Synopses & Reviews
A brilliant new life of Britain's greatest modern prime minister
Winston Churchill is an icon of modern history, but even though he was at the forefront of the political scene for almost sixty years, he might be remembered only as a minor player in the drama of British government had it not been for World War II. In this magesterial book, Roy Jenkin's unparalleled command of the political history of Britain and his own high-level experience combine in a narrative account of Churchill's astounding career that is unmatched in its shrewd insights, its unforgettable anecdotes, the clarity of its overarching themes, and the author's nuanced appreciation of his extraordinary subject.
From a very young age, Churchill believed he was destined to play a great role in the life of his nation, and he determined to prepare himself. Jenkins shows in fascinating detail how Churchill educated himself for greatness, how he worked out his livelihood (writing) as well as his professional life (politics), how he situated himself at every major site or moment in British imperial and governmental life. His parliamentary career was like no other - with its changes of allegiance (from the Conservative to the Liberal and back to the Conservative Party), its troughs and humiliations, its triumphs and peaks - and for decades almost no one besides his wife discerned the greatness to come. Jenkins effortlessly evokes the spirit of Westminster through all these decades, especially the crisis years of the late 1930s and the terrifying 1940s, when at last it was clear how vital Churchill was to the very survival of England. He evaluates Churchill's other accomplishments, his writings, with equal authority.
Exceptional in its breadth of knowledge and distinguished in its stylish wit and penetrating intelligence, this is one of the finest political biographies of our time.
"Yet another biography of Winston Churchill would be neither welcomed nor much anticipated were it not for Jenkins' deserved status as an elder statesman of British politics and a fine historian. Jenkins has already written first-rate biographies of several British prime ministers as well as Harry Truman, all the while serving as a Labour M.P. and cabinet minister; and at the age of 80, after a little over two years of work, he produced this massive biography of Britain's best-known leader. Jenkins's knowledge of both history and the convoluted workings of British politics is profound, and it shows in his analysis of Churchill's life. Typically, despite his own position on the political left (and in opposition to Churchill during the latter's last stint as prime minister in the 1950's), Jenkins writes without prejudice. His conclusion that Churchill was 'the greatest human being ever to occupy 10 Downing Street' therefore comes as high praise indeed. In a little more than 900 pages Jenkins has written possibly the finest single-volume biography of Churchill." Reviewed by Andrew Witmer, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
"One might wonder whether anything fresh remains to be said about Winston Churchill; but Roy Jenkins uniquely combines the skills of a master biographer with the insights of a practical politician and draws a fresh portrait of the great Englishman with authority, elegance, and wit. This is far and away Churchill's best one-volume biography." Arthur Schlesinger
"A first-class, well-sustained work of history and a masterpiece of biography....To have writtent his splendid book at the age of 80 in only a little over two years is a simply astonishing achievement....The greatest British political story of the 20th century is presented in a more elegant, engaging and consistently fair way than ever before. Of all the very many biographies of Winston Churchill that have beenw ritten, this one is the best." Andrew Roberts, The Sunday Telegraph
"Magnificent....Jenkins's effortless selection of the choicest timber from acres of historiographical forest gives his portrait great freshenss and originality....By the time Jenkins writes 'finis' to this astounding performance, he has triumphantly vindicated his closing verdict that Churchill was the 'greatest' Prime Minister of the twentieth century....This is the biography of the year." Robert McCrum, The Observer
Winston Churchill is an icon of modern history, but even though he was at the forefront of the political scene for almost sixty years, he might be remembered only as a minor player in the drama of British government had it not been for World War II. In this magisterial book, Roy Jenkins's command of the political history of Britain and his own high-level government experience combine in a narrative account of Churchill's astounding career that is unmatched in its shrewd insights, its unforgettable anecdotes, the clarity of its overarching themes, and the author's nuanced appreciation of his extraordinary subject.
About the Author
Roy Jenkins is the author of eighteen books, most recently Gladstone (1997), which won the Whitbread Prize for Biography. Active in British politics for a half-century, he has been Home Secretary, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and President of the European Commission. In 1987 he took his seat in the House of Lords as Lord Jenkins of Hillhead. He lives with his wife in Oxfordshire and London.