How Winston Churchill’s Early Career Made Him a Celebrity

How Winston Churchill’s Early Career Made Him a Celebrity

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On 30 November 1874 Winston Spencer Churchill was born in his family’s seat of Blenheim Palace. Widely regarded as one of the greatest statesmen in history, Churchill’s career was long, varied and extraordinary. Few men in history can claim to have lead a cavalry charge against mail-clad warriors and held the codes for a nuclear-age power.

In between he had his finest hour as Prime Minister in 1940, when Britain stood up to the might of Nazi Germany alone and refused to surrender.

Dan Snow talks to acclaimed actor Gary Oldman about the challenge of taking on the role of Winston Churchill in "Darkest Hour", and the role of art in interpreting history. Oldman has since won an Oscar for his performance.

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Young Winston

The young Winston was a stocky red-haired boy, who had a very distant relationship with his aristocratic parents and preferred playing with his toy soldiers to any sort of education. As a result, he never excelled at school and didn’t even go to university, instead educating himself by spending much of his time as a soldier in India reading.

But that would come later, after a hated spell at Harrow, then a successful application to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst.

Churchill would later claim that his lifelong interest in warfare came from watching the soldiers march past when he had lived briefly in Dublin as a small child, and a romantic love of adventure and soldiering would never leave him. His academic performance was not good enough initially to guarantee a place at Sandhurst, but eventually he got in at the third attempt in 1893.

Churchill in the military dress uniform of the Fourth Queen’s Own Hussars at Aldershot in 1895.

Travelling the Empire

After a few years he was initiated as a cavalry officer in the Queen’s Hussars, but aware of the crippling expense of the officer’s mess at this time and largely ignored by his family, he searched for other sources of income. Eventually an idea struck him, and he decided to travel to Cuba, where a war was being fought against locals rebels by the Spanish, as a War Correspondent.

Later looking back on that time with fondness, he would remark that the first (but far from the last) time that he came under fire was on the day of his 21st birthday, and that he had developed a love for Cuban cigars on the island.

In 1897 a transfer to India, then a British possession, followed, and alongside his education the precocious officer took a deep interest in politics back home. Later that year, upon hearing of a campaign to fight a tribe on the north-western frontier, Churchill asked permission to join the expedition.

Second-Lieutenant Winston Churchill in the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars in India, 1896.

In the mountains he wrote up his adventures again as a correspondent and took part in vicious hand-to-hand fighting, despite his small stature and a shoulder injury sustained earlier in his career. His first book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force, described this campaign. A year later, he was transferred to another of the British Empire’s prized possessions – Egypt.

From there, ever eager to fight, he joined Lord Kitchener’s force fighting Islamist rebels in the Sudan, and at the battle of Omdurman took part in the last successful and battle-winning cavalry charge in British history, killing several men from his horse.

A depiction of the cavalry charge at Omdurman which Churchill took part in.

With that his career in the army came to a satisfying end, as he returned to England and resigned his commission in 1899. Already a minor celebrity back home after his front-line dispatches, he was persuaded to stand as an MP in Oldham that year, though he was unsuccessful.

A career in politics could wait, for there was a new war brewing which presented an opportunity for the young man to earn yet more fame.

The Boer War

In October the South African Boers had declared war on the empire, and were now attacking British possessions in the region. Having secured another stint as a correspondent with The Morning Post, Churchill set sail on the same ship as the newly appointed commander Sir Redvers Buller.

After weeks of reporting from the front line he accompanied an armoured train on a scouting expedition north, but it was waylaid and the supposed journalist had to take up arms again. It was to no avail, and after the incident he found himself behind the bars of a Boer Prisoner of War camp.

Incredibly, after enlisting the help of a local mine manager he escaped over the fences and walked 300 miles to neutral territory in Portuguese East Africa – an escapade that briefly made him a national hero. He was not done yet, however, and rejoined Buller’s army as it marched to relieve Ladysmith and take the enemy capital of Pretoria.

Completely ditching the pretense of being a civilian journalist, he re-enlisted as an officer in the African Light Horse, and personally received the surrender of 52 prison camp guards in Pretoria. Having done everything he had set out to achieve and more, the young hero returned home in 1900 in a blaze of glory.

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Ascending the political ladder

With his celebrity at its zenith, Churchill decided that 1900 would be his year, and stood again for Oldham as a Tory MP – this time successfully.

However, despite being just 26 and regarded as a bright new hope by the party, the young man’s stance on free trade, and his friendship with the Liberal MP David Lloyd-George, meant that he took the almost unprecedented step of “crossing the floor” and joining the Liberals in 1904. Unsurprisingly, this made him a hated figure in Conservative circles.

