 occasions. For example, pp.655-8 contain some apologetics about Greece which employ inverted timelines in a way that could be accused of being dishonest, not to mention confusing when repeated often, then there's some stuff about efficiently sacking Wavell for complacency, all capped off with "[for Wavell] a poor reward for obeying over-demanding political orders" (this being the pov of 'many others' with no analysis by Jenkins of whether their pov was accurate or not, but implying, thus baldly expressed, that it was also Jenkins' pov). There's too much of this kind of thing.
Hindsight has turned Churchill into a man who "could do no wrong" for many, but looked at contextually, Newport to Narvik is a history of buccaneering blunder (Narvik was in some ways a carbon copy of the Dardanelles, so we have to assume Churchill learnt nothing between 1915 and 1940). Why on earth would anyone assume Churchill suddenly experienced an apotheosis in 1940? Part of Jenkins' problem is the balancing act required between unbiased sources and biased ones. Since the core of your research, in what must be one of the biggest bodies of literature about any man, must be Churchill's own writing, which never admits to any error, not even in the Dardanelles, then your work is cut out for you. For example Jenkins doesn't mention Dowding. Is that because Churchill preferred not to credit Dowding with anything? Judgement in selectivity is probably Jenkins' weakest suit. Singapore is glossed over. One view is that it was lost because Churchill thought the Japanese were "mere yellow midgets" and so put the inadequate Arthur Percival in charge. Jenkins mentions none of this. The biggest piece of white-washing (rather than mere omission) in the whole book is probably Churchill's disastrous stint as Chancellor of the Exchequer (the poor man was misled, is basically Jenkins' view). Churchill's possible alcoholism gets joked about often, but never seriously analysed. Perhaps if Roy had been less fond of his claret,...? The non-response to Auschwitz intelligence is one of the big questions today. Some comment on this would have been interesting. However, I wonder how many wartime documents are still under a 100-year secrecy rule, a discussion of which wouldn't have been out of place in this book (topically, June 2015, documents concerning Christopher Lee's activities are still claimed to be classified)(and, July 2015, evidence is mounting that Lee was a fantasist! In war the first casualty is the truth, and 70 years after the end it's still a struggle to piece it back together!).
In spite of the bribes of unrationed caviar and champagne and cigars and 1865 cognac, Churchill never managed to get America to declare war against Hitler - Churchill's luck was that Hitler declared war on America in retaliation for America's declaring war on Japan. And luck is the keyword. Churchill gambled so much (literally and figuratively) that he got lucky in the end. 1942 was the culmination of many disasters and a ludicrously mismanaged vote of no-confidence against him. Then finally came the success of El Alamein, but by then Churchill's importance (relative to America) was already declining, and bitterness was growing hand in hand with the expectation of victory. Churchill, normally a compulsive traveller, didn't attend Roosevelt's funeral.
So, in spite of the apologetics, and albeit inadvertently, it's sort of a warts and all book (if you know how to read): Churchill left the army (the first time) as a lieutenant, indicating that he perhaps wasn't very talented at military matters (when he wasn't skiving off, being a freelance journalist), and politics were for him pretty much a backdoor to military preferment (Jenkins notes how awkward he can look in photos that show him in fancy dress uniform when other politicians are wearing suits), and he interfered too much with the real military men when he was just a politician. It's almost as though we won the war in spite of him, rather than because of him: when he spent 6 months out of the country in 1943, it was Attlee, the deputy PM who ran the shop. [afaicr, Jenkins basically asserts that Churchill spent 6 weeks in the USA, followed by 7 weeks in Canada, followed by 13 weeks on holiday in Morocco. I cannot tally Alanbrooke's account of Churchill's whereabouts with this itinerary, so I may have misread something, or it may have been confused in the telling]. By 1944 Churchill was neglecting political briefs and in his 2nd premiership seems to have spent much of his time reading novels and leaving government to govern itself. I've heard Jenkins (in 1996) claim that Edward Heath was the greatest living Englishman (the bizarrest claim I have ever heard. In the strictly political context of 1996 you might have thought it was irony, but it wasn't - he was merely fawning to someone he thought, wrongly, had been ennobled by Heath), so I had a double expectation from this book - that Jenkins believes that Churchill was the greatest Englishman ever and that the book would justify that claim (why not prefer Elizabeth I, for example?). We get neither - we get a picture of a flawed man and the final summary: "Churchill was the greatest person ever to inhabit 10 Downing Street", which is so strangely limitative that it seems like bathos.
I initially gave this book 2 stars, but it is foolish to expect the author to pre-digest everything for you, and since it contains quite a lot of material open to constructive criticism, I've upgraded it to 3 stars. It has too many gaps to deserve more. Jenkins' war coverage seems to get better all the time, although for us, 1940 is the traditional hinge year and should receive the best treatment, but Jenkins' knowledge of it seems too hazy and ambiguous [added: truth be told, it simply was not a hinge year: as I have said, there was no apotheosis, and Churchill's arrival with the Battle of Britain, run by Dowding and prepared for by the commissioning of the Spitfire in 1936, was a coincidence].
It's the only biography of Churchill I have read [amended: I have read Alanbrooke's war diaries since], so I have no idea how the others compare.
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Most recent customer reviews