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The Roar of the Lion: The Untold Story of Churchill's World War II Speeches Hardcover – 22 Aug 2013

4.6 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 1st Edition edition (22 Aug. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199642524
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199642526
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 3 x 16 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 519,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


Rooted in primary sources, this is an engaging read in which we find our preconceptions of this iconic figure challenged. (Who Do You Think You Are?, Sarah Newey)

A book about Churchill's wartime speeches is likely only to appeal to his most ardent fans, or so one might think. But Toyne's superb history is more concerned with the impact that his speeches had on the British population, as well as those listening abroad... an intelligent and essential corrective to Churchillian glory, which neither idolises the man nor damns him. (Independent on Sunday, Lesley McDowell)

This scholarly book presents a readable and in-depth exploration of Churchill's speeches, including the notes and drafts stored at the National Archives at Kew, Churchills diaries and memoirs, within their historic, political and bureaucratic context. This book will appeal to writers as well as lawyers and politicians, historians, World War II scholars and to all who are fascinated by Churchill himself. (Guardian, GrrlScientist)

Thoroughly researched, readable and fascinating. (David Reynolds, The Guardian)

[Richard Toye] provides a nuanced and discriminating account of the pivotal episode in Churchill's career. (Peter Clarke, Financial Times)

The Roar of the Lion is a thoughtful and thought-provoking book. (Richard Overy, Times Literary Supplement)

Toye writes lucidly, and there is no sense of repetition in the book, which forensically examines one speech after another... [There] are still a lot of new aspects of Churchill's life to be explored. Toye has found one with this first ever, comprehensive, archival based study of WSC's splendid wartime speeches. (History Today)

The book explores enemy and neutral responses, as well as how the speeches were written. In doing so, it offers a nuanced portrait of a key facet of Churchill's war leadership. (Gary Sheffield, BBC History Magazine Books of the Year 2013)

The main strength of The Roar of the Lion lies in its patiently researched microhistories of the speeches. Toye pinpoints the contexts in which they were written, the calculations that lay behind them, and their reception not just at home but also overseas. (Literary Review)

[Toye is] one of Britain's leading historians and a man sympathetic to, but not subsumed by, the Churchill of lore and yore. (Boston Globe)

Thought-provoking ... a useful corrective to the legend. Not only was there a larger variety of responses to Churchill's oratory than usually imagined, but sometimes Churchill's speeches actually depressed, rather than exhilarated. Nor did praise for his wartime oratory mean that people thought Churchill would be the best person to lead the nation after victory, as the 1945 election showed. Good military news, as Toye's evidence makes clear, was always a more invigorating tonic than the most inspirational rhetoric. (David Stafford, BBC History magazine)

Toye's analysis of audience figures and personal diaries provides a fascinating insight into how the British public received Churchill's now much revered wartime speeches. (Discover Your History magazine)

The details make this book a joy to read for speakers and speechwriters alike. (Denise Graveline, Eloquent Woman)

The Roar of the Lion is a valuable addition to the study of Churchills wartime premiership and demonstrates that there is still much to say about the man and his work. (Kevin Matthews, Reviews in History, 14/04/2014)

Toye weaves all this skillfully together to provide the most nuanced assessment yet of the impact of Churchill's rethoric.[...] Highly recommended. (R. A. Callahan,Choice,)

About the Author

Richard Toye was born in Cambridge in 1973. He studied at the Universities of Birmingham and Cambridge, and is currently Professor of Modern History at the University of Exeter. His books include Lloyd George and Churchill: Rivals for Greatness (2007), Churchill's Empire: The World that Made Him and the World He Made (2010), and Rhetoric: A Very Short Introduction (2013, also published by Oxford University Press). He lives in Exeter with his wife and their two sons.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
As a young man, Churchill had educated himself in the power of language. (He had, famously, done poorly at Harrow.) At the turn of the century, in his early twenties, he had drafted The Scaffolding of Rhetoric, an article designed to get him noticed by the heavyweight periodicals. Unpublished during his lifetime, it’s very much a young man’s piece: overwrought, passionate, recklessly revealing.

Throughout his political career, as he defected from the Tories to the Liberals and back, as he railed equally against the dangers of Nazism and against reform in India, Churchill used his speeches, not only to influence, but also to survive – politically and, perhaps, psychologically. By the 1930s, as Toye points out, the effect was wearing thin. “To MPs who had, as it were, heard it all before, his speaking style seemed not majestically impressive but overblown and hackneyed.”

