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Churchill: A Biography Hardcover – Nov 15 2001

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; First Edition edition (Nov. 15 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374123543
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374123543
  • Product Dimensions: 15.8 x 5.6 x 24.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #147,002 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

From Amazon

Winston Churchill was querulous, childish, self-indulgent, and difficult, writes English historian Roy Jenkins. But he was also brilliant, tenacious, and capable--in short, "the greatest human being ever to occupy 10 Downing Street." Jenkins's book stands as the best single-volume biography of Churchill in recent years.

Marked by the author's wide experience writing on British leaders such as Balfour and Gladstone and his tenure as a member of Parliament, his book adds much to the vast library of works on Churchill. While acknowledging his subject's prickly nature, Jenkins credits Churchill for, among other things, recognizing far earlier than his peers the dangers of Hitler's regime. He praises Churchill for his leadership during the war years, especially at the outset, when England stood alone and in imminent danger of defeat. He also examines Churchill's struggle to forge political consensus to meet that desperate crisis, and he sheds new light on Churchill's postwar decline. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

Winner of the Whitbread Prize for Gladstone (1997), Jenkins offers a bloated yet idiosyncratic and accessible life of England's greatest modern prime minister. Jenkins's wry wit and judgments of great men, untainted by awe, partly offset the fact that, as he admits, he has few new facts to add to an already exhaustively recorded life. Jenkins has a propensity for unnecessary French and curious adverbs (unfriendlily), adjectives (spistolatory) and nouns (peripherist) and is at his best exploring Churchill's three out-of-office "wilderness" periods and his writing jobs (requiring a staff of loyal, ill-paid researchers and secretaries to take his clangorous dictation), which helped support his expensive lifestyle. ("I lived in fact from mouth to hand," Churchill confessed.) But as the statesman's many decades wind down, the biographer himself seems to tire, resorting to a litany of itineraries. American audiences may be drawn to Jenkins's revisionist views of Churchill's relationships with Roosevelt, with whom he sees "more a partnership of circumstance and convenience than a friendship of individuals," and with Eisenhower, a "political general" who was "always a little cold for Churchill's taste, with the famous smile barely skin-deep." Jenkins is hard on Churchill for being soft on alleged mountebanks like Lord Beaverbrook. He dwells only briefly on Churchill's family affairs, aside from expressing skepticism about his reputedly warm marriage to Clementine; she often advised her husband wisely, but "managed to be absent at nearly all the most important moments of Churchill's life." Jenkins's judgments and the fact that he has boiled this eventful life down to a single volume will attract many readers to this entertaining, though often exasperating study. 32 pages of photos and maps not seen by PW. (Nov.)Forecast: A main selection of both BOMC and the History Book Club, with a respected author, who will tour New York and Washington, D.C., and an iconic subject, the biography is guaranteed media attention and sales.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
CHURCHILL'S PROVENANCE WAS aristocratic, indeed ducal, and some have seen this as the most important key to his whole career. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ned Middleton TOP 100 REVIEWER on April 22 2009
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps it takes a politician of Roy Jenkins’ stature to write a work worthy of a man who was once described as “The greatest living Englishman.” Whilst not an uncommon surname, the very word “Churchill” conjures up an image of one man and one man only. That man was Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill - soldier, journalist, painter, Nobel laureate, politician and leader of nations. I am not given to defacing books but I well remember being 15 years old when this great man died and going to the school library to read a short biography of his life. Directly after his name were brackets inside which was printed the year of his birth followed by a dash and a blank space reserved for the year of death. Having read the item, I carefully wrote “1965” into that blank space and closed the book.

For those who may not be unaware, Roy Jenkins was a leading British politician who, in post-war years was a fellow Member of Parliament alongside Churchill - although of a different political persuasion. In his preface, Jenkins describes having met Churchill as a boy and observing him at work in later years - although he is very careful to admit he did not know the man. With an honest and intuitive comment, he also declares his belief that a biography does not necessarily demand or even profit from such personal knowledge and that such familiarity can “distort as much as it illuminates.”

