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Churchill: A Life

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  6,695 ratings  ·  207 reviews
It is impossible to understand the Second World War without understanding Winston Churchill, the bold British Prime Minister who showed himself to be one of the greatest statesmen any nation has ever known. This lengthy biography is a single-volume abridgment of a massive, eight-volume work that took a quarter-century to write. It covers Churchill's entire life, highlighti ...more
Paperback, 1088 pages
Published October 15th 1992 by Holt McDougal (first published November 1st 1991)
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Average rating 4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,695 ratings  ·  207 reviews

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Leah Walker
Jan 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Ok so I am not done, but I need to talk about it all the same.

Turns out that I knew very little about Winston Churchill. His mother was a beautiful American socialite who married the 3rd son of the Duke of Marlborough, a family whose finances are regularly propped up by american heiresses (how very Downton Abbey!).

Churchill belongs to that category of those who triumph over childhoods miseries and failures. He was dumped in a boarding school at the age of 7 and rarely saw his parents. He was s
Eric Lin
I read the last chapter of this book (which took me over HALF A YEAR to read) while smoking a cigar. It felt necessary.


For a time, Great Britain stood alone against Hitler's Germany. As the mainland of Europe crumbled before the Nazi advance, the British held firm, resolved never to surrender, and Churchill, as Prime Minister, declared that "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 i
Benjamin Thomas
I've long wanted to read the biography of Winston Churchill, one of the true giants of modern history and I would be hard pressed to find a better one-volume biography than this one. The author, Martin Gilbert, is known as Churchill's official biographer so there are few people who know the facts behind the man as well as Gilbert does.

This is a huge book, somehow much larger even than its 959 small-print pages plus maps and lengthy index. And yet it is amazing that this one man's life can fit i
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This compelling and comprehensive volume by the greatest living historian of the 20th century, is the definitive biography of Winston Churchill.
The book particularly stresses what a great humanitarian and opponent of all forms of tyranny, that Churchill was.
As a young Member of Parliament , Churchill voiced his anger at the massacre by the British expeditionary invasion force into Tibet of 600 unarmed Tibetan peasants by Colonel Younghusband : "Are there any people in the world so mean spirited
Jeremy Perron
Oct 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Martin Gilbert's biography of Sir Winston Churchill is a straightforward account of the life of one of the great (if not the greatest) statesmen in British history. Considering how long British history goes, that is quite a thing to be. His career was long and enduring; it began in the reign of Queen Victoria and ended during the reign of Victoria's great-great-granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II. During his career he would go from being a conservative to a liberal to a conservative again. In the e ...more
Carol Bakker
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
I need to discover more about the term 'official biographer.' I assume full access to the subject's personal documents. Is the tacit tradeoff that content is limited to facts? This bio caused me to ponder official biographer-ology. If it hadn't been Winston as the subject, this style of writing would have been — dare I say it? — boring. Truly, it was anything but boring.

Having just read Paul Johnson's abbreviated Churchill bio, replete with ripe commentary and articulated opinion, Gilbert's fel
Ravi Singh
Sep 09, 2018 rated it did not like it
More hero worship and we are told this is the full facts about the man who is a hero to the Western world.

A warmonger, murderer, imperialist, but lets not mention all that. Oh, guess what? They didn't.

Continue worshiping.
Mar 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-of-2010
Books this big, have to be life changing. Just getting through them changes your life in some small way. He was such a fascinating man. I think he is the kind that would drive a wife crazy, but he did so much for his country. There were times I could not put it down, it was so fascinating. There were times I had to force myself to keep going, and had to make myself keep reading. Of course, I felt like I learned a lot. That is the beauty of our book group. You read things you probably never would ...more
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shortly after his resignation from the premiership in 1955, Winston Churchill wrote these words to his monarch, Queen Elizabeth II:

“Our Island no longer holds the same authority or power that it did in the days of Queen Victoria. A vast world towers up around it and after all our victories we could not claim the rank we hold were it not for the respect for our character and good sense and the general admiration not untinged by envy for our institutions and way of life.”

