My Early Life: A Roving Commission
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My Early Life: A Roving Commission

4.28 of 5 stars 4.28  ·  rating details  ·  1,060 ratings  ·  65 reviews
This memoir was first published in 1930 and describes the author's school days, his time in the Army, his experiences as a war correspondent and his first years as a member of Parliament.
Hardcover, 385 pages
Published October 1st 1989 by Pen & Sword Books (first published 1930)
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Linda
It did take me a long time to read this book, since I read a lot of other ones in between chapters. I think it was a great book however, and wish I had known Mr. Churchill when he was young. I enjoyed his insights about hiself and his views of the Boer War.
Laura
A fascinating read. I so often forget that Churchill was a real Victorian. If I could have done half of the exciting things that this man did in the five years after he turned 20, I should be satisfied for life.
Virginia
Great book; Churchill is quite a surprise in a lot of ways. His personal history was interesting and a bit sad, too.
Bill
What a surprise! I knew nothing of Churchill's life before the World War II years. My lasting image of him was the jowly, squat, late-middle-aged man in the famous photo of him, Roosevelt, and Stalin at Yalta. This autobiography of his first twenty-seven years blew that image away.

After a few chapters about his schooling and his distaste for educational institutions, he writes about his years as a young cavalry officer. He managed to attach himself to fighting expeditions in northwest India, Eg...more
Jonathan
Churchill is an engaging writer, both insightful and entertaining. Written in 1930, Churchill covers his life from childhood until the beginning of his political career, with a significant portion of the book devoted to his military time in India and South Africa. There are many interesting tidbits, such as Churchill's meeting with Mark Twain during Churchill's tour of America (Twain gives Churchill a hard time about the Boer Wars) and Churchill's fear of extemporaneous speaking, which led him t...more
Colin
This is Winston Churchill, with all his flaws and famous strengths. It is filled with both adventure and misadventure, as he becomes an officer in the army and starts his writing career. What many forget is that he wrote countless books and supported himself as an author. He was in South Africa during the Boer War, stationed in India, went to Cuba and ran for office, switching parties from conservative to liberal and back again!

His Victorian attitude to the countries under England's rule in the...more
Rick
Churchill wrote this memoir in 1930 when he was 56. With a historian’s respect for the perspective of time, the book only covers his birth through the beginning of the 20th Century. In other words, for one of the giants of the century, none of his major life events (his stints as prime minister and cabinet member and member of the House of Commons, his roles in both world wars and the cold war) are discussed either because he felt more time needed to lapse before tackling them or because they ca...more
Kathy
This book was an interesting look at Churchill's formative years, education, army experiences, and early political life. He came of age during the last of the Victorian Era, when Britain thought it still "ruled the world". Churchill did not come up through the university system but went into the army instead. He felt this was a disadvantage but he was highly ambitious and his family's political connections more than compensated for his lack of an Oxford or Cambridge pedigree. Much of the book ch...more
Peter Fortune
In 1930 Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, then age 56 and destined to live another 34 years, looked back on his first 30 years. One would think this hubris, for what can be achieved in one’s first 30 years? But in fact, unlike some modern politicians who write their autobiography at a young age before any achievements, Churchill had a lot to report.

The result is “My Early Years: 1874-1904,” perhaps one of history’s most entertaining autobiographies. Churchill documents his childhood as the neg...more
Marcus
After reading Herman’s ‘Gandhi and Churchill’, I thought I’d see what Churchill wrote (in 1930) about his ‘Early Life’ – 1874 to 1904, from Harrow, through Sandhurst, Bangalore, Malakand, Omdurman and South Africa, to Westminster. It is a remarkable story through which Churchill makes full use of his elite family connections to get where he wants, and do what he wants – a young cavalry officer desparate for military action, and finding it, repeatedly. An ‘action man’, taking huge risks, with som...more
Scott
This was the first biographical work I ever read just because of my own interest. I found it on the bookshelf at the old Henry County Public Library - What a great place! As a young teen, I would ride my bike down and spend hours reading - books, magazines, everything! The librarians, especially Mrs. Mastin, helped so much. She introduced me to the topical files - and a great way to do research. I loved it!

The book was inspiring to a 12-year-old kid! It was written before WWII, so Churchill was...more
Calzean
The first part of this autobiography covers Churchill's schooling. It was interesting to see how he struggled in subjects he deemed not useful, how he hated being separated from his family and regretted the relationship with his father that never gave Churchill the nurturing he wanted. Churchill's writing also showed a dry wit and at times was quite funny.

