Warlord: A Life of Winston Churchill at War, 1874-1945 Hardcover – Nov 4 2008
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“Winston Churchill’s life spanned the last decades of the British Empire, and to read Carlo D’Este’s enjoyable new biography is to recall the sequence of disasters that befell Britain between the final days of the Victorian era and its brush with extinction in World War II.” (Robert Kagan, The New York Times Book Review)
“Epic. . . . A briliantly exciting narrative. . . . D’Este has given us, finally, the lion not only in winter, but at war: impetuous, brazen, misguided, but indefatigable, indomitable, and magnanimous: the greatest and most energetic generalissimo of the 20th century.” (Nigel Hamilton, The Boston Globe)
“An engaging narrative. . . . Well-researched, balanced, and highly readable. . . . Carlo D’Este provides us with a very human look at Churchill’s lifelong fascination with soldiering, war, and command . . . with an eye for colorful quotation and telling anecdote.” (The Washington Post)
“Masterful. . . . D’Este provides a blow by blow on all of the events of World War II. He is especially good at rendering the devastation Britain faced during the Blitz and the preparations for the Normandy Invasion.” (The Chicago Sun-Times)
“The many biographies of Winston Churchill have tended to paint him from a political perspective. In his new book, military historian Carlo D’Este shifts the focus onto Churchill the military leader and how his passion for wartime endeavors led to the improbable British victory in the Allied cause.” (History Wire)
“D’Este astutely lauds Churchill’s soldierly courage but questions how Churchill-the-politician acted as, in effect, an operational general.” (Booklist (starred review))
“Elegantly written, this tour de force belongs in every library addressing the 20th century. . . . D’Este is a master analyst of 20th-century military leadership, and this book may be his finest yet. . . . He tells the complex story of a statesman and warrior.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“Carlo D’Este, among our very best military historians, has found in Winston Churchill a subject worthy of his talent. Warlord takes the familiar subject of Churchill’s amazing life and makes it glitter anew.” (Rick Atkinson)
“Carlo d’Este, one of the finest historians of the Second World War, brings to his new book all his skills as a military analyst. Even those who think Churchill’s life familiar will find this a wonderfully stimulating study.” (Max Hastings)
From the Back Cover
Warlord is the definitive chronicle of Churchill's crucial role as one of the world's most renowned military leaders, from his early adventures on the North-West Frontier of colonial India and the Boer War through his extraordinary service in both world wars. Using extensive, untapped archival materials, Carlo D'Este illuminates Churchill's character as never before, exploring his strategies behind the major military campaigns of World War I and World War II—both his dazzling successes and disastrous failures—while also revealing his tumultuous relationships with his generals and other commanders, including Dwight D. Eisenhower.
As riveting as the man it portrays, Warlord is a masterful, unsparing portrait of one of history's most fascinating and influential leaders during what was arguably the most crucial event in human history.--This text refers to the Paperback edition. See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
This book by Carlo d'Este is a well documented, superbly written biography of Churchill the military leader. This a long book, but it never feels long. It is pleasure to read from the first line to the last. It is full of revealing anecdotes, some well known, but many that I had not heard before. Churchill started his career as a British officer and military correspondent at the end of the 19th century. He saw the battle of Omdurman where a British expeditionary force defeated the Mahdi's army in Sudan, and the war against the Boers. After the disaster at Gallipoli, he served as an officer in the British army in Flanders. From his experiences in the Army, he kept a deep distrust in army generals who made up for their lack of imagination by sacrificing needlessly the lives of their men. As importantly, he learned to always show respect and compassion for his defeated enemies. His empathy with the people was most evident during Britain's finest hour. His presence in the smoking ruins of London during the Blitz did as much to keep the British morale as did his splendid rhetoric.Read more ›
if you want to kill a fewdays to a week pick this up and you wont be dissapointed! ;)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
With "Warlord," D'Este has moved into new territory, British military history. The readers should know that the story that unfolds on these pages is primarily European in nature. Although over half of this book is about World War II, the author is examining the British experience and that is a different topic from what he has done in the past. Pearl Harbor does not take place until page 556 (out of 700 of text) and even then, only as a dependent clause.
D'Este's research is extensive and creative. He has looked at Churchill's student records at Harrow and examined the papers of Lord Moran, the Prime Minister's personal physician. In between, he hits all the important archives.
The quality of coverage that comes from this exploration of the historical record is uneven, though, ranging from brilliant to merely adequate. The book is extremely weak on the World War I years. Serious Churchill buffs/fans/students will be disappointed. With that point made, most Americans know little of World War I and the discussion of the Great War should be more than adequate for general readers. D'Este also builds on this material. The book is much stronger when it gets to the World War II years, and the author connects much of what Churchill did in the 1940s back to the events of the 1910s, something that is uncommon in American writing on the Prime Minister.
A trait in D'Este biographies is that key figures other the principal subject have their moment to walk across the pages and voice their opinions and criticisms. The same is true here. General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, the head of the British Army for most of the war, often clashed with Churchill. D'Este pulls no punches and avoids the mistake of many biographers in siding with his subject, but he is better at narration than analysis in these moments. A number of other British generals, many of whom have ended up as forgotten figures, also get their moments and a generally sympathetic hearing from Churchill's biographer.
A clear strength is D'Este's efforts to develop Churchill's personality. He makes some keen observations, and the reader gets a good idea why Brooke found the man at times so infuriating and at others so inspirational.
Finally--and this is no little thing--this book is an easy, easy read.
D'Este describes Churchill as in company with men "born for war," such Frederick the Great, Oliver Cromwell and his own famous ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough. Churchill, D'Este maintains, cannot be understood if one approaches him as a politician or statesman who was destined to conduct a war but rather must be understood as a warrior who realized that politics forms a part of the conduct of war.
