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Sir Winston S. Churchill

As with many, I was first attracted to Churchill (1874-1965), the British wartime leader, by his magisterial six-volume history of World War II. I began to collect the "official" biography volumes as they appeared (little dreaming that Sir Martin Gilbert would sign every one of them while on a visit to my home years later). But a chance find of a 1951 reprint of Churchill's The River War in 1997 (in a Las Vegas bookshop, of all places) rekindled my interest into a major quest for books by and about Churchill (it's a huge canon). I'm active in the Washington-based Washington Society for Churchill (WSC!) and the Churchill Centre.

The photo above (taken on our last visit in 1997) shows the garden front of Chartwell, Churchill's country home in Kent, south of London. He bought it in late 1922 with proceeds from an unexpected family bequest, had the house substantially rebuilt, and finally moved in during 1924. He was always happiest here where his children were raised and were he undertook most of his extensive writing projects. Churchill was last at Chartwell in the summer of 1964, a few months before his death. Operated now by the National Trust, it opened to the public in 1966---and is well worth a visit.

Websites

The Churchill Centre
Based here in Washington, this is the place to begin for information about the man and his long career and accomplishments. This is an extensive website with a vast amount of solid information--including the debunking of myths.

Churchill Links
There are more than you might think--an indication of the importance of the man's six-decade political and literary career.

The Churchill Book Specialist
Located in Tucson (far from Churchill Country) is the best single source for books by and about Churchill. I've been here--Mark Weber knows his stuff and prices fairly. The literature about Sir Winston is huge and the website provides a good guide to it.

Selected Books

Blake, Robert, and William Roger Louis, eds. Churchill. New York: Norton, 1993. Very good anthology of conference papers exploring most aspects of his life.

Churchill, Randolph (first two vols), and Martin Gilbert. Winston S. Churchill. London: Heinemann; Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1966-1988, 8 vols. plus 16 "Companion Volumes" of documents to date (the three for 1939-41 published by Norton). Still in progress (with at least five more companion volumes to come), this is already the longest biography in English. Sadly all out of print, prices are fast rising on all volumes---though the entire series is gradually being reprinted (with new introductions by Sir Martin) in a new uniform edition by Hillsdale College in Michigan.

 

Cohen, Ronald I. Bibliography of the Writings of Sir Winston Churchill. London: Contiuum, 2006 (3 vols). Years in preparation, this is the definitive record of the man's huge output, often with fascinating comments on their publishing background. Far from cheap, but invaluable.

 

Coombs, David, with Minnie Churchill. Sir Winston Churchill: His Life and His Paintings. Philadelphia: Running Pressl, 2003 (2nd ed;) The definitive guide to some 540 paintings, nearly all shown here in color.

Gilbert, Martin. Churchill: A Life. New York: Henry Holt, 1991. Based on the above, with new material. No biographer knows his subject better than Sir Martin.

(Ibid), ed. Churchill: A Photographic Portrait. London: Heinemann, 1974, 1988 (expanded captions). Best picture book–and there are many!

James, Robert Rhodes. Churchill: A Study in Failure. Cleveland: World, 1970. Best critical study–takes Churchill's story to the eve of World War II when many saw him as a political has-been.

(Ibid). ed. Winston S. Churchill: His Complete Speeches, 1897-1963. New York: Chelsea House/Bowker, 1974 (8 vols). Not quite complete, but nearly so, in thousands of papers with brief contextual annotations and excellent indexes. There are many edited one-volume collections as well.

Jenkins, Roy. Churchill. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2001. The best one-volume treatment–very readable, in part for the author's own House of Commons and government experience and thus insight.

Langworth, Richard M. A Connoisseur's Guide to the Books of Sir Winston Churchill. Herndon, VA: Brassey's, 2000 (2nd ed.). The best collector's guide to Churchill's many books (and all their editions--and values) over nearly 100 years. This is a bible for collectors of Churchill's vast output.

(ibid). Churchill by Himself: The Definitive Collection of Quotations. New York: Public Affairs, 2008. The best single source for chasing down quips and quotes, all of them arranged by topic, indexed and documented.

Ramsden, John. Man of the Century: Winston Churchill and His Legend Since 1945. New York: HarperCollins, 2002. Best explanation of why the fascination with the man, his life and accomplishments continues---well written and insightful.

Rasor, Eugene L. Winston S. Churchill, 1874-1965: A Comprehensive Historiography and Annotated Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood "Bibliographies of World Leaders," 2000. Detailed coverage with an extensive discussion of the literature keyed to a listing of thousands of resources.

Reynolds, David. In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War. New York: Random House, 2005. Perfectly fascinating story of the research and writing of Churchill's classic The Second World War (six volumes, 1948-54), with some surprising findings.

Soames, Mary. Clementine Churchill: The Biography of a Marriage. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002 (2nd ed.). The best study of the author's mother and Sir Winston's wife.

Weidhorn, Manfred. Sword and Pen: A Survey of the Writings of Sir Winston Churchill. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1974. Insightful analysis of the man and his literary output.

Zoller, Curt H. Annotated Bibiography of Works About Sir Winston S. Churchill. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2004. Well organized survey of the huge number of books and studies of Churchill.