Review of WWII by Winston Churchill Volume One


On the one hand, I can certainly understand how people fault this as imperfect history.  Churchill has his biases, to me most acute is that he’s more forgiving to Chamberlain that most any other historian would be.  He kind of glosses over the Munich debacle, for example.  As best I can tell, he’s basically a loyal guy and unwilling to criticize quite as harshly as most would feel he deserves.  That being said, I still feel you get a pretty good feel anyway, and the biases are not glaring in my view.

On the plus side, reading these books, you are spending hours with one of the truly great figures of our time and someone that was capable of not only leading a nation, but of insightfully telling the story and, importantly, some of its lessons.

At one point, as an example, he says, one of histories lessons is one of ‘homely simplicity’

“honesty is the best policy.  Several examples of this will be shown in these pages. Crafty men and statesmen will be shown mislead by all their elaborate calculations….

…If a government has no moral scruples, it often seems to gain great advantages in liberties of action, but all comes out in the end of the day, and all will come out completely when all the days are ended.”

We can take some detached academic view of this statement and assess whether or not Churchill was a romantic, or whether he himself always followed this advice on honesty, etc, etc.  But to my mind, it’s just a wonderful, powerful experience to sit and listen to someone that experienced so much, that witnessed so much, and endured so much in his refusal to temper his absolutely candid message.  We can debate how to view his message, but it seems certain that his conclusions are entirely sincere.  To get that sincere, thoughtful, insightful message first hand from one of the great figures of the 20th century is a great treasure. Among the best books I’ve ever read.