Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill

Overview

Between his rise and his fall, young Winston Churchill built a modern navy, experimented with radical social reforms, survived various threats on his life, made powerful enemies and a few good friends, became a husband and father, took the measure of the German military machine, and faced deadly artillery barrages on the Western front. Along the way, he learned how to outwit more experienced rivals, overcome bureaucratic obstacles, question the assumptions of his upbringing, value loyalty—and how to fall in love....

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Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill

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Overview

Between his rise and his fall, young Winston Churchill built a modern navy, experimented with radical social reforms, survived various threats on his life, made powerful enemies and a few good friends, became a husband and father, took the measure of the German military machine, and faced deadly artillery barrages on the Western front. Along the way, he learned how to outwit more experienced rivals, overcome bureaucratic obstacles, question the assumptions of his upbringing, value loyalty—and how to fall in love. In Young Titan, historian Michael Shelden gives us a portrait of Churchill as the dashing young suitor who pursued three great beauties of British society with his witty repartee, political flair, and poetic letters. This is the first biography that focuses on Churchill’s early career—the years between 1901 and 1915 that both nearly undid him but also forged the character that would later triumph in the Second World War.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Winston Churchill is remembered by most of us as the breathtakingly articulate British prime minister who inspired his nation to victory in World War II. Many who admire his "blood, toil, tears, and sweat" eloquence, however, possess only scant knowledge of Churchill's difficult passage in the decades. Few, for example, know that the future hero of the world was brought down in disgrace after the 1915 Battle of Gallipoli. Nor do many readers know much about the personal daring of a man who came under fire dozens of times during his military career. Michael Shelden's Young Titan recaptures the glory and gloom of Churchill's early years, giving us a new appreciation of one of the giants of his age.

The Washington Post - Jonathan Yardley
…perceptive and entertaining…the years about which Shelden writes have their own importance and their own color, and they tend to get lost in conventional Churchill biographies, particularly the overwrought ones…that zero in on the heroic World War II years.
Publishers Weekly
This portrait of the pol as a young man tracks Churchill’s coming-of-age from 1901, when he first entered Parliament, to 1915, when he resigned as First Lord of the Admiralty following the Gallipoli fiasco, with much personal material included. Shelden, a journalist, professor, and author of biographies of Mark Twain and George Orwell (the latter, Orwell, was a finalist for the Pulitzer), reveals a Churchill who early on was well known as a Boer War hero; an adventurer in India, Cuba, and Egypt; a prolific writer; and a member of Parliament. For someone of aristocratic background, Churchill held relatively progressive views, favoring women’s suffrage and helping push for unemployment insurance. His personal charm and wit attracted numerous women, including the American actress Ethel Barrymore and Prime Minister Asquith’s daughter, Violet, before he married Clementine Hozier at age 32. Shelden hews close to the man, his family and friends, and his policies; as a result, national and international concerns (as when he refers to Germany’s pre-1914 “continuing preparation for war” without offering further explanation) are given short shrift. Despite this and occasional trivial digressions, the book is a fluid and informative examination of the early career of one of modern Britain’s most outstanding political leaders. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Mar. 5)
Washington Times
“Just when you think there can be nothing fresh to be said about the long life of Winston Churchill, along comes biographer Michael Shelden's page-turner about Churchill from age 26 to 40….Churchill's life is the gift that keeps on giving, and many readers who assume they've read it all will find Mr. Shelden's lively account a must-add for their groaning shelves.”
The New Yorker
“[As this] glowing portrait makes clear, the young Churchill was as beloved as he was despised: his intelligence, industry, and wit made him a darling of the press, and he was often seen as a future Prime Minister.”
From the Publisher
“Perceptive and entertaining.”

"A vivid portrait of a young man on the make, as ambitious as he was gifted. . . Enthralling."

“Entertaining and erudite…. Shelden is full of sharp literary insights about Churchill, as one would expect from a literary biographer of his rank.”

“[As this] glowing portrait makes clear, the young Churchill was as beloved as he was despised: his intelligence, industry, and wit made him a darling of the press, and he was often seen as a future Prime Minister.”

“Much has been written about Winston Churchill, but there is still much to learn, especially about those early years when he seemed destined for greatness. Michael Shelden now thoughtfully explores those years in Young Titan….An engaging as well as perceptive take on the man who believed that while we are all worms ‘he was a glowworm’ — a belief history would splendidly vindicate.”

“Just when you think there can be nothing fresh to be said about the long life of Winston Churchill, along comes biographer Michael Shelden's page-turner about Churchill from age 26 to 40….Churchill's life is the gift that keeps on giving, and many readers who assume they've read it all will find Mr. Shelden's lively account a must-add for their groaning shelves.”

“Swiftly narrated…. Shelden, a noted biographer whose 1992 Orwell was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, explores the young titan in entertaining depth, with deep regard for Churchill's achievements and no end of colorful detail.”

“Michael Shelden has done the nigh-impossible: he has found original things to say about the man Isaiah Berlin called ‘the largest human being of our time’—Winston Churchill. In this entertaining and deeply researched book, Shelden paints a memorable portrait of the young Churchill’s life and loves.”

“Young Titan gives us an exciting, needed look at Winston Churchill in his years as a Liberal. Breaking with the Conservatives, he battled for better working conditions, for unemployment insurance, for improvements in education. He waged a two-front war: against the Tories on the right, the socialists on the left. It is the young Churchill at his best, a great foretelling of what was to come when Britain and the world needed him most.”

