Book Review

Tags

Winston Churchill’s mental health has been a widely studied topic, largely commencing with the publication of Winston Churchill: The Struggle for Survival 1940-1965 by Lord Moran, Churchill’s doctor for the last 25 years of his life. Since then there have been a number of studies trying to posthumously diagnose the prime minister’s mental health. Wilfred Attenborough in his Diagnosing Churchill: Bipolar or “Prey to Nerves”?, as set out in the introduction, seeks to scrutinize the “posthumous psychiatric diagnoses of Churchill as bipolar/manic-depressive, and their biographical-evidential foundations.” The excellent book effectively traces Churchill’s life as it relates to his mental health and considers the arguments of previous writers on the subject, including Ghaemi, Fieve, Owen, and Norman. Attenborough concludes in answer to the question asked in his book’s title that, “Churchill’s variation in mood throughout his life, until he began to suffer the depredations of his advanced old age, were reactive to, and reasonably proportionate to, events and circumstances. By definition, this means they were not, they could not be, manic-depression.” In this conclusion Attenborough is joined by the study (too recently published to be consulted by Attenborough in his research), “Did Sir Winston Churchill suffer from the ‘black dog’?” by Anthony M. Daniels and J. Allister Vale and published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (111:11, 2018). Those authors, both from the City Hospital, Birmingham, conclude that “the available evidence suggests that Churchill suffered no major psychiatric disorder.”

In reading Attenborough’s book this reviewer observes that the scholarship on Churchill’s mental health largely seems to correlate his mental health only with the successes and failures of his political career. The joys and difficulties in his personal life (such as his marriage, birth of his children, the death of his mother and daughter Marigold both in 1921, the marriages and divorces of his children, the difficult relationship with his son, his finances, physical health, personal struggles of his daughter Diana, and the death of his greatest friend Lord Birkenhead in 1930) are rarely considered in determining the stresses and anxieties Churchill was undergoing at a particular moment.

The reviewer was a peer reviewer of the manuscript.

Advertisements

Book Review

Tags

With the title Churchill: Military Genius or Menace? the experienced reader of books about Winston Churchill will expect yet another expose of his alleged faults as a war leader. In that regard the reader of this volume will not be disappointed. Indeed, the book repeats the many previously made criticisms of Churchill, including the charges that he interfered in military affairs and was a “dictator” in running the British government. Among the other critiques offered by the author of the book are that Churchill refused to pursue peace negotiations in late May 1940 because “imbued by visions of death or glory for himself and the nation, Churchill was  determined that Britain would never surrender.” Criticisms of Churchill as a war leader have been made in a more sophisticated fashion and argued much more convincingly in many other books.

Churchill Bulletin

Tags

The September issue (#135) of the Churchill Bulletin: The Newsletter of Winston Churchill has been released. It includes the announcement that Retired US Navy Admiral James Stavridis will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming 36th International Churchill Conference in Washington, D.C. in October 2019. Also announced is that the new documentary, Churchill & the Movie Mogul, will be screened at the conference. The movie is about Churchill’s friendship with Alexander Korda. The Churchilliana column describes a chalkware plaque of Winston Churchill and the Churchill Style column describes Churchill and horseracing. The September bulletin is available here.

Churchill Research

Tags

Winston Churchill has been regularly invoked by all sides in the debate on Britain’s membership of the European Union and relationship with Europe, most especially with the recent vote of his grandson Nicholas Soames. Laurence Geller, chairman of the International Churchill Society, reflects on Churchill and the current political tumult over Brexit in the piece, “Brexiters Love To Invoke Churchill – But He Would Tell The Truth About No Deal” published in the HuffPost. The article is available here.

Book Review

Tags

During the Second World War, Peter Crichton served as an officer with the 4th Hussars, Winston Churchill’s old army regiment, serving in Greece and the Western Desert campaigns and fighting in the battles of Gazala, Alam Halfa, and El Alamein. Later in the war, not getting along with the Hussars commanding officer, he accepted an appointment to the ‘37’ military mission attached to the Yugoslav Partisan army. With the mission, Crichton served in the capture of islands off of Yugoslavia and landings on the coast. Leaving the army after the war, he started writing his memoirs in 1969 by which time he was retired. A typed manuscript was prepared and photographs selected for the publication when ill-health intervened and the project fell dormant until Crichton’s son picked up the project. Fifty years after it was started, the manuscript has been published by Pen and Sword as To War with a 4th Hussar: Fighting in Greece, North Africa & the Balkans. Unfortunately for the readers of this blog, Crichton only briefly recounts Winston Churchill’s visits to the regiment in August 1942 in the Western Desert and makes only a short reference to the regiment being assigned to guard Churchill at Mena House during the Cairo Conference in November-December 1943. Nonetheless, To War with a 4th Hussar is an enjoyable read and its readers will be appreciative that Crichton’s son brought the manuscript through to publication.

Churchill Research

Tags

“Sir Winston Churchill’s doctors on the Riviera 1949-1965: Herbert Robert Burnett Gibson (1885-1967) and Dafydd (David) Myrddin Roberts (1906-77)” by Richard W. Griffiths was recently published in the Journal of Medical Biography. The article provides biographical profiles of the two doctors who treated Churchill on the occasions he fell ill while holidaying in the south of France. Gibson attended on Churchill once, in 1949, while Roberts treated Churchill on several occasions, the first being in 1956. The Journal of Medical Biography website is here.

Churchill Research

Tags

On June 28, 1962, the 87-year old Winston Churchill fell in his room at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo where he had just commenced a two-week holiday. He suffered a fracture to the neck of his left femur. Taken a hospital in Monte Carlo, Churchill was adamant he return to London as he wanted to die in England. He was repatriated aboard an RAF aero-medical aircraft sent by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. On the evening of June 29, 36 hours after his fall, Churchill was operated on at the Middlesex Hospital by Philip Newman and Herbert Seddon. After a 54-day recovery in hospital, he was discharged to his home at 28 Hyde Park Gate.

Churchill’s treatment for the fracture and his recovery are discussed in “Churchill’s fractured neck of femur” by Liam McLoughlin published online first in the Journal of Medical Biography. The journal web site is here.