As Richard Toye (University of Exeter), the editor of Winston Churchill: Politics, Strategy, and Statecraft, notes in the book’s introduction the “sheer length and variety of Churchill’s career make it hard to get to grips with its full complexity.” To contribute to a fuller understanding of Churchill the volume provides a collection of 14 brief essays on the important issues of his life and career written by many of the leading Churchill scholars.
After the introductory essay by Toye that provides a biographical overview of Churchill, the thematic chapters in the book are “Churchill: The Young Statesman, 1901-1914” by David Thackeray (University of Exeter), “Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty, 23 October 1911 – 24 May 1915” by Martin Thornton (University of Leeds), “Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer (1924–9) and the Return to the Gold Standard” by Peter Catterall (University of Westminster), “Churchill and Labour” by Chris Wrigley (University of Nottingham), “Churchill and the General Strike, 1926” by Peter Catterall (University of Westminster), “Churchill and the Conservative Party” by Stuart Ball (University of Leicester), “Churchill and Women” by Paul Addison (University of Edinburgh), “Churchill and Empire” by the editor, “Churchill and the Islamic World” by Warren Dockter (University of Cambridge), “Churchill and Airpower” by Richard Overy (University of Exeter), “Churchill as Strategist in World War Two” by Jeremy Black (University of Exeter), and “The Birth of the Anglo-American Special Relationship” by David Woolner (Roosevelt Institute). The volume concludes with “Churchill and Nuclear Weapons” and “Winston Churchill and the Cold War,” both by Kevin Ruane (Canterbury Christ Church University).
Several interesting points are made in the essays including Stuart Ball’s observation in his contribution that Churchill’s relationship with the Conservative party went through many phases from critic within the party to party leader and that “it is easy to focus too much on his periods of conflict with the established leadership and therefore get this out of proportion.” As Ball notes “during his forty-three-and-a-half years as a Conservative Member of Parliament, he was a rebel for a total of only eleven-and-a half years.” Likewise in his essay on the general strike, Peter Catterall writes that Churchill’s actual role in the strike itself has been exaggerated as opposed to his part in attempting to resolve the coal dispute that had led to the strike. Paul Addison drew the difficult assignment of writing on Churchill and women. Lady Soames at an event several years ago remarked that she did not believe her father was particularly good on women, while Addison in his essay observes that Churchill was neither a misogynist nor a feminist. After his retirement, however, Churchill had reached the point that he did support the admission of women to Churchill College, Cambridge on an equal basis as men.
With 14 essays Winston Churchill: Politics, Strategy, and Statecraft, of course, cannot be comprehensive, but the volume would have benefited by having separate chapters on Churchill and the Dardanelles, Churchill and appeasement, Churchill and his second premiership, and, perhaps, Churchill and Europe.
Winston Churchill: Politics, Strategy, and Statecraft nonetheless succeeds admirably in its stated goal of providing “a short, accessible and analytical introduction to the key themes in Churchill’s life.”