That same year, incidentally, he met Clementine Hozier, who he would marry four years later, starting one of the happiest partnerships of equals in British history.

Despite it’s controversy, the decision to join the Liberals appeared to be vindicated in 1905 when they swept into office, and new Prime Minister Campbell-Bannerman granted the young Winston the position of Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies – an important position given the fragile nature of the Empire after the Boer War.

After impressing in this job Churchill joined the cabinet at the still tender age of 34, and as President of the Board of Trade introduced some remarkably Liberal policies for one often seen as a giant of Conservatism – including National Insurance and the first minimum wage in the UK.

Winston Churchill with fiancée Clementine Hozier shortly before their marriage in 1908.

Churchill’s meteoric rise then continued, as he was made Home Secretary in 1910. His lifelong love of controversy, however, would haunt him here too. He made himself hated in Welsh and Socialist circles quickly with a gung-ho military approach to a miner’s riot, and then invited the ridicule of more experienced politicians after what is known as the Siege of Sidney Street.

A pair of murderous Latvian anarchists were being besieged in a London house in 1911 when the Home Secretary arrived on the scene. Despite Churchill later denying this, the official history of the London Metropolitan Police states that the civilian politician gave operational orders, and even prevented the fire brigade from rescuing the anarchists from the burning building, telling them that no good British lives should be put at risk for the sake of violent foreign killers.

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These actions were seen as hugely irresponsible and faintly ludicrous by senior political figures, and Churchill’s prestige was badly damaged. Perhaps in response to the affair, he was moved to become First Lord of the Admiralty later that year.

Despite such failures, his early career had established him by the outbreak of World War One as one of the most dashing and famous politicians in the country, and given him valuable experience as well as a lifelong passion for warfare, foreign lands and high politics.


Winston Churchill was a 20th-century British prime minister. He was born on 30 November 1874 in Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, England. His father was Lord Randolph Churchill and his mother, Jeanette was an American woman. Winston had a brother called John, born in 1880. When he was a child Churchill was sent to boarding schools at Ascot, Brighton. Then in 1888, he was sent to Harrow. His father wanted him to have a military career but he twice failed the entrance examination for Sandhurst Military Academy. He succeeded at the third attempt and entered in 1893. Churchill excelled at Sandhurst. Sadly his father died at the age of 45 in January 1895.

The same year, in 1895 Winston joined the cavalry. He was given a couple of months’ leave to report the Cuban War of Independence from Spain for a London newspaper. Then in 1896, he was sent with his regiment to India, where he was a war correspondent as well as a soldier. Churchill expanded his reports into his first book The Story of the Malakand Field Force, which was published in 1898. That year, 1898 he was sent to Sudan again as a soldier and war correspondent. This time he expanded his reports into a book called The River War. It was published in 1899. Churchill also wrote a novel called Savrola, which was published in 1900.

In 1899 Churchill resigned from the army but he remained a war correspondent. That year he went to South Africa to report on the Boer War. However, he was captured in November 1899 and interned. However, Churchill made a daring escape to Portuguese East Africa (modern Mozambique). Subsequently, Churchill became a hero and he wrote about his experience in a book called London to Ladysmith published in 1900.

Meanwhile, Winston became interested in politics. In 1900 he was elected Conservative MP for Oldham. He made his maiden speech in the House of Commons on 18 February 1901.

However, Churchill came to disagree with Conservative policies and in 1904 he joined the Liberals. In 1906 Churchill was elected Liberal MP for Northwest Manchester and he was made under-secretary of state for the colonies. He toured East Africa and in 1908 he published a book called My African Journey. In 1908 he became MP for Dundee. The same year, 1908 he was made the president of the Board of Trade.

Winston married his wife, Clementine on 12 September 1908. Mr. and Mrs. Churchill had five children. His daughter Diana was born in 1909. His son Randolph was born in 1911. Another daughter, Sarah followed in 1914. He had another daughter, called Marigold in 1918. Sadly she died in 1921. Finally, another daughter, Mary was born in 1922.

Meanwhile, Winston Churchill was responsible for some reforms including the Trade Boards Act of 1909, which set minimum wages for workers in certain trades. He also introduced labour exchanges. In 1910 Churchill became the home secretary. That year there were riots in Tonypandy in Wales. The chief constable of Glamorganshire requested troops be sent. At first, Churchill ordered that troops should be held back in Cardiff and Swindon but he did agree to send policemen from the Metropolitan Police Force in London. However, Churchill later authorized the deployment of troops.

