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:
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.