In the Footsteps of Churchill: A Study in Character

In the Footsteps of Churchill: A Study in Character

by Richard Holmes

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Focusing on the unquiet inner life of Winston Churchill, an acclaimed historian offers a revelatory new biography of one the greatest leaders the world has ever knownSee more details below


Focusing on the unquiet inner life of Winston Churchill, an acclaimed historian offers a revelatory new biography of one the greatest leaders the world has ever known

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A 2002 BBC poll established Churchill as history's greatest Briton. Leading British military historian Holmes offers not a biography but an interpretation of the man, one that highlights the ironic fact that the social and political order Churchill defended has virtually disappeared. His Churchill was an unquiet spirit; Holmes describes him as spinning from crisis to crisis for most of his life, gaining experience and wisdom the hard way: helping to commit an unprepared Britain to war in 1914; forging '20s economic policies that left later governments unable to undertake the military buildup Churchill then demanded; failing to maintain Britain's position as a great power after WWII. Both before and after that war, Churchill, Holmes shows, devoted his considerable talent as a historian to misrepresenting the historical record to his advantage. But in 1940 Winston Churchill was able to define his and Britain's century in battle against the Nazis, and, for Holmes, that has been enough to secure his greatness. Holmes has no use for the revisionist argument that Britain was best advised to compromise in the crucial summer of 1940. Instead he demonstrates that Churchill's eloquence, courage and honor left an unforgettable legacy to the British people, and to free men and women everywhere. Holmes similarly demolishes charges that Churchill was a racist and a warmonger. He presents a man truly larger than life. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The greatest Briton-so a 2002 BBC poll declared Winston Churchill-comes in for scrutiny in this absorbing profile by military historian Holmes. Of the 20th-century's politicians, Churchill seemed ablest to swirl in the currents of controversy without drowning. He was eminently practical; he worked tremendously hard; he was unquestionably brave; and in almost everything he turned his hand to, he proved a "gifted amateur." He also nourished contradictions, among them an odd steadiness against what was almost certainly advanced alcoholism and a fondness for wearing uniforms; "apart from that foible," remarks Holmes of the latter, "he was the antithesis of a militarist." Yet for all his fine qualities, Churchill was not altogether admirable; as Holmes reveals, he was something of a bully toward his widowed (but by no means cowed) mother, and throughout his life he was an opportunist through and through. Early fame came to him, for instance, when Churchill escaped from a prison camp during the Boer War, leaving two fellow inmates behind; though Holmes believes that Churchill did not intend to abandon them, "I cannot imagine him waiting too long on the far side of that wall." Churchill, however, was plenty self-critical and self-aware. One of Holmes's discoveries in the course of this study of character is especially revealing: haunted by the needless deaths of thousands of Commonwealth soldiers at Gallipoli, a WWI campaign he had championed, Churchill was near-paralyzed at the thought that the Normandy landings of WWII might fail. In the face of neocons who are now busily trying to claim Churchill as a forebear, Holmes reminds us that Churchill was a liberal whom opportunity, and opportunism,swept into the Conservative Party, "which only grudgingly accepted him." He reminds us, too, that Churchill was early on an advocate of a strong united Europe-in part as a way of containing American expansionism as well as Soviet ambitions. A nuanced portrait of leadership, and a fine complement to recent portraits of Churchill by, among others, John Keegan and John Lukacs. Author tour

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Basic Books
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6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

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