Churchill Biography


Laurel King, Contributor

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churchill biographyFinding a Winston Churchill biography is not difficult. As one of the greatest military and political leaders of the twentieth century, some historians have dedicated their entire careers to researching and writing about this inspiring, confounding man. However, not all Churchill biographies are created equal.

A critically acclaimed biography of Churchill, Churchill: A Biography, was written by Roy Jenkins. Published in 2001, it is just as lengthy as many of Churchill's own books, coming in at just over 1,000 pages. Fortunately, with the author's similarly high-level experience, and his ability to immediately pull the reader into the story, the length is never a problem. Jenkins skillfully weaves the intimate personal details about Churchill - such as his academic failures, parental estrangement, and becoming a self-taught scholar – along with more publicly-known information such as his military and political careers.

One of the greatest Churchill biographies was written by an accomplished British historian, Paul Johnson. From the time it was published in 2009, the aptly-named Churchill was an immediate sensation. Already an acclaimed historian, Johnson had gained success and respect through numerous, previously-published works on subjects such as the American people, a history of Jewish people, and an all-encompassing work about the world from the 1920s to the 1990s. So it was not too surprising that he was able to regale the reader with tales of Churchill that made it seem as if he were right there by his side, throughout Winston's entire life. The opening quote of his book says it best, "Of all the towering figures of the twentieth century, both good and evil, Winston Churchill was the most valuable to humanity, and also the most likable. It is a joy to write his life, and to read about it. None holds more lessons, especially for youth: How to use a difficult childhood. How to seize eagerly on all opportunities, physical, moral and intellectual." Obviously, Mr. Johnson had a deep, abiding admiration for Churchill, and his writing is reflective of that.

However, the 'official' biography of Winston Churchill is actually an eight-volume set written by Sir Martin Gilbert. Following years of meticulous, detailed research and unfailing documentation, this extensive biography is unparalleled in its ability to combine the indisputable, cold facts of Winston Churchill's public life with the intimate and moving details of his private life. Published between the years of 1966 to 1988, this officially approved biography is divided into different sections of Churchill's life. Volume I and II were actually written by Randolph S. Churchill, Winston's son. Volume III The Challenge of War discussed World War I. Volume IV, The Stricken World delved into the time after WWI. Volume V, Prophet of Truth, addressed the years of 1922-1939 up until just before the start of WWII. Volume VI, entitled Finest Hour, handled what was arguably one of the most important parts of Churchill's career as Prime Minister, 1939-1941 (the beginning of WWII and the U.S. joining the war). Volume VII, Road to Victory is a treatment of the conclusion of WWII (the years of 1941-1945) and the final volume is Volume VIII, Never Despair detailing the last 20 years of Churchill's life (1945-1965).