Churchill: The Unexpected Hero

Churchill: The Unexpected Hero

Churchill: The Unexpected Hero

Churchill: The Unexpected Hero

Synopsis

During the Second World War, Winston Churchill won two resounding victories. The first was a victory over Nazi Germany, the second a victory over the legion of sceptics who had derided his judgement, denied his claims to greatness, and excluded him from high office on the grounds that he was sure to be a danger to King and Country. Churchill was the only British politician of the twentieth century to become an enduring national hero. The curious thing is that it happened at the age of 65, at a time when he was considered to be a spent force, with a track-record of disastrous decisions. All but the most hostile of his adversaries conceded that he possessed great abilities, remarkable eloquence, and a streak of genius. But it was almost universally agreed that he was a shameless egotist, an opportunist without principles or convictions, an unreliable colleague, an erratic policy-maker who lacked judgement, and a reckless amateur strategist with a dangerous passion for war and bloodshed. At one time or another in his career, he had offended every party and faction in the land, yet despite this he became the embodiment of national unity, an uncrowned king who threatened to eclipse the monarchy. In this incisive new biography, Paul Addison tells the story of Churchill's life in parallel with the history of his reputation. He seeks to explain why Churchill was transformed into a national hero, and why his heroic status has endured ever since in spite of the attempts of iconoclasts to debunk him. He argues that we are now in a position to reach beyond the mythology - both positive and negative - to see the real Winston Churchill, a warrior-statesman whose qualities were remarkably consistent through all the vicissitudes of his career.

Excerpt

Winston Churchill won two great victories in the Second World War. The first was a victory over Nazi Germany. The second was a victory over the many sceptics who, for decades, had derided his judgement, denied his claims to greatness, and excluded him from 10 Downing Street on the grounds that he was sure to be a danger to King and Country. The roar of approval which greeted him on VE Day, as he addressed the crowds from the balcony of the Ministry of Health in Whitehall, was a moment of triumph in a battle over his reputation that had been going on ever since the turn of the century. The epic struggle between Churchill and his critics is the underlying theme of this short life.

Churchill's victory was never complete. Even at the height of his power and glory there were some who resisted the enchanter's spell. The day before he became Prime Minister in 1940 the Permanent Secretary to the Foreign Office, Sir Alexander Cadogan, wrote in his diary: 'I don't think they'll get a better P.M. than Neville [Chamberlain].' Nearly five years later he was writing: 'I long for poor old Neville Chamberlain again. He did know how to conduct business.' The general acclaim for Churchill as a war leader concealed the views of critics for whom he was at best a hero with feet of clay, and agnostics for whom he was never a hero at all. Nor was the permanence of Churchill's triumph guaranteed. In 1918 Lloyd George was the great war . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.