Churchill, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer
In 1900 he entered the House of Commons as a Conservative but crossed the floor within four years to join the Liberals on the issue of free trade. Returned as a Liberal at the next election, he gained his first ministerial experience under Campbell-Bannerman as under-secretary for the colonies. Asquith brought him into the cabinet at the age of 33 as president of the Board of Trade (1908) and moved him to the Home Office before he had reached the age of 35 (1910). By now Churchill had married Clementine Hozier (1908)—to whom he proposed four times before he won acceptance. She provided him with a stable emotional base for the rest of his life. Meanwhile, along with Lloyd George, he played a major part in laying the foundations of the welfare state by establishing labour exchanges and social insurance. His tenure of the Home Office, on the other hand, is remembered for the myth that he sent troops to Wales to crush the striking miners of Tonypandy (1910) and for his appearance at the siege of Sidney Street (1911).
In 1911 he became 1st lord of the Admiralty and a historical figure of significance for the first time. Completing the work of the recently retired Admiral Fisher, he replaced dreadnoughts with super-dreadnoughts, established a naval air service, and began the conversion of the fleet from coal to oil. In the words of historian M. D. R. Foot, ‘the outbreak of war in 1914 found much the world's strongest fleet fully mobilised at its war stations, and able to exercise an international impact, which, over four and a quarter years proved decisive. It was as much Fisher's achievement as Churchill's, but neither could have achieved as much as he did without the other.’
Having the fleet ready was one of Churchill's contributions to the British war effort between 1914 and 1918. Another was the part he played in the development of the tank. However, he was remembered most of all for conceiving the 1915 Dardanelles campaign, designed to shorten the war by removing Turkey and allowing the western allies to link up with Russia. Approved by the war cabinet and given the half-hearted support of Fisher (who had been recalled in 1914 but who in Churchill's own words ‘went mad’ the following year), the attack on Gallipoli failed due to naval delays and the lack of troops to effect a surprise landing. In its wake, Asquith was forced to form a coalition with the Conservatives, who loathed Churchill as a renegade, and had him transferred to become chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. Lacking any influence over the course of the war, Churchill resigned and took command of a battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers in France. A few months later he was recalled by Lloyd George to become minister of munitions, although his influence on events remained minimal. Between 1918 and 1920 he was secretary of state for war and air, in which capacity he was responsible for running down the planned post-war Royal Air Force from 154 squadrons to 24, with only two for home defence. He was also responsible for ensuring that demobilization proceeded peacefully, a task which he fulfilled successfully. His attempts, on the other hand, to persuade his colleagues to overthrow the Bolsheviks in Russia were unsuccessful. Intervention did take place—to prevent allied stores falling into German hands—but Churchill had to organize the withdrawal of British troops. His true instincts, however, became well known and played their part in building up his image as an arch-enemy of the organized working class. The Tonypandy myth, plus his role during the 1926 General Strike, helped consolidate this reputation.
In 1921 he became colonial secretary and made a treaty with the Irish Free State. He also negotiated a peace settlement with the Arabs, advised by T. E. Lawrence. Although he opposed Lloyd George's policy towards the Turks, he gave his prime minister vociferous support over the Chanak crisis of 1922. When the coalition fell a few months later, he was defeated in the 1922 election and began work on his history of the First World War, the first volume of which was published in 1923 (it was completed in 1931). A friend quipped: ‘Winston has written an enormous book about himself and called it The World Crisis.’
Returning to the Commons in October 1924, he was offered the chancellorship of the Exchequer by Baldwin and rejoined the Conservative Party. In 1925 he put Great Britain back on the gold standard, unfortunately at the pre-war parity of £1 = $1, which was of little help to British exporters. Three years later he introduced the ‘ten-year rule’, whereby the service estimates would be prepared on the assumption that no war was likely for the next ten years. Meanwhile, he was only prevented from running down the navy as he had already run down the RAF by the threatened resignation of the entire Board of Admiralty. Even so, much of the grand fleet he had controlled before 1914 was broken up. In the General Strike of 1926, he took overall command of the government newspaper the British Gazette. This reinforced the hostility of organized labour towards him, but in fact he was not as bellicose against the miners as people assumed. Churchill's star, however, was set to wane. With the fall of Baldwin's government in 1929, he was out of office for the next ten years.
Churchill himself turned the 1930s into his wilderness years by choosing to wander in the political desert. His attacks on constitutional progress in India, inspired by a romantic vision of the India of his youth, and his defence of Edward VIII found little response among a British public used to the idea of independent dominions and determined not to have an American divorcee as queen at any price. Nor was Churchill able to capture the public imagination as the ideological foe of fascism. He admired Mussolini and sympathized with Franco during the Spanish Civil War. Finally, on the great economic questions of the day—unemployment, protection, recovery—he had little to say, unlike Lloyd George, who in the words of A. J. P. Taylor ‘produced a rich stock of creative ideas’.
In the 1930s, however, Churchill did take up the cause of resistance to Nazi Germany. There were many obstacles to this and British governments were all too well aware of them: pacifist sentiment after the First World War; belief in the League of Nations; sympathy for Germany's desire to rewrite the treaty of Versailles; not least, fear of the bomber. The Treasury in particular opposed rearmament, also with good cause: America's refusal to provide loans; war debts from the First World War; fear of inflation and the crowding-out of civilian investment; difficulties with management and labour if the economy had to be directed; a possible taxpayers' revolt; the lack of sufficient gold and foreign currency reserves to import both food and raw materials in wartime. After a year of war, Britain, it predicted, would be bankrupt. The chiefs of staff, for their part, advised that it would be impossible to fight a war on three fronts simultaneously against Germany, Italy, and Japan around the globe. Britain would simply lose. The Foreign Office, finally, asked just who our allies were going to be. America was neutral, the dominions unpredictable, and even if the Soviets could be brought in, an alliance with them might push Franco into the arms of the axis and close off the Mediterranean. The appeasers, therefore, had a good case. Churchill, on the other hand, was a sort of appeaser too. He did not believe that war was inevitable and knew that Hitler wanted Britain as an ally. However, he believed that a grand alliance against the dictator would make him moderate his plans, at which stage his grievances could be considered. If not, perhaps he could be overthrown before it came to war. But if Germany would not see reason, then war it would be. He envisaged that war, however, as one in which Britain would make her contribution with sea and air power. He thought a continental army a mistake.