In January 1911 he was present at the Siege of Sidney Street when two Latvian anarchists in a house fought a gun battle with police. In 1911 Churchill was made First Lord of the Admiralty.

On 2 August 1914 Britain declared war on Germany. Churchill was blamed for the failure of the Dardanelles campaign. Turkey was an ally of Germany. Most of Turkey is in Asia but a small part is in Europe. European Turkey is separated from Asian Turkey by water. The Turks protected it with mines and forts. But Churchill believed it could be forced open. Turkey would then leave the war and the British could send supplies to Russia (Britain’s ally) by sea. But the campaign turned into a disaster. Naval operations began on 18 March 1915. On 25 April 1915 soldiers landed. But they were unable to defeat the Turks. The campaign dragged on for months. Churchill continued to enthusiastically support the campaign but the rest of the cabinet decided it must end. Churchill was left with no alternative but to resign from the government.

The failure of the Dardanelles campaign was a severe blow to Churchill but he took up a new hobby – painting. In any case, Churchill was soon back. In July 1917 he was made the minister of munitions, in charge of their production. The war ended in November 1918 and the Liberals won an election in December. In January 1919 Churchill was made secretary of state for war. In 1921 he was made secretary of state for the colonies.

However, 1921 was a difficult year for Churchill. He lost his mother and his daughter, Marigold. In November 1922 Churchill lost his seat, Dundee. He returned to parliament in 1924 when he became MP for Epping. He rejoined the Conservatives. In 1924 he was made chancellor of the exchequer.

In 1925 Churchill returned to the gold standard (a system in which the value of paper money is directly related to the value of gold) at the pre-war parity of $4.86 to the pound. Churchill later regarded this decision as a serious mistake as it meant the pound was overvalued, which harmed Britain’s exports.

In 1926 came the general strike. Churchill was determined to break the strike and he edited a government newspaper called The British Gazette. But the strike ended after only nine days.

Churchill also wrote a history of the First World War called The World Crisis. It was published in six volumes between 1923 and 1931. His book My Early Life was published in 1930.

Churchill also wrote about his ancestor the Duke of Marlborough(a great general in the early 18th century). His book Marlborough his Life and Times was published in four volumes between 1933 and 1938.

In 1929 the Conservatives lost their majority in the House of Commons and a minority Labour government took office. In 1931 a national government made up of men of all parties was formed to deal with the worsening economic crisis. But Churchill was not asked to join the cabinet.

In the 1920s and 1930s Churchill was strongly opposed to independence for India. From the 1930s Churchill argued strongly for rearmament. He strongly opposed the appeasement policy of Neville Chamberlain, which for a time made him unpopular. But he was proved right when Germany occupied the whole of Czechoslovakia in March 1939. When the Second World War began Churchill was made First Lord of the Admiralty.

Churchill as Prime Minister

For a time Chamberlain remained prime minister. However, in May 1940, he was strongly criticized for his handling of the campaign in Norway and he resigned. Winston Churchill became prime minister of Britain on 10 May 1940. The same day German forces invaded The Netherlands and Belgium.

The situation quickly deteriorated. On 13 May 1940, Churchill gave a speech to the House of Commons in which he said the famous words: ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat’. Churchill proved to be an excellent wartime prime minister. His optimism and resilience proved to be invaluable qualities especially in the face of early defeats.

France surrendered on 21 May but the Germans lost the Battle of Britain which was fought between July and September 1940.

Nevertheless, the Germans had further successes. In April 1941 they conquered Yugoslavia and Greece. In May 1941 they captured Crete. The situation began to change in June 1941 when Hitler foolishly invaded Russia. Churchill detested communism but he promised to do everything he could to help the Russians. On 7 December 1941, the Japanese attacked the USA at Pearl Harbor. On 11 December Hitler stupidly declared war on the USA, the most powerful nation in the world.

In November 1942 the British won a decisive victory at El Alamein in Egypt and in January-February 1943 the Russians won a great victory at Stalingrad. Gradually things got worse for the Germans. The Allies invaded Sicily in July 1943 than Italy in September. Meanwhile, the Russians won another victory at Kursk in July 1943. Afterward, they steadily advanced. The allies invaded France in June 1944 and Germany surrendered in May 1945.

However, in July 1945 Labour won the election by a landslide. Winston Churchill became the leader of the opposition. In March 1946, with the onset of the Cold War Churchill gave a speech in which he said the famous words ‘From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent’.

The Conservatives won an election in 1951 and Churchill became prime minister again, at the age of 76. He stayed in office till 1955 when he resigned aged 80. However, he remained an MP until 1964.

