At a recent sale held at Bloomsbury Auctions a document handwritten by Winston Churchill, detailing a bet about the future of the British Empire, was sold for £17,000. The document details a £100 wager Churchill made with James C. Young, a successful businessman, while in Minneapolis on his 1900-01 lecture tour of Canada and the United States. The pair bet whether the British Empire would decline over the next decade following the death of Queen Victoria the previous day. Young asserted it would be “substantially reduced” and Churchill, of course, firmly opposed. Two copies of the bet were written out, with Young keeping the one written by Churchill and Churchill keeping the one prepared by Young.

In 1945 Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach, an American book collector, bought Young’s copy from his family and three years later he bought the copy kept by Churchill at a sale at Sotheby’s.

The story of the wager is fully covered in Todd Ronnei’s article, “Churchill in Minnesota” in Minnesota History (57:7, 2001). A newspaper report on the auction is available here and the Bloomsbury page for the auction is here.

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