When war came, Churchill returned to the Admiralty, although he acted as if he were already prime minister. Almost immediately he became involved in a madcap scheme to send an expeditionary force to Norway, ostensibly to help save Finland from the Russians, but in practice to cut off Swedish iron ore from the Germans. The lack of air cover, however, meant that the whole campaign was a disaster. Ironically, Chamberlain was blamed and Churchill became prime minister at the head of a national government.
As leader, Churchill was a mixture of ruthlessness and impetuosity. Concerned to do everything possible to win the war, in practice he had few means of doing so. Still, he did what he could, which meant the bombing offensive, plus the Mediterranean campaign. Determined to have action, he prodded and sacked his generals and made many mistakes—sinking the French fleet at Oran, invading Greece, defending Crete, neglecting the Far East. Yet his position as prime minister was secure, since he had become in the summer of 1940 the spirit of British resistance incarnate, defying the Nazis with speeches of supreme eloquence that reflected the emotional mood of the nation precisely. His real hope of victory depended on the entry of the USA, and when that happened, Churchill persuaded the Americans both to make Europe the primary theatre of the war and to participate in the north African campaign. When Hitler attacked Stalin, he immediately offered aid to the Soviets, his only war aim being the destruction of Nazi Germany. Towards the end of the war, in October 1944, aware of US plans to send their troops home once the war was over, he signed the Percentages agreement with Stalin, dividing the Balkans into spheres of influence and saving Greece from communism.
As war leader, Churchill had little time for the home front. Nor was he much interested in post-war planning. When the Beveridge Report was published in 1942, he doubted whether a bankrupt Britain would be able to afford the welfare state which it envisaged. In any case, he had left domestic affairs to Attlee and his Labour colleagues, which proved a mistake. For it was to them that the electorate turned in July 1945 once victory had been secured over Germany. Churchill was still adored and respected, but the voters guessed that he was not the man for post-war reconstruction. As leader of the Conservative Party and of the opposition, on the other hand, he was more politically secure than he had ever been before in peacetime. His voice continued to be heard in international affairs and, just as he had warned against the rising threat from Hitler, he now warned against the ‘iron curtain’ which was descending over Europe. He also spoke out in favour of a united Europe, although he never meant that Britain should be part of it.
In 1951 he returned as prime minister. He was now 77 years old, had suffered two strokes, and would suffer two more. Yet his government was highly successful. Eden shone as foreign secretary, Macmillan built a record number of council houses, and nothing was done to undermine the welfare state, inherited from Labour. Churchill attempted to arrange a summit conference with the Soviets after the death of Stalin in 1953, but Eisenhower would hear none of it. He in turn rejected Eisenhower's request the following year to involve the British in Vietnam to save the French. In April 1955 he agreed to retire as prime minister, completing a career without equal among democratic politicians. He was Father of the House of Commons when he gave up his seat in 1964 and died the following year. Churchill was given a state funeral, and buried in Bladon churchyard on the Blenheim estate. No attempts to revise or belittle his reputation have yet proved successful.
Gilbert, M. , Churchill: A Life (New York, 1991);
Sked, A., and and Cook, C. , Post-War Britain: A Political History, 1945–1992 (Harmondsworth, 1993).
JOHN CANNON. "Churchill, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer." The Oxford Companion to British History. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. (May 26, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O110-ChurchillSrWnstnLnrdSpncr.html
JOHN CANNON. "Churchill, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer." The Oxford Companion to British History. 2002. Retrieved May 26, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O110-ChurchillSrWnstnLnrdSpncr.html
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill
The English statesman and author Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (1874-1965) led Britain during World War II and is often described as the "savior of his country."
Sir Winston Churchill's exact place in the political history of the 20th century is, and will continue to be, a subject of debate and polemical writing. Where he succeeded, and how much he personally had to do with that success, and where he failed, and why, remain to be established. That he was a political figure of enormous influence and importance, belonging in many ways to an age earlier than the 20th century, and that he fitted uneasily into the constraints of British party politics until his moment came in 1940 are not in doubt. Until recently his reputation during the years from 1940 onward was scarcely questioned. But now historians are beginning to reassess his career in just the same way as Churchill himself tried to revise T. B. Macaulay's account of the Duke of Marlborough by writing a multivolumed Life of his distinguished ancestor (completed in 1938).
Churchill's record both before 1939 and after 1945 was for the most part undistinguished. But as Anthony Storr writes: "In 1940 Churchill became the hero that he had always dreamed of being. … In that dark time, what England needed was not a shrewd, equable, balanced leader. She needed a prophet, a heroic visionary, a man who could dream dreams of victory when all seemed lost. Winston Churchill was such a man; and his inspirational quality owed its dynamic force to the romantic world of phantasy in which he had his true being."
Winston Churchill was born on Nov. 30, 1874, at Blenheim Palace—the home given by Queen Anne to his ancestor the Duke of Marlborough. He was the eldest son of Lord Randolph Churchill, a Tory Democrat who achieved early success as a rebel in his party but who later failed and was cruelly described as "a man with a brilliant future behind him." His mother was Jenny Jerome, the beautiful and talented daughter of Leonard Jerome, a New York businessman.
