How Many Words Did Sir Winston Churchill Write?

How Many Words Did Sir Winston Churchill Write?

How Many Speeches, How Many Words?

“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 1897-1963Rough 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.

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 in speech­es alone.

How many words in books and articles?

Through the won­ders of com­put­er sci­ence (Ian Lang­worth and Hills­dale Col­lege techies), we know that the present cor­pus of works by and about Win­ston S. Churchill exceeds 60 mil­lion words (360 megabytes) includ­ing 20 mil­lion (120 megabytes) by Churchill him­self (which also includes his let­ters and papers in the doc­u­ment vol­umes of the offi­cial biog­ra­phy). Here are his the top word counts among his books:

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

The Sec­ond World War1,600,000 (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 Churchill278,000

The Riv­er War: 200,000

This dis­cov­ery leads some to ask about the word count for the Offi­cial Biog­ra­phy. The total for the eight bio­graph­ic vol­umes is over 3,000,000 words. The twen­ty-one Com­pan­ion or Doc­u­ment Vol­umes pub­lished to date add anoth­er 10 mil­lion, for a grand total of over 13 mil­lion words (70+ megabytes). By the time Hills­dale Col­lege pub­lish­es the final Doc­u­ment Vol­ume 23, the Offi­cial Biog­ra­phy will reach 15 mil­lion.

Digital Capacities

Pho­tograh by Ian Lang­worth @statico

This doesn’t impress soft­ware 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 offi­cial biog­ra­ph­er thought. Some­one once told Sir Mar­tin Gilbert,  “You’ve only pub­lished one-tenth of Churchill’s sto­ry!” Sir Mar­tin replied: “Real­ly? That much?”

4 thoughts on “How Many Words Did Sir Winston Churchill Write?

  1. Thank-you for your good thoughts. Alas copies of the Col­lect­ed Essays (4 vols., 1975) are rare and expen­sive. But some­body is going to do some­thing about that, with an e-book ver­sion as well–and con­tain­ing all the unknown essays NOT includ­ed in the orig­i­nal 4vols.
    Just a mat­ter of time. Watch this space for a link to an upcom­ing arti­cle on the Hills­dale Churchill site about the many lit­tle-known Churchill fore­words, pref­aces and con­tri­bu­tions to books by oth­er authors.

  2. Par­don me for this qua­si non~sequitur: I can­not find an afford­able or eas­i­ly acces­si­ble edi­tion of “The Col­lect­ed Essays of Sir Win­ston Churchill”. (I can hard­ly believe that in this age unlim­it­ed mass pub­li­ca­tion it is near impos­si­ble to obtain these vol­umes at a major library, to say noth­ing of pur­chas­ing them (for any­thing less than 1500 quid). I am search­ing for “This Age of Gov­ern­ment by Great Dic­ta­tors” (1937) to include it in a read­er for a course on mod­ern pol­i­tics. The most pro­lif­ic and wise states­man of last 2 cen­turies and one comes to grief search­ing for what is per­haps an obscure but authen­tic & impor­tant his­tor­i­cal and polit­i­cal dis­course!

  3. He wrote no such book or arti­cle. He enjoyed using arcane expres­sions, but he chose them well. Receiv­ing The Times Lit­er­ary Award in 1949, he said: “Broad­ly speak­ing, short words are best, and the old words, when short, are best of all.”

    My book, Churchill by Him­self (lat­est edi­tion Churchill in his Own Words) con­tains a chap­ter on “Churchillisms”—unique phras­es and some words he invent­ed: Bot­tlescape, Byss, Choate, Chum­bol­ly, Destrigu­late, Dis­ap­pear­age, Fearthought, Gospeller, Klop, Nam­sosed, Pox Bri­tan­ni­ca, Queue­topia, Sofari-Sogoody, Triphib­ian, Unsor­did!

  4. i under­stand churchill wrote a book that con­tained the most dif­fer­ent Eng­lish words than any oth­er book writ­ten. if you know of it could you please tell me?

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