There are many lines, r
Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, history, europe
I think I was about 400 pages into this 1000 page plus book when it occurred t me that even if his World War II premiership hadn’t happened, Winston Churchill would have still been a fascinating figure. Born during the reign of Queen Victoria, he served in the British Army, fought in what is now Afghanistan and in Africa in the Boer War (where he was taken prisoner and then escaped) achieved fame as a journalist and a writer of history, served in Parliament for six decades (began as a Conservati ...more
May 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, biography, 2016
i like tge book. it is written in open and friendly manner. and it will ve convenient to read to any person who gas just started his way on Britain story or First World War.
howevr i think that instead of citing letters to his wife it could be more usefull to cover his thoughts. for example, why Churchill thought that free market and open borders will help to improve life of working class in the Great Britain. Book just mention that he support free trade and has argues with other parties..
in any
Koty Arnold
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
It was more of a chronicle than a history. It recounted a list of facts and events that happened during Churchill's long career, but despite all the pedantic ideas that it dwelt on I never really thought that I was getting insight into Churchill's deeply cherished beliefs or ideals. I wish I'd have read a different biography. ...more
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nook
The author used his letters to convey the story, which was fine for the first 100 pages, but then it just got tiring.... The ending was well done.
Oct 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Is an interest in Winston Spencer Churchill something characteristic of men of my age, the sixtyish? I have often suspected so, and now I suppose I have acted out my baseless preconception. I have long had a hankering to know more about him, but have been chary of getting drawn into hero-worship and so have left the topic alone. Another subject I had long left alone was the matter of Hitler and the rise of Nazism, but that was distaste and even a little of fear. However, it has been many years s ...more
Mariana Ferreira
On second thought, I decided not to rate this because the way it was published in Brazil (divided in two volumes) is greatly responsible for my finding this so unbearably boring for the first third of it. Had it been published with the second half, which will begin just before World War II, the portion of the book dedicated to Churchill’s childhood and adolescence, which were pretty unremarkable, would be diluted into a proportionally small part.
Incredibly detailed to the point where I sometimes
Nina Usherwood
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I knew Churchill was quite a character with many adventures as youth. He is most commonly associated with the British Conservatives party, but that was not his political beliefs. Churchill really was liberal or even labour in his policies. I was fairly familiar with history in Europe and the Western World during the period of book, however this book filled in a lot of details I was missing. I have long wondered is I should read some of his writings, now I know I will as some point. It was clear ...more
Todd Stockslager
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Review title: Living up to history

This is a daunting 1,000 page block of biography. But consider this: Gilbert took over to finish the official eight volume biography from which this single-volume version was condensed. Few words are wasted on an account of a life as full as Churchill's. He must stand as the most important statesman of the 20th century. His career spanned the 19th Century Boer War as a participant and journalist, the first World War as a military participant and political leader
David Bennatan
Sep 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me over a month to read this book and I'm glad I stayed the course. I liked the author's style very much. He never interjected any of his own opinions or did any psychological analysis. I appreciated that. When he wants a positive comment to be made about something Churchill said or did he brings in the testimony of a contemporary. He also brings in the criticisms of people from that time when appropriate. Sometimes when mentioning a position of Churchill's he just lets it stand for the ...more
Donovan Martin
Jan 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I am amazed at some people in history. Usually they are far removed from the events that have shaped my life but Churchill's influence has obviously affected most of Western society during and following WWII. The book was abridged. I cannot imagine the depth of the 8 volume set. Perhaps someday I'll acquire it.
Now to address this tome.
The work was commissioned by Churchill himself so obviously it will color him in a favorable light. But even knowing that, the history and events he participated
Alireza Salehnia
Apr 27, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a very good book for those who want to be finished with knowing Churchill, who is the most dexterous politician in the eyes of many, once for all. The book almost covers the entire life of Churchill from childhood through his death. The most important biographical feature that was lacking in this book was a psychological outlook which could have given the book a much more coherence and consistency. Also downplaying of Churchill's roles in the imperialist policies of UK during the first h ...more
Aug 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Great! I hatted that I had finished the book. I have come to greatly admire Mr. Churchill. He was highly opinionated, quite stubborn, and a bit of a know it all (even though history proved him right more times than not. I would think him the man of the century. His leadership during WWII was remarkable. He was steadfast during the Battle of Briton. He was always true to his country and his beliefs. HURRAH CHURCHILL!!
Maria Said
Aug 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Winston Churchill is something - and I was glad to read this biography. That being said, the author seems so enamored with WC that he delivered a sanitized saint -- I would have liked a more critical examination of a truly fascinating individual.
Adam Gossman
An honor and a privilege to read this book
Jason Wilson
Jan 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Via Audible.