Winston was conventionally educated following the norms of his class. He went to preparatory school, then to Harrow (1888), then to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. He was neither happy nor successful at school. Winston idolized his mother, but his relations with his father, who died in 1895, were cold and distant. It is generally agreed that as a child Winston was deprived of openly expressed warmth and affection.
Churchill very early exhibited the physical courage and love of adventure and action that he was to keep throughout his political career. His first role was that of a soldier-journalist. Having joined the 4th Hussars in 1895, he immediately went to Cuba to write about the Spanish army for the Daily Graphic. He took part in the repulse of the insurgents who tried to cross the Spanish line at Trochem. In 1896 he was in India, and while on the North-West Frontier with the Malakand Field Force he began work on a novel, Savrola, a Tale of the Revolution in Laurania, which was published in 1900. More important, however, were his accounts of the military campaigns in which he participated. A book about the North-West Frontier and the Malakand Field Force was followed by a book about the reconquest of the Sudan (1899), in which he had also taken part. He went to Africa during the Boer War as a journalist for the Morning Post, and the most romantic of his escapades as a youth was his escape from a South African prison during this conflict.
In 1899 Churchill lost in his first attempt at election to the House of Commons. This was to be the first of many defeats in elections and by-elections during his career—he lost more elections than any other political figure in recent British history. But in 1900 he entered the House of Commons, in which he served intermittently until 1964. Throughout this long span his presence and oratory exercised a magnetic attraction in an institution he always refused to leave for the House of Lords.
Churchill's early years in politics were characterized by an interest in the radical reform of social problems. In 1905 he completed a biography of his father, which is perhaps his best book. Lord Randolph had tried to give coherence and organization to a popular socially oriented Toryism; Churchill carried that effort into the Liberal party, which he had joined in 1904 because of his disagreement with the revived demands for protectionism by the Chamberlain section of the Tory party. The major intellectual achievement of this period of Churchill's life was his Liberalism and the Social Problem (1909). In this work he stated his creed: "Liberalism seeks to raise up poverty. … Liberalism would preserve private interests in the only way in which they can be safely and justly preserved, namely by reconciling them with public right." Churchill was very active in the great reforming government of Lord Asquith between 1908 and 1912, and his work in palliating unemployment was especially significant.
In 1912 Churchill became first lord of the Admiralty—the range of offices which he held was as remarkable as the number of elections which he lost. He switched his enthusiasm away from butter toward guns, and his goal was the preparation of Britain's fleet for impending war. While at the Admiralty, Churchill suffered a major setback. He became committed to the view that the navy could best make an impact on the 1914-1918 war in Europe by way of a swift strike through the Dardanelles. This strategy proved unsuccessful, however, and Churchill lost his Admiralty post. In 1916 he was back in the army and served for a time on the front lines in France.
Churchill soon reentered political life. Kept out of the Lloyd George War Cabinet by conservative hostility to his style and philosophy, by 1921 Churchill held a post in the Colonial Office. A clash with Mustapha Kemal in Turkey, however, did not help his reputation, and in 1922 he lost his seat in the House of Commons. The Conservative party gained power for the first time since 1905, and Churchill now began long-term isolation, with few friends in any part of the political spectrum.
In 1924 Churchill severed his ties with liberalism and became chancellor of the Exchequer in Stanley Baldwin's government. His decision to put Britain back on the gold standard was a controversial one, attacked by the economist John Maynard Keynes, among others. Although he held office under Baldwin, Churchill did not agree with the Conservative position either on defense or on imperialism. In 1931 he resigned from the Conservative "shadow cabinet" as a protest against its Indian policy. Ever the romantic imperialist, he did not want to cast away "that most truly bright and precious jewel in the crown of the King." Baldwin and he also disagreed on how to react to the crisis caused by the abdication of King Edward VIII.
Churchill's interwar years were characterized by political isolation, and during this period he made many errors and misjudgments, among them his bellicosity over the general strike of 1926. Thus he cannot be viewed simply as a popular leader who was kept waiting in the wings through no fault of his own. In fact, it is not completely evident that he was aware of the nature of the fascist threat during the 1930s.
World War II
The major period of Churchill's political career began when he became prime minister and head of the Ministry of Defense early in World War II. "I felt as if I was walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour," he wrote in the first volume of his account of the war. (This account was later published in six volumes from 1948 to 1953). His finest hour and that of the British people coincided. His leadership, which was expressed in noble speeches and ceaseless personal activity, stated precisely what Britain needed to survive through the years before United States entry into the war.
The evacuation of Dunkirk and the air defense of the Battle of Britain have become legend, but there were and are controversies over Churchill's policies. It has been argued that Churchill's oversensitivity to the Mediterranean as a theater of war led to mistakes in Crete and North Africa. The value of his resistance to the idea of a second front as the Germans advanced into Russia has also been questioned. And there has been considerable debate over the wisdom of the course he pursued at international conferences (such as those at Yalta in February 1945) which reached agreements responsible in large part for the "cold war" of the 1950s and 1960s. But although criticisms may be made of Churchill's policies, his importance as a symbol of resistance and as an inspiration to victory cannot be challenged.
The final period of Churchill's career began with his rejection by the British people at the general election of 1945. At that election 393 Labour candidates were elected members of Parliament as against 213 Conservatives and their allies. It was one of the most striking reversals of fortune in democratic history. It may perhaps be explained by Churchill's aggressive vituperation during the campaign combined with the electorate's desire for patient social reconstruction rather than for a return to prewar economic mismanagement.