Any biography should be a dispassionate account of whoever is under the microscope and should include those good, bad and even ugly aspects which combine to comprise the very qualities which made that subject exactly who and what they were. As biographies go, this is a first-class work. As a life story on Churchill, this will very probably stand the test of time to become recognised as the best ever.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Christopher G. Kenber on Jan. 20 2003
Format: Paperback
Roy Jenkins died recently and his obituaries were many, detailed and lengthy. He is remembered both as a skilled politician of the first rank both in Britain's Labour party and then as a co-founder of the Social Democratic Party with David Owen and Shirley Williams. And as a superlative political biographer of the first rank with definitive works on Gladstone, Asquith, and, now, Churchill.
Your reviewers' very broad range of reactions to this biography are entirely consistent with the reactions Churchill himself produced during his long career. Never was a british politician more hated, reviled, loved and honoured than Churchill. Indeed, during the Thirties, it appeared that he would go down in history as a politician who missed greatness by a significant margin.
Jenkins has achieved a political biography that is readable, clear and, for its subject matter, concise. His distinguished political career in the House of Commons gives him a unique ability to evaluate Churchill as a man of the commons, the quintessential parliamentary practitioner.
He starts by evoking Churchill's remarkable early years, where he moved from an undistinguished school record to daring and arduous travels as a soldier/ journalist. Wracked by money troubles most of his life, we read entertainingly of Churchill's correspondence with his mother, the slightly scandalous, and frequently broke Jenny Jerome as they commiserate/ complain to each other about their stratitened circumstances.
There was in Churchil a tremendous need for power, one that often went unsatisfied. He achieved extraordinary political success at an early age (by the standards of the times) but then his career stalled severely. He was trusted neither by the Liberals nor by the Tories (and at times by very few others).
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Format: Hardcover
After Martin Gilbert's exhaustive study of Churchill's life, it would be difficult to imagine anyone being able to contribute anything new or revealing about the great man and his life...until Jenkins procuced this work.
The late Roy Jenkins was uniquely placed to write this book. It is not a biogrpahy in the ordinary sense - it is actually a biographical commentary. Rather than attempting to painstakingly delve into the minutiae of Churchill's life, Jenkins set out to look at his life from a Parliamentary viewpoint. This inevitably means glossing over come of the more personal aspects, but delivers a telling and erudite study of a life which was more Parliamentary than anything else, and which produced one whom Jenkins described as the greatest man to inhabit No 10 Downing Street.
Jenkins' work is unique becasue he approaches the Parliamentary side of Churchill's life as one who has been there, and knew many of the characters that flitted through Churchill's life. Moreover, he has a towering understanding of British politics - the theory and praxis - that is impossible to achieve without having actually been in it.
This is a great an insightful study. It is not the complete Chruchill biography, but it may well be close to the best.
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By A Customer on Oct. 2 2002
Format: Hardcover
Roy Jenkins's Churchill: A Biography is propelled for 912 pages by the dynamic power of Winston Churchill, but the author does not exhaust the subject matter, nor shake him down. Although there are no apparent gaps in the narrative, and few could forgive an author for devoting so much space to Churchill's Second World War premiership, still there are dates passed more frequently than others. For instance, I was very interested in his juvenile years, which Jenkins does not tackle squarely, and was disappointed by the coverage of the inter-war years, and Churchill's retirement. Most importantly, what was the full story of Churchill's actual beliefs? Americans might not find his monarchical romanticism, his conservatism, and martial skill so favorable without such an account as Jenkins's.
Jenkins's greatest strengths are his recreations of parliamentary debate drama and the exchange of letters. The tome includes a handy reference to parliamentary procedure and jargon for those unaccustomed to the tradition, but even then, in his narratives, rarely frames the settings adequately. Perhaps because of his epistolary skill, Jenkins is much more comfortable with the analysis of words than with depicting a scene. Jenkins so liberally quotes from private correspondence, the book is liable to drift into innuendo, were it not for his judicious editing. However, one has to wonder, if perhaps certain persons might have been cheated by their inability to write good memoranda and letters. Jenkins does, though milk the most out of a bon mot or clever exchange of ideas, and fortunately (because they are so frequent and large), these passages are very entertaining.
This skill with the written word, however, does not give the book intellectual weight.
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