Meanwhile, his book The Second World War was published in six volumes between 1948 and 1954. His work, History of the English-Speaking Peoples was published in 4 volumes in 1956 and 1957. But by the early 1960s, Winston Churchill was fading. He celebrated his 90th birthday on 30 November 1964. However, he died on 24 January 1965.

Winston Churchill was given a state funeral in St Paul’s Cathedral on 30 January 1965. His body was then taken to Bladon, Oxfordshire and he was buried in St Martin’s churchyard. In September 1965 the queen unveiled a memorial stone on the floor of Westminster Abbey. Clementine died in 1977.

Life after the Army

In 1899, Churchill left the Army and worked as a war correspondent for the Morning Post. The contract he negotiated with the newspaper made him the highest-paid war correspondent of the day(a salary of £250 a month plus all expenses). This is because Churchill was an excellent reporter and understood history, so his analysis was considered insightful and brilliant. While reporting on the Boer War in South Africa, he was taken prisoner by the Boers during a reconnaissance mission in an armored military train.

Two weeks later, while the guards weren’t watching, Churchill scaled the prison fence in the dead of night, made a break for freedom, and safely navigate the 300-mile journey through enemy territory to reach Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique). Soon after his daring escape made headlines, and upon his return to Britain, he wrote about his experiences in the book L ondon to Ladysmith via Pretoria (1900). Winston leveraged his newfound celebrity status to launch his political career.

In part two of this series, we will dive into Winston Churchill’s political journey to becoming the prime minister.

Churchill: 𠇌rossing the Chamber”

That same year, Winston Churchill joined the House of Commons as a Conservative. Four years later, he 𠇌rossed the chamber” and became a Liberal.

His work on behalf of progressive social reforms such as an eight-hour workday, a government-mandated minimum wage, a state-run labor exchange for unemployed workers and a system of public health insurance infuriated his Conservative colleagues, who complained that this new Churchill was a traitor to his class.

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 Ȭold 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.

After World War I

From 1919 to 1922, Churchill served as minister of war and air and colonial secretary under Prime Minister David Lloyd George.

As colonial secretary, Churchill was embroiled in another controversy when he ordered air power to be used on rebellious Kurdish tribesmen in Iraq, a British territory. At one point, he suggested that poisonous gas be used to put down the rebellion, a proposal that was considered but never enacted.

Fractures in the Liberal Party led to the defeat of Churchill as a member of Parliament in 1922, and he rejoined the Conservative Party. He served as Chancellor of the Exchequer, returning Britain to the gold standard, and took a hard line against a general labor strike that threatened to cripple the British economy.

With the defeat of the Conservative government in 1929, Churchill was out of government. He was perceived as a right-wing extremist, out of touch with the people.

10 Winston Churchill Leadership Lessons

One layer [of Churchill’s character and personality] was certainly seventeenth century. The eighteenth century in him is obvious. There was the nineteenth century, and a large slice, of course, of the twentieth century and another, curious layer which may possibly have been the twenty-first. —Clement Attlee

The anniversary of the birth of Sir Winston Churchill is a compelling occasion for reflection.

In a textbook case of projection, a preening popinjay, a BBC news personality called Paxman recently dismissed Churchill as a “ruthless egotist, a chancer, and a charlatan.”

Paxman and many others have speculated that Churchill could not be elected today.

These and other observations imply that Churchill’s leadership example is of limited value in our time. His life and work may provide anecdotes and entertainment, but little elucidation about things that matter.

Winston Churchill’s storied, spectacular career holds numerous lessons for 21st century leaders.

10 Churchill Leadership Lessons for 21 st Century Leaders

Among the lessons of Churchill’s leadership:

1. Leaders Are Self-Created. Winston Churchill was anything but a “self-made man.” He was born to the aristocracy at Blenheim Palace. Nonetheless, as much as anyone could be, he was self-created. He transcended numerous limitations–from an unprepossessing physical endowment to a distracting speech impediment–transforming himself into the heroic mold conjured in his romantic imagination.

This process of self-creation never ended. He was continually evolving in significant ways, not held back by the needs for predictability and consistency that limit so many others. This also enabled him to recover from setbacks that most would have accepted as career-ending.

[Churchill] was, to a marked extent, forcing himself to go against his own inner nature: a man who was neither naturally strong, nor naturally particularly courageous, but who made himself both in spite of his temperamental and physical endowment. The more one examines Winston Churchill as a person, the more one is forced to the conclusion that his aggressiveness, his courage, and his dominance were not rooted in his inheritance, but were the product of deliberate decision and iron will. —Anthony Storr

2. Courage is the First Virtue. If people were asked to describe Churchill in one word, who can doubt that courage would be the anticipated response?