In 1951, however, Churchill again became prime minister. He resigned in April 1955 after an uneventful term in office. For many of the later years of his life, even his iron constitution was not strong enough to resist the persistent cerebral arteriosclerosis from which he suffered. He died on Jan. 24, 1965, and was given a state funeral, the details of which had been largely dictated by himself before his death.
Churchill's own works, combining a very personal perspective with grand historical themes, are written with great style and lucidity. They include The World Crisis (6 vols., 1923-1931), an account of World War I; The Second World War (6 vols., 1948-1953); and the less satisfactory but sometimes elegant History of the English Speaking Peoples (4 vols., 1956-1958).
An official multivolume biography of vast scope, with separate companion volumes of documents, was started by Churchill's son, Randolph S. Churchill: Winston S. Churchill, vol. 1: Youth, 1874-1900 (1966); Winston S. Churchill: Companion Volume I, pts. 1 and 2 (1967); Winston S. Churchill, vol. 2: Young Statesman, 1901-1914 (1967). The best introductory assessment of Churchill is A. J. P. Taylor and others, eds., Churchill Revised: A Critical Assessment (1969), a volume of essays. For the best example of what will be a growing industry of revisionism on Churchill's reputation see Robert Rhodes James, Churchill: A Study in Failure, 1900-1939 (1970).
There are many other studies of Churchill: Alan Moorehead, Winston Churchill in Trial and Triumph (1955); Alfred L. Rowse, The Churchills (2 vols., 1956-1958; 1 vol., 1966); Herbert Feis, Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin: The War They Waged and the Peace They Sought (1957; rev. ed. 1966); American Heritage, Churchill: The Life Triumphant; the Historical Record of Ninety Years (1965); Malcolm Thomson, Churchill: His Life and Times (rev. ed. 1965; published 1949 as Life and Times of Winston Churchill); Charles McMoran Wilson Moran, Churchill: The Struggle for Survival, 1940-1965, Taken from the Diaries of Lord Moran (1966); Kenneth Young, Churchill and Beaverbrook: A Study in Friendship and Politics (1966); Brian Gardner, Churchill in His Time: A Study in Reputation, 1939-1945 (1968); Dennis Bardens, Churchill in Parliament (1969); and John Wheeler-Bennett, Action This Day: Working with Churchill (1969). Harold MacMillan's memoirs have much material on Churchill: Winds of Change, 1914-1939 (1966); The Blast of War, 1939-1945 (1967); and Tides of Fortune, 1945-1955 (1969).
Charmley, John, Churchill, the end of glory: a political biography, New York: Harcourt Brace, 1993.
Churchill, Winston S. (Winston Spencer), Memories and adventures, New York: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1989.
Churchill, Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Gilbert, Martin, Churchill: a life, London: Heinemann, 1991.
Pelling, Henry, Winston Churchill, Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan, 1989.
Robbins, Keith, Churchill, London; New York: Longman, 1992.
Rose, Norman, Churchill: the unruly giant, New York: Free Press, 1995.
Sandys, Celia, The young Churchill: the early years of Winston Churchill, New York: Dutton, 1995.
Soames, Mary, Winston Churchill: his life as a painter: a memoir by his daughter, London: Collins, 1990.
Winston Churchill: resolution, defiance, magnanimity, good will, Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1996. □
"Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. (May 26, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404701365.html
"Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. Retrieved May 26, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404701365.html
Born: November 30, 1874
Died: January 24, 1965
English prime minister, statesman, and author
The English statesman and author Sir Winston Churchill led Britain during World War II (1939–45) and is often described as the "savior of his country." Sir Winston Churchill's exact place in the political history of the twentieth century is, and will continue to be, a subject of debate. But his strong personality and forceful determination made him a popular figure during the war years.
Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born on November 30, 1874, at Blenheim Palace—a home given by Queen Anne to Churchill's ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough. He was the eldest son of Lord Randolph Churchill, a Tory Democrat (a British political party) who achieved early success as a rebel in his party. Later, after Randolph Churchill failed, he was cruelly described as "a man with a brilliant future behind him." His mother was Jenny Jerome, the beautiful and talented daughter of Leonard Jerome, a New York businessman. Winston idolized his mother, but his relations with his father, who died in 1895, were cold and distant. It is generally agreed that as a child Winston was not shown warmth and affection by his family.
As a child Churchill was sensitive and suffered from a minor speech impediment. He was educated following the norms of his class. He first went to preparatory school, then to Harrow in 1888 when he was twelve years old. Winston was not especially interested in studying Latin or mathematics and spent much time studying in the lowest level courses until he passed the tests and was able to advance. He received a good education in English, however, and won a prize for reading aloud a portion of Thomas Macaulay's (1800–1859) Lays of Ancient Rome (1842). After finishing at Harrow, Winston failed the entrance test for the Royal Military College at Sandhurst three times before finally passing and being allowed to attend the school. His academic record improved a great deal once he began at the college. When he graduated in 1894 he was eighth in his class.
Very early on Churchill demonstrated the physical courage and love of adventure and action that he kept throughout his political career. His first role was that of a soldier-journalist. In 1895 he went to Cuba to write about the Spanish army for the Daily Graphic. In 1896 he was in India, and while on the North-West Frontier with the Malakand Field Force he began work on a novel, Savrola: A Tale of the Revolution in Laurania. The book was published in 1900.
More important, however, were Churchill's accounts of the military campaigns in which he participated. Savrola was followed by a book about the reconquest of the Sudan (1899), in which he had also taken part. As a journalist for the Morning Post, he went to Africa during the Boer War (1899–1902), where British forces fought against Dutch forces in South Africa. The most romantic of his adventures as a youth was his escape from a South African prison during this conflict.
In 1899 Churchill lost in his first attempt at election to the House of Commons, one of two bodies controlling Parliament in England. This was to be the first of many defeats in elections, as Churchill lost more elections than any other political figure in recent British history. But in 1900 he entered the House of Commons, in which he served off and on until 1964.