This is an overwhelmingly positive view of Churchill, but Gilbert is not alone in holding it ; another major Churchill biographer, the former Labour / SDP politician and historian Roy Jenkins does too. It’s generally objective though there are some major cracks that are papered over.

What emerges is is an intensely humane man, though often a painfully old fashioned one, who in some ways was hugely progressive and in others was the precise opposite. As a young soldier and war reporter
Stephen Terrell
Since the turn of 21st Century, Americans seem to have turned more inward and their knowledge of the world and history has suffered greatly. Ask any millennial to tell you something about Winston Churchill, and you will likely get a blank look. Maybe a few might who watch shows on the history channel might say, "didn't he have something to do with World War II?"

It is a shame. Churchill's life has so much to offer about courage, persistence, hope, energy, studiousness, wisdom, vision, a sense of
Atila  Yumusakkaya
This is a long book and requires a little patience to read and finish. This is the life of a politician who had a great influence on England and even world history during The Fist and The Second World Wars and subsequently The Cold War.
The book tells about Churchill's life minute by minute. I do not think there is anything omitted. Churchill had a habit of writing letters. He always wrote to his mother, his father for every event starting from his childhood and later to his wife, his children, o
Stephen P
A horribly biased biography!

I was fooled by the reviews. I should have known better when I read that the author was commissioned by the family. Although lengthy, this “biography” is little more that a collection of quotes from Churchill’s letters, connected by the author’s prose. Observations and assessments by the author are virtually non-existent, leaving the reader to rely almost exclusively on Churchill’s often self-serving assessments of various situations. There is little context given to
Dec 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent treatment of the entire life of WSC

This volume is required reading for admirers of Churchill. It spends a good deal of time on his early life, including his failures in school, as well as his successes. His early military career is thoroughly covered in a manner that his autobiography could not, with a greater focus on contemporary impressions from the news and letters of associates and adversaries. The years of the great war and WWII are followed more closely in Churchill's own books,
Jun 07, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is single volume edit of a multi volume work. Given Churchill's long life, eccentricity, multiple talents, and breadth of experiences it is obvious that no single volume could possibly give anything but a sketchy over view and that is all this does. Unforgivably there is almost no attempt to reflect on his personality, private life before ( or after ) marriage, his sometimes capricious almost manic mood swings and little analysis of many of the more controversial episodes of his long life. ...more
Doug Adamson
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very thorough treatment of the long life of an influential and active political figure/statesman of the 20th century. Presents the material in a straight-forward way without a lot of discussion or evaluation. I found it helpful that Gilbert would give additional information in passing. He might mention that Churchill had met with someone about something and then he would note that that person had gone on to do X or had died in battle, or what-have-you. It struck me as both helpful and unobtrusiv ...more
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The official biographer of Winston Churchill and a leading historian on the Twentieth Century, Sir Martin Gilbert was a scholar and an historian who, though his 88 books, has shown there is such a thing as “true history”

Born in London in 1936, Martin Gilbert was educated at Highgate School, and Magdalen College, Oxford, graduating with First Class Honours. He was a Research Scholar at St Anthony's

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“In the Commons, Churchill defended his cutting back on the imprisonment of young offenders by drawing Members’ attention to the fact that ‘the evil only falls on the sons of the working classes. The sons of other classes commit many of the same offences. In their boisterous and exuberant spirits in their days at Oxford and Cambridge they commit offences—for which scores of the sons of the working class are committed to prison—without any injury being inflicted on them.’ There” 5 likes
“That winter the son’s need for his father’s love was again disappointed. On November 10, three weeks before his twelfth birthday, he wrote to him, ‘You never came to see me on Sunday when you were in Brighton.’ This was the second time his father had been in Brighton but had not gone to see him.” 2 likes
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