In common with many other effective leaders, he exhibited courage in numerous ways. His career intertwined service as a soldier, a writer, and a politician. The disparate strands were braided tightly in his ultimate contribution, as warlord of the British Empire in the Second World War. His courage continued through his final premiership, in the 1950s, when he sought to broker improved relations between the United States and Soviet Union.

All of his accomplishments can be comprehended as arising from a shared root of courage—advanced through a related trait: audacity.

Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all others. —Churchill

3. Vision Can be Transmitted Faithfully through a Romantic Lens. From youth, Churchill experienced the world as a cavalcade of heroes and heroines, of pageantry and ritual, of bright colors and vivid renderings. Some of this doubtless arose from the great loneliness he experienced, feeling neglected if not abandoned by a beautiful, vivacious mother and a mercurial, doomed father.

My mother made the same brilliant impression upon my childhood’s eye. She shone for me like the Evening Star. I loved her dearly—but at a distance. My nurse was my confidante. Mrs. Everest it was who looked after me and tended all my wants. It was to her I poured out my many troubles, both now and in my schooldays. —Churchill

His romantic inclinations are also seen in his description of his marriage to the formidable Clementine Hozier Churchill.

[My marriage] was much the most fortunate and joyous event which happened to me in the whole of my life, for what can be more glorious than to be united in one’s walk through life with a being incapable of an ignoble thought? —Churchill

Churchill’s romantic conceptions also framed his statecraft.

Mr. Churchill sees history—and life—as a great Renaissance pageant: when he thinks of France or Italy, Germany or the Low Countries, Russia, India, Africa, the Arab lands, he sees vivid historical images—something between Victorian illustrations in a book of history and the great procession painted by Benozzo Gozzoli in the Riccardi Palace. His eye is never that of the neatly classifying sociologist, the careful psychological analyst, the plodding antiquary, the patient historical scholar. His poetry has not that anatomical vision which sees the naked bone beneath the flesh, skulls and skeletons and the omnipresence of decay and death beneath the flow of life. The units out of which his world is constructed are simpler and larger than life, the patterns vivid and repetitive like those of an epic poet, or at times like those of a dramatist who sees persons and situations as timeless symbols and embodiments of eternal, shining principles. The whole is a series of symmetrically formed and somewhat stylized compositions, either suffused with bright light or cast in darkest shadow, like a legend by Carpaccio, with scarcely any nuance, painted in primary colors with no half tones, nothing intangible, nothing impalpable, nothing half spoken or hinted or whispered: the voice does not alter in pitch or timbre. —Sir Isaiah Berlin

4. Insight is Superior to Intellect. Winston Churchill stands as an irrefutable monument to the power of Albert Einstein’s dictum:

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.

Churchill was not university educated. He was nonetheless highly learned, largely self-directed. As a result, his thought processes were not limited by convention. His boundless curiosity and capacity for fascination were not wrested into compliance and conventionality by pedants.

He was notably gifted with insight. His variety of worldly experiences expanded it. His temperament, fortified with the assurance of an aristocrat who reached adulthood during the apogee of the British Empire, impelled him to express his often unexpected points of view.

Judgment is a fine thing: but it is not all that uncommon. Deep insight is much rarer. Churchill had flashes of that kind of insight, dug up form his own nature, independent of influences, owing nothing to anyone outside himself. Sometimes it is a better guide than judgment: in the ultimate crisis when he came to power, there were times when judgment itself could, though it did not need to, become a source of weakness.

When Hitler came to power Churchill did not use judgment but one of his deep insights. This was absolute danger, there was no easy way round. That was what we needed. It was a unique occasion in our history. It had to be grasped by a nationalist leader. Plenty of people on the left could see the danger: but they did not know how the country had to be seized and unified. —C.P. Snow

Inevitably, the same qualities and independence of thought in the face of received opinion lured Churchill into dubious enterprises and understandings. Notable examples include his obdurate, dead-end stance against dominion status for India, and his misguided defense of King Edward VIII amid the crisis prompted by his relationship with Wallis Simpson. Such unreliable judgments reinforced his political isolation in the 1930s. Tragically, they surely undercut the credibility of his early warnings against the gathering storm in Nazi Germany.