Churchill's early years in politics were characterized by an interest in the radical reform (improvement) of social problems. The major intellectual achievement of this period of Churchill's life was his Liberalism and the Social Problem (1909). In this work he stated his belief in liberalism, or political views that stress civil rights and the use of government to promote social progress. Churchill was very active in the great reforming government of Lord Asquith between 1908 and 1912, and his work fighting unemployment was especially significant.
In 1912 Churchill became first lord of the Admiralty, the department of British government that controls the naval fleet. He switched his enthusiasm away from social reform to prepare Britain's fleet for a war that threatened Europe. While at the Admiralty, Churchill suffered a major setback. He became committed to the view that the navy could best make an impact on the war in Europe (1914–18) by way of a swift strike through the Dardanelles, a key waterway in central Europe. This strategy proved unsuccessful, however, and Churchill lost his Admiralty post. In 1916 he was back in the army, serving for a time on the front lines in France.
Churchill soon reentered political life. He was kept out of the Lloyd George War Cabinet by conservative hostility toward his style and philosophy. But by 1921 Churchill held a post as a colonial secretary. A clash with Turkish president Kemal Atatürk, however, did not help his reputation, and in 1922 he lost his seat in the House of Commons. The Conservative Party gained power for the first time since 1905, and Churchill began a long-term isolation, with few political allies.
In 1924 Churchill severed his ties with liberalism and became chancellor of the Exchequer (British treasury) in Stanley Baldwin's (1867–1947) government. Churchill raised controversy when he decided to put Britain back on the gold standard, a system where currency equals the value of a specified amount of gold. Although he held office under Baldwin, Churchill did not agree with his position either on defense or on imperialism, Britain's policy of ruling over its colonies. In 1931 he resigned from the conservative "shadow cabinet" in protest against its Indian policy.
Churchill's years between world wars were characterized by political isolation. During this period he made many errors and misjudgments. Chief among these was his warlike approach to the general strike of 1926. Thus, he cannot be viewed simply as a popular leader who was kept waiting in the wings through no fault of his own.
World War II
The major period of Churchill's political career began when he became prime minister and head of the Ministry of Defense early in World War II, when British and American Allies fought against the Axis of Germany, Italy, and Japan.
"I felt as if I was walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour," Churchill wrote in the first volume of his account of the war. (This account was later published in six volumes from 1948 to 1953.) His finest hour and that of the British people came at the same time. His leadership, which was expressed in noble speeches and constant personal activity, stated precisely what Britain needed to survive through the years before the United States entered the war.
The evacuation of Dunkirk and the air defense of the Battle of Britain became legend, but there were and are controversies over Churchill's policies. It has been argued that Churchill was too sensitive to the Mediterranean as a theater of war, which led to mistakes in Crete and North Africa. The value of his resistance to the idea of a second front as the Germans advanced into Russia has also been questioned. And there has been considerable debate over the courses he pursued at international conferences, such as those at Yalta in February 1945.
Many believed some of Churchill's policies were responsible for the "cold war" of the 1950s and 1960s, where relations between Eastern Communist powers and Western powers came to a standstill over, among other things, nuclear arms. Although criticisms may be made of Churchill's policies, his importance as a symbol of resistance and as an inspiration to victory cannot be challenged.
The final period of Churchill's career began with the British people rejecting him in the general election of 1945. In that election 393 Labour candidates were elected members of Parliament against 213 Conservatives and their allies. It was one of the most striking reversals of fortune in democratic history. It may perhaps be explained by Churchill's aggressive campaign combined with the British voters' desire for social reconstruction.
In 1951, however, Churchill again became prime minister. He resigned in April 1955 after an uneventful term in office. For many of the later years of his life, even his personal strength was not enough to resist the persistent cerebral arteriosclerosis, a brain disorder, from which he suffered. He died on January 24, 1965, and was given a state funeral, the details of which had been largely dictated by himself before his death.
There is little doubt that Winston Churchill was a political figure of enormous influence and importance. His record, both before 1939 and after 1945, was for the most part undistinguished. But as Anthony Storr writes: "In 1940 Churchill became the hero that he had always dreamed of being.… In that dark time, what England needed was not a shrewd, equable, balanced leader. She needed a prophet, a heroic visionary, a man who could dream dreams of victory when all seemed lost. Winston Churchill was such a man."
For More Information
Charmley, John. Churchill, The End of Glory: A Political Biography. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1993.
Churchill, Winston S. Memories and Adventures. New York: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1989.
Gilbert, Martin. Churchill: A Life. London: Heinemann, 1991.
Manchester, William. The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Alone 1932–1940. Boston: Little, Brown, 1988.
Manchester, William. The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Visions of Glory, 1874–1932. Boston: Little, Brown, 1988.
"Churchill, Winston." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. (May 26, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3437500208.html
"Churchill, Winston." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2003. Retrieved May 26, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3437500208.html
Churchill, Winston 1874-1965
Winston Churchill was a British politician, writer, and orator. He is best remembered for his opposition to the appeasement of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, for his inspirational leadership of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, and for his warnings about the dangers of Soviet expansionism in 1946.
Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire on November 30, 1874, the eldest son of the Conservative politician Lord Randolph Churchill and his American wife, Jennie. His grandfather was the Seventh Duke of Marlborough and, despite his half American parentage, he had a very traditional British aristocratic upbringing, attending boarding schools from the age of seven at Ascot, Brighton, and Harrow. His behavior was often willful and rebellious and although his academic performance was not exceptional, when engaged he could show considerable ability. His passion was for the army, and in 1893 he was admitted to the officer training school at Sandhurst. The death of Lord Randolph in January 1895 had an enormous effect on the young Churchill, motivating him to prove himself as a worthy son.