But his constant interventions in the Commons over India seem to have jolted his rhetoric into a new register. In a letter to his wife, he writes that he is now speaking “with garrulous unpremeditated flow. They seem delighted.”

Churchill carries this new rhetoric into the war with him. He has reinvigorated his Victorian Ciceronianism by injecting the plain English championed during the 1930s by Greene, Hemingway, Orwell, and others. The synthesis will allow him to speak, more or less successfully, both in the Commons and over the airwaves. (One of Toye’s most intriguing discussions is about Churchill’s discomfort with radio.)

The book’s central thesis, in fact, concerns how Churchill’s speeches were judged by his many audiences. Toye uses material both from the Ministry of Information and from Mass-Observation.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an amazingly infomative book. Toye examines the legend that Churchill somehow single-handedly, using his speeches, and without a single voice of dissent, encouraged the population of Britain to let their innate heroism, hard-working attributes and stamina come to the fore in order to vanquish the foe.

Toye extensively quotes the direct opinion of many, many citizens about each of Churchill's main speeches and thereby shows that, as one would logically expect anyway, although Sir Winston was an extremely popular PM (avg. 70% - 80% approval ratings during his period in power during WW2), citizens were generally far from unanimously in favour of his actions and policies.

I should point out immediately that it is absolutely clear in the book that Toye is not disputing that the population of Britain had an abundant share of positive personal qualities, such as "innate heroism, hard-working attributes and stamina", nor is he disputing that Churchill's speeches played a part in "bringing that to the fore". It's just that, on the evidence of the many opinions (both positive and negative) from ordinary citizens about Churchill's speeches, it seems that the speeches were not the single most important factor in Churchill's success as a wartime leader. Even Churchill himself said that, and implied very subtly and humourously and diplomatically in saying so that to believe that his speeches were the sole factor in his success as a wartime leader might lead people to forget that his skills as a military strategist were highly important also.

Not only that, but Toye also underlines that dissent is a sign of health in a democracy and compares the situation in the UK with the situation in Nazi Germany, where citizens were completely unable to express open dissent in any form.
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Format: Hardcover
Fear not, this book does nothing to dissuade us from holding true the old adage 'cometh the hour, cometh the man', but it is a timely reminder that history tends to be written by those whom come out of a struggle uppermost. In Professor Toye's very readable study, Churchill is painted in human terms: some of his natural failings are bared for us to see. If anything, this makes the account all the more sympathetic.

Reading this book in current times, we are reminded of how, when a person struggles to pursue a course they believe to be right, even among those who are broadly willing to provide their consent to the cause, there will forever be dissent. Along the way, there is also likely to be the occasional banana peel and also the odd enticing blind alley which history may be slow to forgive or at best understand.

The idea that we cannot disturb the acquired collective memory of our erstwhile wartime leader is, of course, nonsense. For our nation and many besides, his position in the Pantheon is secure, though for his character we now have a few more warts and who among us can claim to have none of those?
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By Dr Barry Clayton TOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 Aug. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
The view that Churchill won the war is widespread even among some historians. It is pure myth. This country, let alone its Prime Minister, did not win the war, it was won by the USA and the Soviet Union with, of course, an invaluable contribution by Great Britain and the Commonwealth. To this day many people find this very hard to accept despite the overwhelming evidence that it is true.

This excellent book by Professor Toye of Exeter University provides at last a welcome and new interpretation of Winston Spencer Churchill's contribution to the war effort by examining in detail his many famous war-time speeches in which he described our 'finest hour' and promised 'to fight on the beaches'.
Toye shows how many people thought, when hearing his speeches, that at times he was the worse for drink. Far more reveal they were not motivated to fight by his rhetoric. Because thousands hudddled round the wireless to hear the gravelly voice is not necessarily an indication that by so doing they were stirred to action. One group of Londoners said after the war that they and their friends listened because:'there was little else to do and it took your mind off the bombs'.

The myth that his rousing speeches kept us going during the darkest days was due to an excellent PR system plus Churchill's own somewhat boastful manner. His speeches were aimed at three groups: the domestic audience, our allies and the Germans- hopefully one day Professor Toye may be able to tell us how the Germans reacted to Churchill's speeches.

A major reason why those speeches have been given so much acclaim is because they are a brilliant example of literature at its best. Few have ever matched Winston's use of extended metaphors and proverbs, or his superb and elegant style.
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