New Churchill Documents, Vol. 19, “Fateful Questions”

by Richard Langworth on 18 February 2017

DocumentsThe longest biography in history takes a long step to completion with publication of  The Churchill Documents, Vol. 19, Fateful Questions, September 1943-April 1944. (Order your copy here). Fastidiously compiled by the late Sir Martin Gilbert and edited by Dr. Larry Arnn, these 2700 pages serve up another fresh contribution of documents crucial to our understanding of Churchill in World War II. It is a vast new contribution to Churchill scholarship.

Winston S. Churchill, the official biography consists of eight narrative volumes and now nineteen companion or document volumes, all kept in print and offered at modest prices as both hardback and electronic editions.

There are four more to go and the “great work” will be complete, at thirty-one total volumes. Volume 20 (later this year), will take us through the 1945 election. Volumes 21-23 will cover the opposition years 1945-51, the second premiership 1951-55, and the finale 1955-65. The Great Work will be finished by 2019. We will celebrate in several unique ways.

Documents 1943-44

The documents take the reader from the Allied invasion of Italy to the first Big Three conference at Teheran, Russian successes on the Eastern Front, fraught arguments over tactics and strategy as the Allies began closing in on Nazi Germany.  The third of four companion volumes to Gilbert’s narrative Volume 7, Fateful Questions takes us to the eve of  D-Day: the invasion of France in June 1944.

I played just a bit part as one of the editors-perusers of this gigantic screed. The real thanks are owed to Soren Geiger and our Churchill student Associates, graduate and undergraduate, who started with Martin Gilbert’s “wodges” of documents–virtually one wodge for each day of Churchill’s life.

They separated the wheat from the chaff, laboriously researched the extensive footnotes identifying people, places and things, and put a smooth draft in front of us.
And then, overall, a great debt is owed the editor-in-chief, Hillsdale President Larry Arnn, for the determination and effort to finish Martin Gilbert’s monumental work, in the way Sir Martin himself would have–leaving out nothing of substance. (And the electronic edition will be a huge assist to researchers.)
As Gilbert’s researcher back in the 1970s, Dr. Arnn hefted an enormous Document Volume and joked, “You know, only about 20 people are going to read this cover to cover!” Martin replied: “Makes no difference. The important thing is that the documents are there—and nobody will be able to write authoritative about these subjects in future without consulting them.” I always thought this captured the true essence of the work. Actually, quite a few readers tell me they do read it cover to cover!
Over the next few weeks several scholars will post articles focusing on interesting aspects of 1943-44 in the Churchill saga, brought out by the new volume. Stay tuned and subscribe.
For a sampling of the ingredients, click here:
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