Between 1895 and 1899 Churchill saw active military service in Cuba, India, and the Sudan. He used the periods between campaigns to improve his general education, and wrote up his military experiences as newspaper articles and books in order to earn fame and fortune. He was determined to enter politics and left the army to unsuccessfully contest the seat of Oldham in 1899. A few months later he became a war correspondent, covering the conflict between the British and the Boer republics in South Africa. He was captured, but managed to escape. This adventure made him an international celebrity and ensured his election to Parliament in 1900.
Churchill began his political life as a Conservative. Yet when the Conservative Party began to move away from the policy of free trade toward one of tariff protection, Churchill refused to move with them and dramatically crossed the floor of the House of Commons to become a Liberal. He rose rapidly within his new party, becoming a government minister in 1908. The Liberal government introduced social change at home, while wrestling with increasing international tension abroad. Churchill was responsible for basic unemployment insurance and oversaw improvements in prison conditions. There were always clear limits to his radicalism. He was a strong opponent of socialism, took a tough line against industrial unrest, and opposed the campaign of the female suffrage movement.
By the outbreak of World War I in 1914 Churchill was the minister with responsibility for the British navy, a role he clearly relished. Unfortunately, his determination to bring the fleet into action led to his support for the disastrous Dardanelles campaign, during which attempts were made by British submarines to pass through the Dardanelles and disrupt Ottoman Empire shipping in the Sea of Marmara. Churchill lost his job, but after a brief spell in the trenches on the western front, was brought back as a member of Lloyd George’s national government, serving in a succession of government posts until the fall of the administration in 1921.
Churchill became increasingly concerned with the spread of communism abroad and socialism at home. He broke with the Liberal Party and rejoined the Conservatives, serving as chancellor of the Exchequer from 1924 until 1929. He was undoubtedly a great public figure but many regarded him as past his prime. A lifelong defender of the British Empire, Churchill was out of sympathy with mainstream political thinking over his opposition to greater independence for India. He found himself excluded from the national governments of the 1930s and was forced to spend time at Chartwell, his beloved home, writing history. From 1933 onward he became increasingly concerned by the threat posed to Europe by a revived militaristic Germany under Adolf Hitler’s national socialist regime, and was a vocal opponent of the Western powers’ policy of appeasement toward the fascist dictator. In the aftermath of the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, public opinion shifted decisively behind Churchill and when Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had no choice but to bring him back into the government as First Lord of the Admiralty.
Churchill became prime minister of a national government on May 10, 1940, the day that Hitler launched his blitzkrieg offensive against France and the Low Countries. The next few months saw him lead Britain during a period of crisis, when, following the collapse of France, Britain faced the threat of invasion and was subjected to the full onslaught of the German air force. Churchill’s great achievement was to imbue his administration and, through the power of his oratory, the wider British public with the will to resist. He turned himself into an iconic figure, with his trademark cigar, bow tie, and two-fingered “Victory” salute. Behind the scenes, he worked hard to win increasing support from the United States. Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he engaged in difficult shuttle diplomacy to build and sustain the Grand Alliance with Soviet political leader Joseph Stalin and President Franklin D. Roosevelt. His stature remained high, even as Britain’s war contribution paled beside that of the United States and Soviet Union. Put simply, his policy was to take the offensive and to strive for victory.
There is no doubt that Churchill expected to win the general election of 1945, but the Conservatives were defeated by the Labour Party, and he found himself out of office. He remained a major figure on the international stage, and in March 1946 he used his stature to warn of the dangers of Soviet expansionism in his famous “Iron Curtain” speech delivered at Fulton, Missouri. He also called for European reconciliation and spoke in support of the nascent United Europe movement. Not yet ready to retire from public life, he published his account of The Second World War (1948-1954) before winning a further term as prime minister in 1951. His policy was to call for summit discussions with the Soviet Union while building up Britain’s nuclear force and strengthening relations with the United States. Ill health finally forced his retirement in 1955. His reputation now secure, he published his A History of the English-Speaking Peoples (1956-1958). In the last two decades of his life he received many honors, including knighthood, the Nobel Prize in Literature, and honorary American citizenship.
Sir Winston Churchill died on January 24, 1965, seventy years to the day after the death of his father. He was given a state funeral and is buried in Bladon parish churchyard, within sight of his birthplace at Blenheim.
SEE ALSO Chamberlain, Neville; Conservative Party (Britain); Hitler, Adolf; Iron Curtain; Stalin, Joseph; Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; World War I; World War II
Brendon, Piers. 1984. Winston Churchill: A Brief Life. New York: Harper and Row.
Churchill, Randolph S., and Sir Martin Gilbert. 1966-88. Winston S. Churchill. 8 vols. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Jenkins, Roy. 2001. Churchill: A Biography. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
Reynolds, David. 2004. In Command of History. London: Allen Lane.
"Churchill, Winston." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 2008. Encyclopedia.com. (May 26, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3045300335.html
"Churchill, Winston." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 2008. Retrieved May 26, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3045300335.html
Churchill, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer (British statesman, soldier, and author)
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, 1874–1965, British statesman, soldier, and author; son of Lord Randolph Churchill.
Educated at Harrow and Sandhurst, he became (1894) an officer in the 4th hussars. On leave in 1895, he saw his first military action in Cuba as a reporter for London's Daily Graphic. He served in India and in 1898 fought at Omdurman in Sudan under Kitchener. Having resigned his commission, he was sent (1899) to cover the South African War by the Morning Post, and his accounts of his capture and imprisonment by the Boers and his escape raised him to the forefront of English journalists.