The second part of the book covers his military and journalistic careers in Cuba, India, Sudan and in the Boer War. At times I thought I was r...more
Marko Savić
Knjigo sem našel ob zadnji selitvi doma doma. In jo kar pospravil v potovalko. Gre za avtobiografijo W. Churchilla, ki opisuje dvajset let od 1880 do 1900, čeprav se navezuje tudi na dogodke pred in po teh letih.

Prebral sem le del do poglavja Kuba. Ki opisuje njegovo Otroštvo, Harrow, Izpiti, Sandhurst in Četrti huzarski polk. Kar se meni zdi vredno iz tega dela zapomniti je, da je bil Churchill slab učenec ali celo zelo slabo učenec. Našel se je šele potem v vojaški šoli.

Precej bolj zanimiva je...more
Jos
Churchill wrote this autobiography spanning the first 30 years of his life from 1874 to 1904 in 1930. I have no idea why he chose to restrict himself to a time period so long ago but it helped the book as everything he experienced had already been put in perspective by history.
To start with, Churchill had experienced more with 30 years than other people will in ten lifes. The autobiography is competently written and has something to tell which is a rare thing nowadays that every third rate VIP i...more
Erin Scott
Winston certainly has a command of the english language. This detailed, and charming account of Winston's formative years reveals the inner thoughts of the 20th centuries greatest men. From his harrowing escape from captivity in the Boer war to a particularly witty exchange with Winston Churchill the novel writer this book is a must read for any European history buff or card carrying anglophile.
Don Weidinger
of Ireland, war caused poverty risk discovery, read history philosophy economics, told many ½ truths by teachers, make observations use senses, democracy does not favor continuity, clogs to clogs in 4 generations, in war resolution in defeat defiance in victory magnanimity in peace goodwill, Mark Twain, follow George in Parliament, as went the 12 apostles.
Richard
An interesting read. An anecdotal bio written in the first person by sir Churchill himself (prefaced by military historian William Manchester). At times astonishing and always wise, Churchill briefly touches on his childhood then fast-forwards to when things start getting really interesting as he joins the military, does some far-out tours and eventually begins life as a public servant. I think there are many cultural references and colloquialisms in this book only Brits would understand, but yo...more
Raj
This is an autobiography of Winston Churchill recounting his early life up to when he was first elected to Parliament in the early 1900s. It's striking just how much the young Churchill fitted in to his life, becoming both a military officer and a highly-respected newspaper correspondent (and doing both at the same time during the Boer War). I suppose, though, in a sense this isn't unexpected since he came from a rich and well-connected family which opened many doors for him in life.

While I resp...more
Lori
After listening to Young Titan by Michael Shelden, thought I would try to find the original chronical of Winston's early life by Churchill himself. This was written originally published in 1930, this audio version is masterfully read by Frederick Davidson. Churchill had a fascinating life and the fact that he was a writer of great skill makes this account a fascinating read. He was never one to shy away from danger and he gives vivid accounts of his childhood and service the North west Frontier...more
Kim Loughran
Great read, even for the prose. His purpose shows in his writing. A great 20th century figure who could articulate.
G Hodges
Even though I knew most of this, hearing it from his point of view is illuminating. And his escape during the Boer war was riveting. Sometimes in history, the right person comes to the stage at the right time. Even though he would have dismissed me as irrelevant in all probability, he is one of the people in my 'who would you like to meet' interview question list. Remarkable. We need someone like him now, but all we have are empty headed selfish politicians who can't see beyond their pocket book...more
Jon
Churchill's first 30 years in his own words: an interesting and clear picture of the British political world at the close of the Victorian era. Reading Churchill is simply a delightful experience of the English language.
Betty
This fine biography covers a period with which I was not particularly familiar. Though at times I felt lost in the intricacies of British aristocracy, Churchill conveys his war experiences in India and South Africa with verve. His ethics are laudable: "In war, Resolution. In defeat, Defiance. In victory, Magnanimity. In peace, Goodwill. (p. 331)"
I found it took a bit to get into the rhythm of his writing, which is quite formal. I think he never met a double negative that he did not like. This ed...more
Scott
I had never read anything by Churchill, although I heard a recording of his stirring "We shall never surrender" speech. He is a great writer, and this book presents the old British aristocracy of the nineteenth century in an oddly attractive way. Churchill says repeatedly that all the solid verities of his youth have been shattered, and that no generation had ever seen such change before. In light of World War I, I can see why he said that, and it sheds an interesting light on our common belief...more
Stephen Schaffner
My Early Life was a very insightful book on a very interesting person. Winston Churchill gives a great look and description of his childhood and what lead him to become a powerful leader. His strong narration makes the reader aware of all facets of his life in a way that is entertaining. Churchill shares his best recollections of his younger years in an effective method to the reader. This book was extremely attention holding. I would recommend this book to any history lover and seeker of a non-...more
Brit McCarthy
I found this to be a surprisingly interesting account of Winston Churchill’s first thirty years, through his childhood to the end of the Boer War and his entry into Parliament. He writes engagingly and kept me interested in a subject I knew virtually nothing about. Having only really known of his later years, I wasn’t expecting his younger days to be so fascinating. I should have known, as Churchill, one of the world’s greatest leaders, is definitely a fascinating man.