When Winston’s right, he’s right. When he’s wrong, well, my God. —Birkenhead

5. Apply History to Illuminate the Present and Future. Like Theodore Roosevelt (whom he resembled in many ways), Churchill was obsessed with history. He frequently turned to historical events and characters as if they were at his side. In fact, one might well say that they were at his side, coursing through the currents of his preternaturally active mind and imagination. Even as the emerging destiny of Churchill’s political project–protecting the survival of the British Empire–stirred his forebodings, his immersion in history enabled him to see far into the future. It made him relentlessly adaptive and innovative–qualities not generally associated with a fundamentally conservative vision.

History, for Churchill, was not a subject like geography or mathematics. It was a part of his temperament, as much a part of his being as his social class and, indeed, closely allied to it. —J.H. Plumb

Mr. Churchill’s dominant category, the single, central, organizing principle of the moral and intellectual universe, is an historical imagination so strong, so comprehensive, as to encase the whole of the present and the whole of the future in a framework of a rich and multicolored past. Such an approach is dominated by a desire–and a capacity–to find fixed moral and intellectual bearings to give shape and character, color and direction and coherence, to the stream of events. –Sir Isaiah Berlin

Everyone can recognize history when it happens. Everyone can recognize history after it has happened but it is only the wise person who knows at the moment what is vital and permanent, what is lasting and memorable. –Churchill

History will be kind for me, for I intend to write it. —Churchill [attributed]

6. Master the Written Word. Churchill’s early encounters with formal education were in large part unsatisfactory. Nonetheless, it soon emerged that he had gifts of memorization and writing—when his interest and passion were engaged.

His project of self-education included exposure to great English writers. Echoes of Macaulay and Gibbon ring throughout his highly crafted books, essays, and speeches.

Churchill’s recognizable writing style at once reflected his thinking, refined it—and, at times, may have hijacked it toward unexpected destinations.

Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public. —Churchill

If you cannot read all your books, at any rate handle, or as it were, fondle them–peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that if you do not know what is in them, you at least know where they are. Let them be your friends let them at any rate be your acquaintances. If they cannot enter the circle of your life, do not deny them at least a nod of recognition. —Churchill

7. Master the Spoken Word. It is as a speaker that Churchill achieved his greatest leadership influence. As President Kennedy said, echoing Edward R. Murrow, Churchill “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.”

Churchill acknowledged that he was not an orator. He meant that he was not a speaker, such as David Lloyd George, who could connect deeply with a live audience, receiving and responding to their rising emotions. One wonders if this was a lingering result of his hard-earned triumph over a distracting lisp and the concomitant self-consciousness it inevitably engendered.

By contrast, Churchill prepared extensively, speaking to his audiences with methodically crafted ideas and writing. Many of his legendary witticisms turn out, on inspection, to have been premeditated rather than impromptu. The value was created largely in the interplay of Churchill’s evolving thoughts and words as he drafted the speech, rather than in the interplay of his relationship with an audience during presentation.

He customarily dictated his writing. He referred to this as living “from mouth to hand.”

It was my ambition, all my life, to be a master of the spoken word. That was my only ambition. —Churchill

Of all the talents bestowed upon men, none is so precious as the gift of oratory. He who enjoys it wields a power more durable than that of a great king. He is an independent force in the world. Abandoned by his party, betrayed by his friends, stripped of his offices, whoever can command this power is still formidable. —Churchill

Mr. Churchill’s carefully composed attitudes as he sits at the corner of the gangway and makes beautiful inflections with his hands when talking to his neighbor tell of the dramatic artist who has nearly ruined a statesman. —Harry Boardman

Not only was the content of his speeches wise and right but the were prepared with that infinite capacity for taking pains which is said to be genius. So was his appearance his attitudes and gestures, his use of all the artifices to get his way, from wooing and cajolery, through powerful advocacy, to bluff bullying–all were carefully adjusted to the need. To call this acting is quite inadequate. What we are speaking of is transformation, a growth and permanent change of personality. —Dean Acheson

8. Summon Unconquerable Grit in Oneself—as a Prelude to Inspiring Others. One might be think of resilience as a notable aspect of Churchill’s life and work, though one imagines that he might incline toward a simple, clear, onomatopoetic descriptor such as grit.

Churchill’s journey of self-creation and self-assertion was marked by ever-greater examples of determination against all odds, against polite and expert opinion—sometimes in the face of rationality itself. The trials and errors might well have been viewed as constituting a failed career—had not fate summoned him to formal leadership in the struggle against Hitler in 1940.

