With colleagues I discussed which of young Winston’s early war books was derisively called, “A Subaltern’s Advice to Generals.” This was a popular wisecrack after his early works had the temerity to propose British military strategy in India, Sudan and South Africa. Churchill was in his mid-twenties at the time—but not reticent to speak his mind. Nothing we didn’t know here….
Malakand Field Force?
Without consulting references, I thought the “advice” line involved The Story of the Malakand Field Force (Churchill’s first book, 1898). I was influenced by its last chapter, “The Riddle of the Frontier.” Plenty of advice there, though it is as much political as it is military.…
Q: How important was Congressman Bourke Cockran’s influence on the young Churchill?
William Bourke Cockran, 1854-1923. (Wikimedia Commons)
A: Very. The late Curt Zoller was the first to write in depth about Bourke Cockran. This man played a vital but little understood role in forming young Churchill’s political philosophy. In 1895, Zoller wrote, when young Churchill traveled to New York on his way to Cuba,
…he was greeted by William Bourke Cockran, a New York lawyer, U.S. congressman, friend of his mother’s and of his American relatives. Winston’s Aunt Clara was married to Moreton Frewen. (The peripatetic “Mortal Ruin” would later badly edit Churchill’s first book, Story of the Malakand Field Force.) For many years Frewen had been a friend of Cockran, who would grow to become one of Winston Churchill’s lifelong inspirations.…
Edmund Burke, by Sir Joshua Reynolds (Wikimedia Commons)
On the Irish statesman and philosopher (1729-1797) Churchill had much to say.
I’d like to congratulate you on your wonderful book Churchill By Himself, but I could not find any Churchill comments on Burke in the index. I thought Burke deserved a mention, but it’s your book, so it’s your call (and may I add, it has been one of the best treasures that has ever landed on my lap!) –V.T., UK
Thanks for the kind words. Unfortunately the index is the worst feature of the book–completely inadequate, as I tirelessly remind the publishers.…