Early Government Posts
Churchill was elected to Parliament as a Conservative in 1900, but he subsequently switched to the Liberal party and was appointed undersecretary for the colonies in the cabinet of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. Under Asquith, he was initially (1908–10) president of the Board of Trade, then home secretary (1910–11), and championed innovative labor exchange and old-age pension acts. As first lord of the admiralty (1911), he presided over the naval expansion that preceded World War I.
Discredited by the failure of the Dardanelles expedition, which he had championed, Churchill lost (1915) his admiralty post and served on the front lines in France. Returning to office under Lloyd George, he served as minister of munitions (1917) and secretary of state for war and for air (1918–21). As colonial secretary (1921–22), he helped negotiate the treaty that set up the Irish Free State.
After two defeats at the polls he returned to the House of Commons, as a Constitutionalist, and became (1924–29) chancellor of the exchequer in Stanley Baldwin's Conservative government. As an advocate of laissez-faire economics, he was strongly criticized by John Maynard Keynes. Churchill was not a financial innovator; he basically followed conventional advice from his colleagues. Nevertheless, Churchill's decision to return the country to the prewar gold standard increased unemployment and was a cause of the general strike of 1926. He advocated aggressive action to end the strike, and thus earned the lasting distrust of the labor movement.
World War II
Out of office from 1929 to 1939, Churchill wrote and remained in the public eye with his support for Edward VIII during the abdication crisis of 1936 and with his extreme distaste for the actions of Mohandas Gandhi and his vehement opposition to the Indian nationalist movement. He also issued warnings of the threat from Nazi Germany that went unheeded, in part because of his past political and military misjudgments. When World War II broke out (Sept., 1939), Neville Chamberlain appointed him first lord of the admiralty. The following May, when Chamberlain was forced to resign, Churchill became prime minister.
Churchill was a great orator, and his grand rhetorical style was particularly suited to the terrible struggle England faced. His energy, his will to fight on whatever the cost, and his stubborn public refusal to make peace until Adolf Hitler was crushed were crucial in rallying and maintaining British resistance to Germany during the grim years from 1940 to 1942. He met President Franklin Roosevelt at sea (see Atlantic Charter) before the entry of the United States into the war, twice addressed the U.S. Congress (Dec., 1941; May, 1942), twice went to Moscow (Aug., 1942; May, 1944), visited battle fronts, and attended a long series of international conferences (see Casablanca Conference; Quebec Conference; Cairo Conference; Tehran Conference; Yalta Conference; Potsdam Conference).
The Postwar Period
The British nation supported the vigorous program of Churchill's coalition cabinet until after the surrender of Germany. Then in July, 1945, Britain's desire for rapid social reform led to a Labour electoral victory, and Churchill became leader of the opposition. In 1946, on a visit to the United States, he made a controversial speech at Fulton, Mo., in which he warned of the expansive tendencies of the USSR (he had distrusted the Soviet government since its inception, when he had been a leading advocate of Western intervention to overthrow it) and coined the expression "Iron Curtain." Nonetheless, in the early 1950s he attempted to reach some sort of understanding with Stalin, but was unsuccessful largely due to the strong anti-Communist stance of the United States.
As prime minister again from 1951 until his resignation in 1955, he ended nationalization of the steel and auto industries but maintained most other socialist measures instituted by the Labour government. In 1953 Churchill was knighted, and awarded the 1953 Nobel Prize in Literature for his writing and oratory. His biographical and autobiographical works include Lord Randolph Churchill (1906), My Early Life: A Roving Commission (1930), and the study of his ancestor Marlborough (4 vol., 1933–38). World Crisis (4 vol., 1923–29) is his account of World War I. The Second World War (6 vol., 1948–53) was followed by A History of the English-speaking Peoples (4 vol., 1956–58). Churchill retained a seat in Parliament until 1964. He refused a peerage, but his widow, Clementine Ogilvy Hozier (married 1908), accepted one in 1965 for her charitable work.
Character and Influence
Churchill was undoubtedly one of the greatest public figures of the 20th cent. Extraordinary vitality, imagination, and boldness characterized his whole career. His weaknesses, such as his opposition (except in the case of Ireland) to the expansion of colonial self-government, and his strengths, evidenced by his brilliant war leadership, sprang from the same source—the will to maintain Britain as a great power and a great democracy.
See his speeches, ed. by R. R. James (8 vol., 1974) and D. Cannadine (1989); R. Langworth, ed., Churchill by Himself: The Definitive Collection of Quotations (2008); the multivolume study by R. Churchill (his son) and M. Gilbert (1966–88); M. Soames, A Daughter's Tale: The Memoir of Winston Churchill's Youngest Child (2011); biographies by W. Manchester (3 vol., 1983–2012; Vol. III with P. Reid), M. Gilbert (1992), N. Rose (1995), R. Jenkins (2001), J. Keegan (2002), C. D'Este (2008), and P. Johnson (2009); biographies of the younger Churchill by M. Shelden (2013) and of the older Churchill by B. Leaming (2010); A. J. P. Taylor et al., Churchill Revised: A Critical Assessment (1968); R. R. James, Churchill: A Study in Failure, 1900–1939 (1970); J. Charmley, Churchill's Grand Alliance (1995); A. Roberts, Eminent Churchillians (1995); J. Lukacs, Churchill (2002); J. Meacham, Franklin and Winston (2003); D. Reynolds, In Command of History (2005); A. Roberts, Masters and Commanders (2009); M. Hastings, Winston's War: Churchill, 1940–1945 (2010); R. Holmes, Churchill's Bunker (2010); R. Toye, Churchill's Empire (2010) and The Roar of the Lion (2013); G. Farmelo, Churchill's Bomb: How the United States Overtook Britain in the First Nuclear Arms Race (2013); L. James, Churchill and Empire (2014); J. Rose, The Literary Churchill (2014).