3.5 stars
Greg
This is a really engaging book about the early life of Winston Spencer Churchill, from his school years to the Second Boer War. He is extremely opinionated and honestly discusses his problems with peers and superiors that are consequence of his outspokenness and somewhat erratic behavior. I have to add that the book is an absolute pleasure to read. He has an excellent command of the English language and writes some beautiful sentences and paragraphs.
Dianne
In many ways, this era feels as much a fantasy as anything made up. Churchill's sentences and pacing are elegant, and his reflections upon his childhood and education demonstrate great sensitivity and awareness. His early romantic views of war and battle harken back to a different time and ideology, and the albeit one-sided historical view of what was then India (Swat Valley, the Kush, etc.) resonate throughout current events. Lovely.
John Cass
Fascinating autobiography by a very capable author. I'm not sure many people know that Winston Churchill won the Nobel Prize in Literature for one of his works - his talent for writing is obvious.

This is a very personal account of Churchill's childhood and life as a young officer in the British military. A great read if you are even mildly interested in history, British colonialism, the Boer war, and the decline of the aristocracy.
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  • Churchill
  • Warlord
  • Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England
  • The Reason Why: The Story of the Fatal Charge of the Light Brigade
  • The Boer War
  • Napoleon: A Biography
  • Crusade in Europe
  • Frederick the Great
  • A Soldier's Story
  • Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill
  • Winston's War: Churchill, 1940-1945
  • The Washing of the Spears: A History of the Rise of the Zulu Nation Under Shaka and Its Fall in the Zulu War of 1879
  • Eminent Victorians
  • The Long Week-end: A Social History of Great Britain, 1918-39
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Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, KG, OM, CH, TD, FRS, PC (Can) was a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, and again from 1951 to 1955. A noted statesman, orator and strategist, Churchill was also an officer in the British Army. A prolific author, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953 for his own historical writings, "for his mastery...more
More about Winston Churchill...
The Gathering Storm (The Second World War, #1) Their Finest Hour (The Second World War, #2) The Second World War The Birth of Britain (A History of the English Speaking Peoples, #1) The Grand Alliance (The Second World War, #3)

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“You will make all kinds of mistakes; but as long as you are generous and true and also fierce you cannot hurt the world or even seriously distress her. She was meant to be wooed and won by youth.” 88 likes
“[B]y being so long in the lowest form I gained an immense advantage over the cleverer boys. They all went on to learn Latin and Greek and splendid things like that. But I was taught English. We were considered such dunces that we could learn only English. Mr. Somervell -- a most delightful man, to whom my debt is great -- was charged with the duty of teaching the stupidest boys the most disregarded thing -- namely, to write mere English. He knew how to do it. He taught it as no one else has ever taught it. Not only did we learn English parsing thoroughly, but we also practised continually English analysis. . . Thus I got into my bones the essential structure of the ordinary British sentence -- which is a noble thing. And when in after years my schoolfellows who had won prizes and distinction for writing such beautiful Latin poetry and pithy Greek epigrams had to come down again to common English, to earn their living or make their way, I did not feel myself at any disadvantage. Naturally I am biased in favour of boys learning English. I would make them all learn English: and then I would let the clever ones learn Latin as an honour, and Greek as a treat. But the only thing I would whip them for would be not knowing English. I would whip them hard for that.” 25 likes
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