Men "born for war," including Patton, the subject of another excellent D'Este biography, never lose their romantic and self-centered approach to war--even after confronting its most horrible conditions. Most men who experience war hate it. Men like Patton and Churchill never lose their love for it. D'Este shows that Churchill was deeply conflicted about his feelings for war. Having experienced the horrors of war first hand, he empathized deeply with the soldiers and sailors (and their families) who bear the full brunt of the horrors of war. Yet because he personally loved the danger and fighting, he wondered if he could ever forgive himself for his love of war.
D'Este goes into great detail about Churchill's relationships with his generals and admirals in WWII. Churchill tended to try to micromanage his military leaders. Sometimes that was helpful, but with a good commander it made relationships very rocky.
This book is best read together with another biography of Churchill such as William Manchester's opus on Winston Churchill (two volumes, he was regrettably unable to complete the third volume before his death). Manchester's magnificent biography sets Churchill in his life and times. D'Este explores Churchill the warrior.
D'Este explores in greater detail than most biographies Churchill's aptitude for war demonstrated in his childhood play with toy soldiers, his time at Sandhurst, his polo playing, and his fighting in India, Egypt and South Africa. WWI and WWII are similarly well covered.
We also see Churchill with all his flaws: egotistical and self-centered. Yet we begin to see that what we consider as flaws are simply part and parcel of the indomitable personality that made Churchill great at both war and statesmanship.
Churchill's first great romantic love was Pamela Plowden, later the Countess of Lytton. Though never marrying (her father refused to give her hand to Churchill), they remained lifelong friends and D'Este reveals that their correspondence was auctioned by Christie's in 2003 for nearly 300,000 pounds. She said of Churchill many years later, "The first time you meet Winston, you see all his faults, and the rest of your life you spend in discovering his virtues."
I heartily recommend this biography for understanding a side of Winston Churchill that has not been explored by other biographers with such great depth and appreciation for his formation as a warrior and military leader.
As D'Este states in his introduction: "This is the story of the military life of Winston Churchill--the descendant of Marlborough who, despite never having risen above the rank of lieutenant colonel, came eventually to direct the military compaigns of his nation and, more than any other man, to save Britain from tyranny during his and his nation's finest hour."
D'Este's book proves that the Churchill story is still being told.
This is a good book.
D'Este has chosen Churchill's fascinating involvement with war---as a soldier and as a leader. It is a long, and remarkable story. From the charge at Omdurman to the surrender of the Germans on VE Day, the story never loses its steam. D'Este's excellent writing takes you in, and you feel like you are looking over Churchill's elbow as events unfold.
What I particularly liked was D'Este's ability to write about all sides of Churchill----the good, the great, and the occasionally misguided. He was a great man, a genius, whose many ideas never stopped flowing. Some
were ridiculous, many were brilliant. Containing Churchill was the hard part.
There were times when he went too far----but he was always there, and he held the world together when no-one else could have. For all his faults, his drive, genius, and fierce determination came through.
Another aspect of the book I appreciated was the fair treatment of Montgomery. Like many Americans, I have been well aware of Montgomery's faults. I had not been as aware of his virutes as I should have been.
D'Este has written an excellent portrait of Montgomery, and it made me understand the man better.
This book is worth the time and money. I doubt there will be many disenchanted readers. Many thanks to D'Este for his fair, balanced, and fascinating account.
As Bob Dylan said, "Hero's a nuisance to live with at home." Churchill was certainly that--unbelievably vain, self-centered, demanding everyone change their lives' schedules to keep up with his nocturnal habits, interfering with generals at every turn. He also insisted on finding generals who would fight, rather than just be good British club buddies--and this likely turned around the war.
D'Este often argues that Churchill was a strategic disaster. That his intense focus on the Mediterranean was strategically a mistake and led to the horrid war of attrition in Italy. There is another point of view on this matter. Having read Churchill's own 6 volume memoir of the war, I have reason to believe that rather than being a strategic disaster, Churchill was focused on what Europe would look like after Hitler's defeat, and was proposing anything he could conceive of that would prevent Stalinist Russia from dominating the Balkans and Central Europe. He was likely wrong that the war could have been won by thrusting troops towards Vienna through the Ljubljana gap--but it was not lack of strategic vision here, but of minimizing the difficulties of mountain warfare. Had the Balkan and Vienna strategy worked, there might never have been a Cold War.
I must disagree with other reviewers who found the book uneven and poorly organized. I think the scholarship here was impeccable. I have rarely read a book where the quotations from the memoirs and diaries of others were so deeply researched, and flowed so appropriately into the text. The book reads easily and engrossingly. It does what it set out to do--reviews the life of Churchill as warrior, with impressive scholarship and compelling reading. What more can one want from a book?
That said, there are a few historical errors that peeved me. It might not make a difference to persons who have not done a great deal of WW II reading. But, to me, calling the Hood and the Repulse 'battleships' rather than 'battlecruisers' grated and was inaccurate. They were more vulnerable precisely because they were never designed to take on a battleship but to be faster than any ship that they might encounter, and less heavily armored--and thus more easily sunk. Similarly, several times D'Este says that the German offensive in 1940 was a repeat of their plan in 1914, which it most adamantly was not. The whole idea was to deceive the French and British to believe they were repeating the Schlieffen plan of 1914, and then to sucker punch the French through the Ardennes, after French and British forces moved north to defend the Belgian frontier. I imagine D'Este had to make some compromises of space to cover everything he did, but these inaccuracies bothered me. Can I give it 4 and 1/2 stars?
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