The Roar of the Lion: The Untold Story of Churchill's World War II Speeches

The Roar of the Lion: The Untold Story of Churchill's World War II Speeches

by Richard Toye
     
 

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''My aunt, listening to the Prime Minister's speech, remarked of "our greatest orator", "He's no speaker, is he?"' -diary of teacher M.A. Pratt, 11 Nov. 1942.

The popular story of Churchill's war-time rhetoric is a simple one: the British people were energized and inspired by his speeches, which were almost universally admired and played

Overview

''My aunt, listening to the Prime Minister's speech, remarked of "our greatest orator", "He's no speaker, is he?"' -diary of teacher M.A. Pratt, 11 Nov. 1942.

The popular story of Churchill's war-time rhetoric is a simple one: the British people were energized and inspired by his speeches, which were almost universally admired and played an important role in the ultimate victory over Nazi Germany. Richard Toye now re-examines this accepted national story - and gives it a radical new spin.

Using survey evidence and the diaries of ordinary people, he shows how reactions to Churchill's speeches at the time were often very different from what we have always been led to expect. His first speeches as Prime Minister in the dark days of 1940 were by no means universally acclaimed - indeed, many people thought that he was drunk during his famous 'finest hour' broadcast - and there is little evidence that they made a decisive difference to the British people's will to fight on.

In actual fact, as Toye shows, mass enthusiasm sat side-by-side with considerable criticism and dissent from ordinary people. Yes, there were speeches that stimulated, invigorated, and excited many. But there were also speeches which caused depression and disappointment in many others, and which sometimes led to workplace or family arguments. Yet this more complex reality has been consistently obscured from the historical record by the overwhelming power of a treasured national myth.

The first systematic, archive based examination of Churchill's World War II rhetoric as a whole, The Roar of the Lion considers his oratory not merely as a series of 'great speeches', but as calculated political interventions which had diplomatic repercussions far beyond the effect on the morale of listeners in Britain. Considering his failures as well as his successes, the book moves beyond the purely celebratory tone of much of the existing literature. It offers new insight into how the speeches were written and delivered - and shows how Churchill's words were received at home, amongst allies and neutrals, and within enemy and occupied countries.

This is the essential book on Churchill's war-time speeches. It presents us with a dramatically new take on the politics of the 1940s - one that will change the way we think about Churchill's oratory forever.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This well-written and well-researched book is essential for all Churchill scholars as well as those interested in wartime Britain." — Library Journal

Library Journal
During a 50-plus-year political career, Winston Churchill gave a lot of speeches, most of which were captured in the eight-volume Winston Churchill: His Complete Speeches, 1897–1963, with selections also available in such titles as Martin Gilbert's Churchill: The Power of Words. Toye (modern history, Univ. of Exeter; Lloyd George and Churchill) tackles Churchill's wartime speeches but from a more critical and analytical angle, which makes his book exceedingly important to scholars and others interested in Churchill and World War II. Toye goes beyond a simple assessment of each wartime speech and explores through diaries and other correspondence how Churchill's speeches were actually received by his listeners. Thus we find that the speeches were, at the time, often not as reassuring or convincing as we might think today. Surveys conducted by the British government after a Churchill speech revealed a short spike in morale, followed by a decline a few days later as the war continued unabated. The historical consensus has been that Churchill was a great speech giver whose words soothed his nation during the long war years. Toye shows that the truth is much more complicated. VERDICT This well-written and well-researched book is essential for all Churchill scholars as well as those interested in wartime Britain.—Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199642526
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
11/01/2013
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Richard Toye, Professor of Modern History, University of Exeter

Richard Toye was born in Cambridge in 1973. He studied at the Universities of Birmingham and Cambridge, and is currently Professor of Modern History at the University of Exeter. His books include Lloyd George and Churchill: Rivals for Greatness (2007), Churchill's Empire: The World that Made Him and the World He Made (2010), and Rhetoric: A Very Short Introduction (2013, also published by Oxford University Press). He lives in Exeter with his wife and their two sons.

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