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In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War
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In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  81 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
Churchill fought the war twice over - as Prime Minister and again as its premier historian. In 1948-54 he published six volumes of memoirs which secured his reputation and shaped our understanding of the conflict to this day.

Using the drafts and correspondence for The Second World War, David Reynolds opens our eyes to Churchill the author and to the research 'syndicate' on
Paperback, 672 pages
Published June 30th 2005 by Penguin (first published November 4th 2004)
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Mikey B.
Forget Clinton, read Churchill!

When former President Clinton released his autobiography some months ago, this was seen as a political and literary event. Yet, it all pales in comparison to when Winston Churchill published his 6 volumes of history on the Second World War - from 1949 to 1954. These works are the subject of David Reynolds highly interesting book "In Command of History."

Unlike Clinton, Churchill was hardly retired; he was leader of the opposition Tory party, giving significant sp
After the Second World War, Churchill wrote a multi-volume memoir and history of the war. The Conservative party's loss of the 1945 British election, of which he was the leader, gave him more time to work on this project than he had expected (or wanted just then). Churchill did not begin writing, however, before he got his lawyers to figure out how to shield the money he expected (correctly) to make from this project from the high income tax of the period (something on the order of 90% for that ...more
William Blair
Aug 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"In Command of History" explains how, with the help of a "Syndicate" of (paid) expert assistants and historians drawn from the British Army and Government, Winston S. Churchill actually wrote his now-classic, six-volume masterpiece -- "The Second World War" -- after his defeat in July 1945 that removed him from power as Prime Minister. "The Second World War" formed and shaped -- for ill or good -- many still-held views of a significant number of historical events of World War II; it was a concer ...more
Jun 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It has been over 50 years since Churchill wrote his six-volume memoir, "The Second World War". We've known for decades that the Ultra decryption work went unmentioned; that Churchill's retrospective is biased in some areas; and that his view of the war was very British-centric (leaving major Soviet battles untouched).

Reynolds books is excellent at plumbing these historic issues and in the history of writing and editing "The Second World War". Though large blocks of early chapters about English t
Jun 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
IN COMMAND OF HISTORY-Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War
by David Reynolds

Finished reading on 01232014

This is a long read but only because it covers Churchill from 1940 to his death in 1965. David Reynolds breaks down the great literary work that Churchill wrote about the second World War by the volumes and then each individual book within each volume. With obvious extensive research, Mr. Reynolds guides the reader not only into how this masterpiece was written but also how Chur
Apr 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fortunately for historians and researchers looking for answers behind the decisions made by Winston Churchill during the Second World War, we have available not only the usual official primary source documents associated with a Prime Minister, but also his own memoirs on the war. Churchill wrote extensively after the war, perhaps to justify and explain his decisions but also to contribute to a general history of the war. To introduce this subject, a great source is David Reynold’s In Command of ...more
David Lough
Mar 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating idea - to follow Churchill from beginning to end through the process of conceiving, negotiating, researching and writing 'The Second World War'. On the way Churchill overcomes one obstacle after another - those in the Cabinet Office who want to restrict his access to official papers, those in Britain's Inland Revenue who want to apply Britain's heavy post-war tax rates to what he earns - and the shortage of time and energy that might deter most men in their seventies who are still ...more
Apr 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is about the writing of "The Second World War", which was written by a syndicate led by Winston Churchill. Churchill planned to write about the war and was able to have policies put in place allowing him access to papers that others would not. He was alleged to have said we'll leave that to history but "I'll be one of the historians." As with most memoirs, issues were left out, conflated and/or distorted to put the 'author' in the best light possible. This was important to Churchill be ...more
Janet Fogg
Nov 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-ii, history
I enjoyed this and certainly learned a great deal about Churchill and the War, but I did have to push myself through some of the analysis. I don't believe this is a negative reflection on the author or the book, but rather an indication of my preference to move immediately into the events of the War. By way of example, I've just started An Ace of the Eighth and will have completed that book in three days. In retrospect, I wonder if I might prefer Churchill's actual volumes, as opposed to In Comm ...more
Jul 05, 2009 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I'm still only on page 85, but I have the feeling I've read a good bit of this about the Syndicate of researchers and the negotiations with publishers. It must have been in Jenkins' biography.
The method of compilation: (compare with the Canadian Pacific Railroad) of laying down the tracks (the minutes and papers etc from the archive) and then adding the stations (newly written narratives.) Various experts from the Syndicate ( Deakin, Allen, Pownall, Ismay, Kelly) write papers. Some of Deakin's
Eric Atkisson
Jul 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderfully written and detailed account of how Churchill "wrote" his memoirs of the Second World War--with a team of dedicated assistants and the cooperation of the British government--while balancing the demands of Cold War politics and his return to the premiership in the early 1950s. I would recommend this as a necessary companion piece to Churchill's memoirs, best read either before or after the memoirs themselves.
Adam DeVille, Ph.D.
Of all the books I've read about both Churchill and historiography, this remains one of the most edifying and enjoyable. Reynolds takes would could, in lesser hands, have been a lethally plodding topic and makes it come alive, using the process of writing to illustrate not only Churchill's life and methods, but also the larger political context in which he was operating. Masterful.
Dec 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
If you've read Churchill's magnus opus on the second world war then this is mandatory reading.

Fascinating stuff - it interleaves the history of the war, the subject of Churchill's books and the background to Churchill's life as he was writing them
Jeremy Thin
May 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An invaluable companion to Churchill's Second World War volumes. I read it alongside the Churchill books and it added great historiographical depth.
P McCree Thornton
Mar 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History Readers
Very detailed, sometimes hard to follow, but enlightening and informative. A deep insight into the workings of a brilliant politician.
Sep 15, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good for history buffs and fans of Churchill. The story of how his memoirs were crafted.
In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War by David Reynolds (2005)
Gerry Connolly
Aug 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Command of History David Reynolds tells how Churchill shaped WWII history to his own advantage. Gripping story of a courageous albeit flawed statesman
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a Professor of International History and a Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge. He was awarded a scholarship to study at Dulwich College, then Cambridge and Harvard universities. He has held visiting posts at Harvard, Nebraska and Oklahoma, as well as at Nihon University in Tokyo and Sciences Po in Paris. He was awarded the Wolfson History Prize, 2004, and elected a Fellow of the British Academy ...more
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