If you’re going through hell, keep going. —Churchill

Success is not final, failure is not fatal it is the courage to continue that counts. —Churchill

Continuous effort—not strength or intelligence—is the key to unlocking our potential. —Churchill

Never, never, give up. —Churchill

[T]he House should prepare itself for hard and heavy tidings. I have only to add that nothing which may happen in this battle can in any way relieve us of our duty to defend the world cause to which we have vowed ourselves nor should it destroy our confidence in our power to make our way, as on former occasions in our history, through disaster and through grief to the ultimate defeat of our enemies. Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old. —Churchill

9. Embrace Exuberance. Churchill battled depressive episodes throughout his life. According to Anthony Storr and others, this was an impetus for his ceaseless activity. Idleness was to be avoided at all costs. So, too, it may lay behind other personality traits, such as his predilection for stimulating company–even as it rendered him vulnerable to mountebanks in his midst.

He embraced exuberance as a fuel for his enthusiasm, which could then be transmitted to others.

In the struggle against Hitler, Churchill was able to combine the bracing realism of the pessimist with the indomitable optimism required to rouse the dispirited, demoralized people he served. His was not the easy optimism of one who had never known failure or misfortune. Rather, it was the hard-earned optimism of one who had proven that he could take a devastating punch–and, against all odds, pull himself off the mat.

A change is as good as a rest. —Churchill

Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong and a boy deprived of his father’s care often develops, if he escapes the perils of youth, an independence and vigor of thought which may restore in after life the heavy loss of early days. —Churchill

You and I think of Winston as self-indulgent he has never denied himself anything, but when a mere boy he deliberately set out to change his nature, to be tough and full of rude spirits.

It has not been easy for him….Winston has always been a ‘despairer.’ Orpen, who painted him before the Dardanelles, used to speak of the misery in his face. He called him the man of misery….Winston has always been wretched unless he was occupied. —Brendan Bracken

10. Live and Lead as an Artist. Churchill epitomizes the leader as performance artist. He strode the world stage with others who were consciously artistic in their approach, including Franklin Roosevelt, de Gaulle, and Hitler.

According to some, his writing may have been, in part, an artistic response to his tendency to depression. Whatever the wellsprings, the results were spectacular. Late in life, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

In mid-life, he took up painting.

I cannot pretend to feel impartial about the colors. I rejoice with the brilliant ones, and am genuinely sorry for the poor browns. When I go to heaven I mean to spend a considerable portion of my first million years in painting, and so to get to the bottom of the subject. But then I shall require a still gayer palette than I get here below. I expect orange and vermilion will be the darkest, dullest colors upon it, and beyond them there will be a whole range of wonderful new colors which will delight the celestial eye. —Churchill

Churchill Uniquely Passed the Ultimate Leadership Test

There is an ultimate test of leadership: would events have turned out differently but for their service?

Churchill is one of the rare leaders of history who undoubtedly passes this demanding test. The history of England, the history of Europe—indeed, the history of the world would have turned out differently but for his individual contribution of service in 1940-41.

That is not to say he was always right. He could be disastrously wrong and wrong-headed.

That is not to say he was uniformly successful. By any serious reckoning—including his own—he was not. The means required to save Britain and defeat the Axis powers ensured that many of the arrangements of Churchill’s world would be swiftly swept away. Contrary to some of the condescending revisionists of recent years, the gravity and contradiction of these circumstances were not lost on Churchill himself.

The Inquest of History

Geoffrey Best, one of Churchill’s most effective recent biographers, concludes:

By the time Churchill died, Britain was fast turning into a land in which such a man as he was could never again find room to flourish, with a popular culture increasingly inimical to his values and likely therefore not to notice or properly appreciate his achievements….In the years 1940 and 1941 he was indeed the savior of the nation. His achievements, taken all in all, justify his title to be known as the greatest Englishman of his age. I am persuaded that, in this later time, we are diminished if, admitting Churchill’s failings and failures, we can no longer appreciate his virtues and victories.

The notable Cambridge scholar, Sir Geoffrey Elton, put it succinctly:

There are times when I incline to judge all historians by their opinion of Winston Churchill—whether they can see that no matter how much better the details, often damaging, of man and career become known, he still remains, quite simply, a great man.

Winston Churchill’s Death: January 24, 1964

Although his political and scientific predictions can be attributed to his historical imagination, some of Winston Churchill’s predictions defy easy explanation. Perhaps the most remarkable of these was his accurate prediction of the date of his own death.

While shaving one morning in 1953, Churchill remarked to John Colville, “Today is the 24th of January. It’s the day my father died. It’s the day I shall die, too.” He repeated this prediction to his son-in-law Christopher Soames shortly after his ninetieth birthday, in 1964. A few weeks later, on January 10, 1965, Churchill lapsed into a coma. Earlier that evening, during the nightly ritual of brandy and cigars, he had said to Soames, “It has been a grand journey, well worth making.” He paused and added, “once.”