"Churchill, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer (British statesman, soldier, and author)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Encyclopedia.com. 26 May. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.
"Churchill, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer (British statesman, soldier, and author)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Encyclopedia.com. (May 26, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-ChurchlW.html
"Churchill, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer (British statesman, soldier, and author)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Retrieved May 26, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-ChurchlW.html
The American author Winston Churchill (1871-1947) was known during his lifetime for his historical and political novels.
Born in St. Louis, Winston Churchill went to Smith Academy, then attended Annapolis. He served briefly in the U.S. Navy, working as an editor for the Army and Navy Journal, and then joined the staff of Cosmopolitan Magazine. He had been encouraged to write during his years in the Naval Academy and soon began a career as an author.
Churchill's first novel, The Celebrity: An Episode (1898), satirized the era's literary and fashionable world. This book introduced him to the public and gave him practice in portraying two kinds of characters that eventually loomed large in his works—the politician and the business tycoon.
Richard Carvel (1899) is a romantic historical novel of the American Revolutionary period. Though carefully written, the book has the episodic structure characteristic of Churchill. It became a best seller because of the conscientious research that gave remarkable authenticity to events and characters.
Churchill determined to cover "the most emphasized epochs in the history of this country" in a series of novels. The Crisis (1901), set mainly in St. Louis, where northern and southern emigrants and German immigrants had commingled in a border region, pictures the Civil War in a new way. The Crossing (1904), a panorama of America's westward movement and the newly settled frontier during the Revolution, is generally considered Churchill's best historical novel. Like its predecessors, this narrative vividly characterizes a number of outstanding historical figures.
By 1904, however, public interest in historical fiction had waned, and a group of "muckraking" journalists were exposing graft and corruption in the United States. Churchill was affected by the trend and began to write about contemporary issues. Coniston (1906) shows the long-lasting ethical conflicts in New England's politics; Mr. Crewe's Career (1908) examines a railroad's attempt to dominate a state. A Modern Chronicle (1910) deals with divorce, The Inside of the Cup (1913) with religion, A Far Country (1915) with the need for the control of corporations, and The Dwelling-Placeof Light (1917) with the rise of radicalism. His work established the value of research to the historical novelist.
Charles Child Walcutt, The Romantic Compromise in the Novels of Winston Churchill (1951), and Warren Irving Titus, Winston Churchill (1963), treat Churchill's life and work. General studies which discuss Churchill's novels include Ernest Erwin Leisy, The American Historical Novel (1950); Grant C. Knight, The Strenuous Age in American Literature (1954); and Joseph L. Blotner, The Political Novel (1955). □
"Winston Churchill." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. (May 26, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404701364.html
"Winston Churchill." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. Retrieved May 26, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404701364.html
Churchill, Winston S.
As prime minister, Churchill's rousing oratory and determination embodied Britain's will to win, but he could also be impatient and arrogant, overworking himself and others. He believed it vital to work closely with the United States, to forge a personal link to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and to create a long‐term “special relationship” between the two countries. Taking an active part in military planning with U.S. and British commanders, he especially advocated a “Mediterranean Strategy,” designed to attack Germany through what he called the “soft underbelly” of Europe while preserving British Imperial interests. Defeated by the Labour Party in the July 1945 election, and replaced at the Potsdam Conference by Clement Attlee, Churchill nonetheless urged resistance to Soviet communism with the 1946 “Iron Curtain” speech at Fulton, Missouri. As prime minister once more in 1951–55, he visited America three times and took a great interest in nuclear developments, reaching an agreement in January 1952 on the use of British air bases by American nuclear bombers. His aim was always to maintain Britain as a great power.
[See also D‐Day Landing, World War II: Military and Diplomatic Course.]
Martin Gilbert , Churchill: A Life, 1991.
Norman Rose , Churchill: An Unruly Life, 1994.
Warren Kimball , Roosevelt, Churchill, and the Second World War, 1997.
John W. Young
John Whiteclay Chambers II. "Churchill, Winston S." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. 2000. Encyclopedia.com. (May 26, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O126-ChurchillWinstonS.html
John Whiteclay Chambers II. "Churchill, Winston S." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. 2000. Retrieved May 26, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O126-ChurchillWinstonS.html
CHURCHILL, (Sir) Winston (Leonard Spencer)
TOM McARTHUR. "CHURCHILL, (Sir) Winston (Leonard Spencer)." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. 1998. Encyclopedia.com. (May 26, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O29-CHURCHILLSrWnstnLnrdSpncr.html
TOM McARTHUR. "CHURCHILL, (Sir) Winston (Leonard Spencer)." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. 1998. Retrieved May 26, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O29-CHURCHILLSrWnstnLnrdSpncr.html
Churchill, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer
http://www.number-10.gov.uk; http://www.churchill.nls.ac.uk; http://www.chu.cam.ac.uk/archives
"Churchill, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer." World Encyclopedia. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. (May 26, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O142-ChurchillSrWnstnLnrdSpncr.html
"Churchill, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer." World Encyclopedia. 2005. Retrieved May 26, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O142-ChurchillSrWnstnLnrdSpncr.html
Churchill, Winston (American novelist)
Winston Churchill, 1871–1947, American novelist, b. St. Louis, grad. Annapolis, 1894. He wrote several popular historical novels including Richard Carvel (1899), The Crisis (1901), and The Crossing (1904). His later books, such as Coniston (1906), The Inside of the Cup (1913), and The Dwelling-Place of Light (1917), reflected his interest in social, religious, and political problems.
"Churchill, Winston (American novelist)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Encyclopedia.com. (May 26, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-ChurchlWUS.html
"Churchill, Winston (American novelist)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Retrieved May 26, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-ChurchlWUS.html