Larger Than Life: Winston Churchill Has Captivated Writers for Decades. (Biography)

By Jerome, Helen M. | Book, November-December 2001 | Go to article overview

Larger Than Life: Winston Churchill Has Captivated Writers for Decades. (Biography)


Jerome, Helen M., Book


BIOGRAPHERS CAN'T GET ENOUGH OF Winston Churchill (1874-1965), the British prime minister who led the offensive against Adolf Hitler during World War II. According to a recent estimate by Richard Langworth of The Churchill Center in Washington, D.C., some 650 books have been written about the politician. These include an imposing eight-volume effort by Randolph Churchill and Martin Gilbert, which spawned sixteen companion volumes, and William Manchester's popular two-part biography (a third segment is scheduled but may not be completed due to Manchester's poor health). When it comes to Churchill, much has been said, and most of it will be said again.

Roy Jenkins confronts this inevitability in the preface to his 900-page tome, Winston Churchill, coming out this fall. "I do not claim to have unearthed many new facts.... With published sources about him on their existing scale this would be almost impossible," Jenkins writes. "Churchill in life was singularly lacking in inhibition or concealment. There are consequently no great hidden reservoirs of behaviour to be tapped." Yet uncovering new material no longer seems the point. Jenkins, who considers his subject a "remarkable specimen of humanity," says, "There are a lot of things to criticize in [Churchill], a lot of dead ends which he went down with great energy for some time.

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