How Many Speeches, How Many Words?
A colleague asks: “How many speeches did Churchill make, and in how many words? Also, how many words did he write in his books and articles?
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 pages per volume and eight volumes—so, at a guess, 2500 speeches. But the Complete Speeches are not quite 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. And you have to deduct the notes by the editor. But let’s add say 10% for missing verbiage and say he made about 3000 speeches
As to word count, assuming all words are in plain text, there are 5.2 million words in the Complete Speeches (at eight volumes, Churchill’s longest book-length work). So a good estimate, including missing verbiage, would be close to six million words.
How many words in books and articles?
Through the wonders of computer science (via Ian Langworth), I can advise that the present corpus of works by and about Winston S. Churchill exceeds 50 million words (325 megabytes) including 13 million (80 megabytes) by Churchill himself (which also includes his private letters and papers in the document volumes of the official biography). Here are his the top ten word counts among his books:
The Second World War: 1,600,000 (not counting appendices)
The Collected Essays of Sir Winston Churchill (articles not reprinted in his books): 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 Churchill: 278,000
The River War: 200,000
This discovery led the official biographer, Sir Martin Gilbert to ask about the word count for the official biography. The total for the eight biographic volumes (including the first two by Randolph Churchill) is over 3,000,000 words. The nineteen Companion or Document Volumes published to date adds another 8,000,00, for a grand total of over 11,000,000 words (60+ megabytes).
This does not impress computer engineers, but it does me: a single, old fashioned 250 gigabyte hard drive platter 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 computer’s hard drive could probably hold about 200,000 copies of Churchill’s works and the Official Biography.
What would Sir Winston make of this? We do know what his biographer thinks. Someone once told Sir Martin Gilbert, “You’ve only published one-tenth of Churchill’s story!” Sir Martin replied: “That much?”