After he was stricken, the Times commented, “Life is clearly ebbing away, but how long it will be until the crossing of the bar it is impossible to say.” Not for the first time the Times was wrong about Churchill. It was possible to say how long it would be—Churchill had already said it. Colville told the queen’s private secretary, “He won’t die until the 24th.” Though Churchill seldom regained consciousness in the two weeks that followed, he survived to the predicted date. Churchill had survived his father by precisely three score and ten years—the full biblical lifetime—and had fulfilled many of his father’s ambitions as well as his own.

Political career before 1939

The five years after Sandhurst saw Churchill’s interests expand and mature. He relieved the tedium of army life in India by a program of reading designed to repair the deficiencies of Harrow and Sandhurst, and in 1899 he resigned his commission to enter politics and make a living by his pen. He first stood as a Conservative at Oldham, where he lost a by-election by a narrow margin, but found quick solace in reporting the South African War for The Morning Post (London). Within a month after his arrival in South Africa he had won fame for his part in rescuing an armoured train ambushed by Boers, though at the price of himself being taken prisoner. But this fame was redoubled when less than a month later he escaped from military prison. Returning to Britain a military hero, he laid siege again to Oldham in the election of 1900. Churchill succeeded in winning by a margin as narrow as that of his previous failure. But he was now in Parliament and, fortified by the £10,000 his writings and lecture tours had earned for him, was in a position to make his own way in politics.

A self-assurance redeemed from arrogance only by a kind of boyish charm made Churchill from the first a notable House of Commons figure, but a speech defect, which he never wholly lost, combined with a certain psychological inhibition to prevent him from immediately becoming a master of debate. He excelled in the set speech, on which he always spent enormous pains, rather than in the impromptu Lord Balfour, the Conservative leader, said of him that he carried “heavy but not very mobile guns.” In matter as in style he modeled himself on his father, as his admirable biography, Lord Randolph Churchill (1906 revised edition 1952), makes evident, and from the first he wore his Toryism with a difference, advocating a fair, negotiated peace for the Boers and deploring military mismanagement and extravagance.

Winston Churchill - The Politician

Winston Churchill would serve in Great Britain's Parliament for fifty-five years. His deep sense of commitment to his country would be honored when on April 24, 1953, Britain's monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, appointed him a Knight of the Garter.

Winston Churchill's long political career began in October 1900, when he was elected to take the seat for Oldham as Member of Parliament or MP in the House of Commons. Later, Churchill represented, as MP, the areas of Manchester Northwest (1906-08) Dundee (1908-22) and Woodford (1924-64).

Between 1906 and 1940, Churchill served in the British Cabinet in charge of Board and Trade, Home Office, Admiralty (twice), and the Munitions, War and Air Ministries. From 1924 to 1929 he headed the Treasury as Chancellor of the Exchequer, a position once held by his father.

Churchill's career had its ups and downs. During World War I, as First Lord of the Admiralty, he was blamed for a failed attempt to seize the Dardanelles and Gallipoli Peninsula, which guarded the connection between the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Success would have aided Russia, while providing an alternative to the terrible slaughter in western Europe. The episode would haunt Churchill's political career for years to come. He learned, he said, never to undertake a key operation of war without full authority to carry it out.

Winston Churchill is forever remembered for his contributions as Prime Minister (PM) during World War II. On May 10, 1940, with the Germans attacking western Europe, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigned and King George VI asked Churchill to become Prime Minister and form a government. Churchill formed a coalition with the Labour, Liberal and Conservative parties. He later wrote, "I felt as if I were walking with Destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial." Developing the "Grand Alliance" with Russia and America, he became a symbol for victory among the oppressed and conquered peoples. In 1945, with the war in Europe over but the war with Japan still being fought, the Labour party defeated the Conservatives in an election. Churchill was no longer Prime Minister. However, he was easily reelected to his seat and became Leader of the Opposition.

After World War II, Churchill lobbied for peace. At Fulton, Missouri in 1946, Churchill warned of the "Iron Curtain" in Europe and urged Anglo-American preparedness. In 1951, the Conservatives triumphed again and Churchill returned as Prime Minister. Worried over the possibility of nuclear war, he urged "a meeting at the summit" with the new leaders of Russia while maintaining peace through strength. Ironically, the first postwar summit conference was held a few months after he retired as Prime Minister in April 1955. He would remain an MP for nine more years.

&ldquoLeave the past to history especially as I propose to write that history myself.&rdquo

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