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.]
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 75 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: 7,500,000 (estimate of words by WSC only)
The Second World War: 1,600,000 (not counting appendices)
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 Churchill: 278,000
The River War: 200,000
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.
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 another 12 million, for a grand total of over 15 million words (75+ 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?”
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.”