Churchill in the News

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In his article “Why Actors Love to Play Churchill,” published in the New Yorker, Anthony Lane considers the many actors who have played Winston Churchill on film. He comments that “If you are an actor of some eminence, naturally blessed with a mien like a full moon, it seems inevitable that, once you have attained the requisite age and girth, you will be asked to play Winston Churchill,” but concludes “The best person at playing Churchill, in the end, was Winston Churchill himself.” The article is available here.

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Churchill Bulletin

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The December issue of the Churchill Bulletin: The Newsletter of Winston Churchill has been released. It includes articles on the opening  of a new exhibit on Churchill aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, the honoring of the 143rd birthday of Sir Winston Churchill in an event at the Capitol, and a new exhibit on Clementine Churchill at Chartwell. Also, included is a review of Nicholas Shakespeare’s Six Minutes in May: How Churchill Unexpectedly Became Prime Minister. The newsletter is available here.

Churchill Research

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In 1911 Great Britain introduced national compulsory unemployment, albeit restricted to just three trades. It was the first country to ever do so. In the article, “The Origins of Unemployment Insurance in Edwardian Britain” published in The Journal of Policy History, Tomoari Matsunaga (Yokohama National University) studies the motivations of the policymakers responsible for the introduction of the scheme, including Winston Churchill as president of the board of trade. The website of The Journal of Policy History is here.

Churchill Bulletin

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The November issue of the Churchill Bulletin: The Newsletter of Winston Churchill has been released. It includes reviews of the movie Darkest Hour and the book Churchill at the Gallop as well as articles on the sale of Churchill’s final painting, the presentation of the Sir Winston Churchill Award to Sir John Major, and the speeches by Lord Dobbs and Andrew Roberts at the thirty-fourth annual Churchill Conference. The newsletter is available here.

Book Review

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Lord David Owen in his new book, Cabinet’s Finest Hour: The Hidden Agenda of May 1940, studies the critical cabinet meetings held in late May 1940 in which it was decided whether Great Britain should fight on or seek a negotiated peace. The debate in these meetings pitted Prime Minister Winston Churchill against his Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax, who supported pursuing the possibility of peace negotiations. Chapter Four of the book reproduces the full-text of the minutes of the nine cabinet meetings as well as the documents seen by the cabinet members in their deliberations. In describing the debates and decision-making in Churchill’s cabinet at that pivotal moment, Owen offers a spirited defense of the importance of cabinet government in a parliamentary democracy. He praises Churchill as prime minister for not attempting to ”bypass either Cabinet or Parliament,” and for a “a deepening of democracy from 1940-45.” In the volume’s epilogue Owen condemns the failure of Cabinet governance under Antony Eden during Suez in 1956 and Tony Blair during Iraq in 2003. He labels the latter’s sweeping changes to cabinet government in 2001 as “a hubristic act of vandalism for which, as Prime Minister, Blair alone bears responsibility.” Owen’s experiences as a member of parliament for 26 years and as foreign secretary from 1977 to 1979 inform his comments about the House of Commons and Cabinet.

Churchill Conference

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The Churchill Society of Tennessee will be hosting a conference, “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory,” on Winston Churchill and music on March 23-24, 2018 at venues in Nashville and Franklin, Tennessee. The conference will consider Churchill’s “appreciation for all kinds of music” as well as his “fascination with the Civil War.” Speakers will include Randolph Churchill, Churchill’s great grandson, and Giancarlo Guerrero, Nashville Symphony Orchestra conductor, talking on “Churchill did not have a Tin Ear.” Information on the conference is available here.

Book Review

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The title of Peter Clarke’s latest book, The Locomotive of War: Money, Empire, Power, and Guilt, is taken from the famous quote attributed to Leon Trotsky, “War is the locomotive of history.” Throughout this enjoyable and interesting book, the author considers the ramifications of the First World War as well as the role of Gladstonian Liberalism in Anglo-American decision-making as related to the conflict. Clarke (Cambridge and author of Mr. Churchill’s Profession) surveys the origins of the war, the financing of the war, and the Treaty of Versailles (including War Guilt, Reparations, and the Hang the Kaiser). He contends that the “moralization” of the origins of the war led to the “moralization” of the peace terms. The leading figures considered in the book are David Lloyd-George, Woodrow Wilson, and John Maynard Keynes, while Winston Churchill plays a more limited role in the study.

Book Review

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Private Secretaries to the Prime Minister: Foreign Affairs from Churchill to Thatcher edited by Andrew Holt and Warren Dockter is a volume in the Routledge Studies in Modern British History series. In eight chapters the book considers the private secretaries who served the prime ministers from Winston Churchill (1951-55) to Margaret Thatcher’s first years (1979-83). Each chapter provides biographical information on the private secretary under consideration and describes their relationship with the prime minister that they served. The conclusion of the volume is by Anthony Seldon and studies the role of the Principal Private Secretary.

Warren Dockter (author of Winston Churchill and the Islamic World: Orientalism, Empire, and Diplomacy in the Middle East) writes the first chapter in the volume which is entitled, “Managing a Giant: Jack Colville and Winston Churchill.” Colville served the prime minister as Assistant Private Secretary (1940-41, 1943-45) and Joint Principal Private Secretary (1951-55). He later published his diaries as Fringes of Power along with other books and articles.

On returning to 10 Downing Street in 1951 Churchill insisted that Colville rejoin his staff and that the role of Principal Private Secretary be split between him and David Pitblado. Dockter writes that Colville’s role was “unique and remarkable” with Churchill giving him assignments “rarely given to members of the private office.” Colville was a member of Churchill’s inner circle and gave his loyalty to the prime minister rather than the government or the civil service. He was thus “overly identified with the Prime Minister personally” and considered “spoiled as a civil servant.” Colville resigned from the civil service in 1955 upon Churchill’s stepping down from office. After their respective resignations Colville remained Churchill’s friend but also “became something of a guardian for Churchill’s legacy.”