Hillsdale’s Superb Churchill Biography Nears the Finish

Hillsdale’s Superb Churchill Biography Nears the Finish

Biog­ra­phy update: The warm reac­tions received to this post prompt­ed me to add the car­toon at the end. Thanks for the kind words. I am so pleased and proud to be asso­ci­at­ed with my Hills­dale col­leagues in this grand enter­prise. RML

“Give us the Tools….

Every stu­dent of Win­ston Churchill knows of Hills­dale College’s Churchill Project and the “offi­cial biog­ra­phy.” (The term is mis­lead­ing, because noth­ing was ever cen­sored.) Read more on this effort on the Project web­site

Sir Mar­tin Gilbert com­plet­ed the eighth and final bio­graph­ic vol­ume in 1988. But the accom­pa­ny­ing vol­umes of doc­u­ments (aka “Com­pan­ion Vol­umes”) ceased in the 1990s. My col­leagues and I played a small role in secur­ing financ­ing for three more Doc­u­ment Vol­umes cov­er­ing events through 1941. With that the great work stalled.

…And we fill finish the job.”

Then in 2006, Pres­i­dent Lar­ry Arnn of Hills­dale Col­lege, once Gilbert’s research assis­tant, arranged to take on the job. He has pur­sued it with deter­mi­na­tion. With­out him, it is unlike­ly that the work would have fin­ished.

Before his death in 2015, Sir Mar­tin had assem­bled thou­sands of doc­u­ments. There were papers lit­er­al­ly for every day of Churchill’s life. Hills­dale repub­lished the eight bio­graph­ic and the first six­teen doc­u­ment vol­umes at mod­est prices. Since 2013, we have added five new ones:

Test­ing Times, 1942.

One Con­ti­nent Redeemed, Jan­u­ary-August 1943

Fate­ful Ques­tions, Sep­tem­ber 1943-April 1944.

Nor­mandy and Beyond, May-Decem­ber 1944. 

The Shad­ows of Vic­to­ry, Jan­u­ary-July 1945.

Bio­graph­ic e-books are already avail­able, and the doc­u­ment e-books will fol­low.

The Biography He Deserved

As we edit the doc­u­ments we are struck by the vol­ume and vari­ety of issues Churchill con­front­ed. Those who crit­i­cize his some­times bizarre notions or impa­tience have nev­er con­sid­ered the enor­mi­ty of his task. Toward the end of the war, his work­load increased. There was the Ital­ian sur­ren­der, U.S. and Russ­ian demands, crit­i­cal plan­ning for D-Day. Churchill wor­ried over squan­der­ing the Ital­ian cam­paign to feed the inva­sion of France. He received bel­liger­ent notes from Stal­in. The War Cab­i­net harangued him. He tried jug­gle sat­is­fac­to­ry loca­tions for sum­mit meet­ings. Par­lia­men­tary busi­ness was con­stant. Japan and the Pacif­ic war were grow­ing para­mount. There were speech­es to the coun­try, appoint­ments to fill, fam­i­ly crises, post­war plan­ning.

The vol­umes go on, fas­ci­nat­ing in their detail, mil­lions of words. We take no opin­ion (except in the editor’s fore­words). Ran­dolph Churchill declared when he first took on the biog­ra­phy in 1962: “He shall be his own biog­ra­ph­er.” Churchill’s out­put was extra­or­di­nary, his pre­scrip­tions usu­al­ly under­stand­able and wise. His fore­sight, giv­en the strain of those years, was remark­able. The wis­dom of his col­leagues is also well doc­u­ment­ed here.

“The End of the Beginning”

We have just com­plet­ed proofs for Doc­u­ment Vol­ume 22, impor­tant­ly doc­u­ment­ing Churchill’s recov­ery from defeat in the 1945 to tri­umph in 1951. This will be pub­lished by ear­ly 2019, lead­ing to Vol­ume 23, Novem­ber 1951 to the end of Churchill’s life,  June 2019. We then cel­e­brate with a cruise around Britain on the 75th Anniver­sary of D-Day. Any read­er with ques­tions is most wel­come to com­ment below. I will try to answer.

“Now this is not the end…but it is, per­haps, the end of the begin­ning.” The Churchill Project has imor­tant new goals, in order to build this insti­tu­tion. Our aim is to fos­ter knowl­edge and under­stand­ing of Win­ston Churchill through pub­lish­ing, schol­ar­ly events, free online cours­es, and the inter­net. We are build­ing a mas­sive archive includ­ing the Gilbert papers. My own books, col­lec­tions and papers will some­day be there, togeth­er with those of many oth­ers. To learn how you may join or sup­port our efforts, click here.

biography
The ghost of John Churchill: “It was a great work, and I wish you could now add anoth­er chap­ter to your own career.” (E.H. Shep­ard in “Punch” as Win­ston com­plet­ed his Life of Marl­bor­ough, 2 Novem­ber 1938.)

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