“For history buffs, Winston Churchill is the gift that keeps on giving, and in Young Titan Michael Shelden has given us the gift of Churchill’s fascinating formative years. It’s all here—the boy wonder, adventurer, romantic, orator, and eloquent man in the arena. I didn't want it to end.”

Library Journal
Shelden (English, Indiana State Univ.; Mark Twain: The Man in White) switches from his usual literary biographies to focus here on a thin but significant slice of Winston Churchill's life, the period from 1901 to 1915, in which Churchill began his rapid ascent from unknown Conservative member of Parliament to heady days as a young First Lord of the Admiralty at the beginning of World War I. In sparkling prose, Shelden explores the tendentious world of high-level Edwardian politics as Churchill worked with and competed against the likes of Herbert H. Asquith, David Lloyd George, and other notables. The disastrous World War I assault on Gallipoli doomed Churchill's political career at the time; he resigned from the admiralty in 1915, remaining in the political wilderness until another war beckoned in the late 1930s. Shelden sees Churchill's abrupt departure from politics in his early 40s as a formative experience from which he never completely recovered emotionally. VERDICT Ted Morgan's Churchill: Young Man in a Hurry, 1874–1915 was published over 30 years ago. Shelden takes into account the Churchill literature that has appeared since then and focuses further on the profound impact losing his cabinet position had on the man. This deserves its rightful place on libraries' groaning Churchill shelves. [See Prepub Alert, 10/1/12.]—Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames
Kirkus Reviews
Solid biography covering the first four decades of Winston Churchill's life, marked by both ambition and heartbreak. The heartbreak comes early and late in Shelden's (English/Indiana State Univ.; Mark Twain: Man in White, 2010, etc.) account--early with rejection by a young woman for whom Churchill had conceived an unreturned love, late with rejection by his political colleagues at the height of World War I. The ambition is constant: When Churchill, having escaped from a Boer jail in part, one suspects, to impress his intended, gets shoved under the tram of love, he dusts himself off, makes a tidy sum writing his memoir, and wins elective office and ever-growing fame; when he suffers rejection by the elected and the electorate, he changes gears and parties and earns still more influence. Shelden opens with a longish episode that finds Churchill in the United States and Canada on a generally unsatisfying lecture tour about his adventures in the Boer War. He closes with a disgraced Churchill briefly exiting the political stage to fight in the trenches of France: "Like a Byronic figure in a novel that he might have written about his own political adventures, he was suddenly confronted with the possibility that he had reached the last chapter, and must now fight or die." In between, Shelden offers an unadorned account of Churchill's dogged pursuit to build his legacy against some long odds (including marked antipathy, it seems, on the part of his elders, family and foe alike). The author might, in fact, have offered more analysis in the place of plain narration, but there are plenty of other books on Churchill that do that. Indeed, there are plenty of books about Churchill, period. Shelden isn't of the first rank, but the book holds up well against the competition.
Jon Meacham
“Michael Shelden has done the nigh-impossible: he has found original things to say about the man Isaiah Berlin called ‘the largest human being of our time’—Winston Churchill. In this entertaining and deeply researched book, Shelden paints a memorable portrait of the young Churchill’s life and loves.”
Chris Matthews
“Young Titan gives us an exciting, needed look at Winston Churchill in his years as a Liberal. Breaking with the Conservatives, he battled for better working conditions, for unemployment insurance, for improvements in education. He waged a two-front war: against the Tories on the right, the socialists on the left. It is the young Churchill at his best, a great foretelling of what was to come when Britain and the world needed him most.”
Tom Brokaw
“For history buffs, Winston Churchill is the gift that keeps on giving, and in Young Titan Michael Shelden has given us the gift of Churchill’s fascinating formative years. It’s all here—the boy wonder, adventurer, romantic, orator, and eloquent man in the arena. I didn't want it to end.”
The Washington Post Jonathan Yardley
“Perceptive and entertaining.”
DailyBeast.com [Newsweek digital edition]
"A vivid portrait of a young man on the make, as ambitious as he was gifted. . . Enthralling."
Richmond Times Dispatch
“Much has been written about Winston Churchill, but there is still much to learn, especially about those early years when he seemed destined for greatness. Michael Shelden now thoughtfully explores those years in Young Titan….An engaging as well as perceptive take on the man who believed that while we are all worms ‘he was a glowworm’ — a belief history would splendidly vindicate.”
Ft. Worth Star-Telegram
“A biographer of note, [Shelden] actually found a fresh angle on England's man with the big cigar that should appeal to avid history fans.”
Wall Street Journal
“Entertaining and erudite…. Shelden is full of sharp literary insights about Churchill, as one would expect from a literary biographer of his rank.”
New Criterion
“[A] charming new biography….Shelden has capitalized on an understudied period of an iconic life and proved that such a study can still surprise.”
USA Today
“Swiftly narrated…. Shelden, a noted biographer whose 1992 Orwell was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, explores the young titan in entertaining depth, with deep regard for Churchill's achievements and no end of colorful detail.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451609912
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 3/12/2013
  • Pages: 383
  • Sales rank: 625,124
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Shelden is the author of four previous biographies. For twelve years he was a features writer for The Daily Telegraph (London) and a fiction critic for The Baltimore Sun. He is currently a professor at Indiana State University.

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