Update: How Many Words did Winston Churchill Produce?

Update: How Many Words did Winston Churchill Produce?

How many words, how many speeches?

“How many speech­es did Churchill make, and in how many words? Also, how many words did he write in his books and arti­cles? [Updat­ed from 2014.]

Word counts

Through the won­ders of com­put­er sci­ence (Ian Lang­worth and the Hills­dale Col­lege Churchill Project), we know that the present cor­pus of works by and about Win­ston S. Churchill exceeds 80 mil­lion words (380 megabytes). This includes 20 mil­lion (120 megabytes) by Churchill him­self (count­ing his let­ters, mem­os and papers in the 23 vol­umes of Churchill Doc­u­ments. Here are his the top word counts among his books:

The Churchill Doc­u­ments: 10,000,000*

Win­ston S. Churchill: His Com­plete Speech­es 1897-1963: 5,200,000

The Sec­ond World War: 1,600,000 (not count­ing appendices)

The Col­lect­ed Essays of Sir Win­ston Churchill: 860,000

The World Cri­sis: 824,000

Marl­bor­ough: His Life and Times: 779,000 (not count­ing appendices)

A His­to­ry of the Eng­lish-Speak­ing Peo­ples: 510,000 (not count­ing appendices)

Lord Ran­dolph Churchill278,000

The Riv­er War: 200,000

*Total word count for the twen­ty-three vol­umes is 15.3 mil­lion; we esti­mate 10 mil­lion are WSC’s own words.

Word count: speeches

To be pre­cise you’d have to count (I won’t!) the speech­es list­ed in the Win­ston S. Churchill: His Complete Speech­es 1897-1963. Rough esti­mate: there are forty speech­es per page of con­tents, about eight con­tents pages per vol­ume, and eight vol­umes. So, at a guess, 2500 speeches.

But the Com­plete Speech­es are not com­plete. Try to find his famous Dur­ban speech after escap­ing from the Boers in 1899, for exam­ple. And some are only excerpts—as from his lec­ture tours of North Amer­i­ca. Also, you must deduct notes by edi­tors. But let’s add say 10% for miss­ing speech­es and guess that he made about 3000 in all.

The 5.2 mil­lion-word Com­plete Speech­es, at eight vol­umes, is the longest book-length “work by Churchill.” Sub­tract 100,000 words of intro­duc­tions and add miss­ing speech­es or ver­biage. Let’s esti­mate six mil­lion words of speech­es alone.

Official Biography

Some read­ers also ask about word counts for the Offi­cial Biog­ra­phy. The total for the eight bio­graph­ic vol­umes is over 3,000,000 words. The twen­ty-three Com­pan­ion or Doc­u­ment Vol­umes  add 15.3 mil­lion, for a grand total of over 18 mil­lion words (80+ megabytes). Of course, these include many mil­lion words not by Churchill.

Some­one once told Sir Mar­tin Gilbert,  “You’ve only pub­lished one-tenth of Churchill’s sto­ry!” Sir Mar­tin replied: “Real­ly? That much?”

Pho­to­graph by Ian Lang­worth @statico

Digital capacity

This doesn’t impress soft­ware engi­neers, but it does me: A sin­gle, old fash­ioned 250 giga­byte hard dri­ve disk would hold over 1800 copies of all Churchill’s words and all the words in the Offi­cial Biography.

A mod­ern hard dri­ve holds about 3 terrabytes (3000 giga­bytes). There­fore, your per­son­al com­put­er could house about 200,000 copies of Churchill’s works and the Offi­cial Biography.

What would Sir Win­ston Churchill make of this? No one can say, except to remem­ber one of his max­ims: “Words are the only things that last forever.”

4 thoughts on “Update: How Many Words did Winston Churchill Produce?

  1. Thank you so much. Indeed it was I, in my ener­getic Churchillian youth, when I pur­sued sev­er­al lost caus­es (a big one in par­tic­u­lar). Not a lost cause was dis­cov­er­ing a stash of left­over sheets for the Col­lect­ed Works at Hartnoll’s bindery in Corn­wall. They did exquis­ite work, main­ly Bibles. I had them bind sev­er­al dozen sets, some vel­lum but more in moroc­co. To this day the moroc­co bind­ings fall open like well oiled door hinges, and the leather is still aromatic. 

    But cer­tain indi­vid­ual cloth bind­ings, like the one you describe, were the work of my late friend and book­seller col­league Mark Weber. His bind­ing of the Ear­ly Speech­es made the rare and expen­sive orig­i­nal texts avail­able again at mod­est prices. So Mark gets the cred­it for that one.

    You encour­age me to repub­lish an old arti­cle, “The Sor­did His­to­ry of the Col­lect­ed Works,” which is not entire­ly a pleas­ant sto­ry. It will be com­ing up soon on this web­site. For the nonce, my Connoisseur’s Guide is avail­able through Ama­zon. It con­tains much of the Col­lect­ed Works story—toward the back of the book (A279 in the Cohen Bibliography). 

  2. I believe I have you to thank for my lat­er copy of Mr Brodrick’s Army and For Free Trade. I have a love­ly gilt topped, bur­gundy cloth bound sin­gle vol­ume enti­tled Mr Brodrick’s Army and Oth­er Ear­ly Speech­es, seem­ing­ly bound from left­over sheets of the 1974 Col­lect­ed Works. It also includes Lib­er­al­ism and the Social Prob­lem, The People’s Rights and India. In James Muller’s excel­lent Fore­word to your Connoisseur’s Guide to the Books of Sir Win­ston Churchill, he men­tions you were respon­si­ble for recov­er­ing these left­overs. For that, and so much more, THANK YOU!

  3. Thanks, Andrew, but the grand-dad­dy of all col­lec­tions is Ron Cohen’s, much of which is now with the Hills­dale Col­lege Churchill Project, where my books and papers will all go as well. But most col­lec­tors would say the most elu­sive Churchill books of all are Mr. Brodrick’s Army (1903) and For Free Trade (1906)—cheap paper­back col­lec­tions of speech­es, prob­a­bly from a van­i­ty press, which com­mand stu­pen­dous prices. Even Ron man­aged to find only one of these. For­tu­nate­ly they were repli­cat­ed in the 1970s and these fac­sim­i­le edi­tions are com­mon­ly available.

  4. The ‘Author pho­to’ is quite some­thing Richard. Wow! It cer­tain­ly looks like you assem­bled all his words; at least three times over! I won­der, was there ever a par­tic­u­lar edi­tion or dust jack­et that for­ev­er and frus­trat­ing­ly elud­ed you?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

RML Books

Richard Langworth’s Most Popular Books & eBooks

Links on this page may earn commissions.