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THE SECOND WORLD WAR > 1. SECOND WW - January 19 - January 25 ~~ Book One – Chapters I– III (1-46) - Non Spoiler

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Jan 18, 2009 09:17PM) (new)

Bentley | 44125 comments Mod
Hello Everyone,

This will be the first weekly spotlighted thread for The Second World War - Volume One - The Gathering Storm by Winston S. Churchill.

The Second World War, Volume 1 The Gathering Storm by Winston S. Churchill

We will open up a thread for each week's reading. Please make sure to post in the particular thread dedicated to those specific chapters and page numbers to avoid spoilers. We will also open up supplemental threads as well which will not be non spoiler.

Oldesq and I are sharing in the board tasks and we will kick everything off tomorrow January 19th.

We look forward to your participation. Amazon and other noted on line booksellers do have copies of the book and shipment can be expedited. The book can also be obtained easily at your local library, on your Kindle or free on Google.

There is still time remaining to obtain the book and get started.

There is no rush and we are thrilled to have you join us. It is never too late to get started and/or to post.

Welcome to the discussion.


message 2: by Erica (new)

Erica DuBois awesome

message 3: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44125 comments Mod
Oldesq, you raise an interesting point about Churchill. I can see that he is writing as a politician and world leader; but I think he is also writing as a quasi historian. I think because he actually took part in the history making and is reporting on his own actions and those of others; that it may be difficult for him to always be as objective as he can and should be about his own actions where he in fact took part. One thing that I have noticed about him is that he tries to err on the side of equanimity for other folks and sometimes judges himself on the other hand quite harshly. I wonder whether part of his lifelong depression had anything to do with his own self esteem and feelings of self worth that stemmed from his childhood and his not receiving much attention or love from his parents.

On the whole, I have found that he tells a good story and though he does frequently take some liberties and detours; he tries to stick with the facts and give an explanation for what prompted certain actions on the part of the various world players since he had at the time a bird's eye view.

I love his style of writing and whether one agrees or not with Churchill; he was a phenomenal writer and learned his English composition well.


message 4: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Jan 19, 2009 08:23PM) (new)

Bentley | 44125 comments Mod
I did not disagree with anything you said; in fact quite the opposite. I do agree with you about how he portrayed the United States and it distressed me too. But I do not think he was being unfair though or not truthful. It is obvious that at the time or after the fact he disagreed with the Hague discussions. I think Churchill's portrayal of Wilson was fairly accurate; and I agree that Churchill wanted to present his own hypotheses. Wilson won the Nobel Peace Prize at the time but he could not compromise with the opposition party and because of that his presidency sometimes has been viewed as controversial; yet I believe he had enormous abilities and was able to accomplish some terrific initiatives. I think his Fourteen Points was largely his own formation and he worked tirelessly. Wilson largely was not successful compromising and working with his own Congress. I have to think that every historian that I have ever read seems to have their own slant. I will be very interested to see how this volume unfolds; we already know that the US will do a lot to help England and the world. We will have to see how balanced an historian Churchill will be. I think even in MEL that Churchill was very much is own advocate even though he was often his harshest critic.

As far as reparations, France was so severely traumatized that I think they truly believed that this would deter Germany from waging war again. Churchill very aptly portrays the psychology of that time period which fascinates me even more than the history itself. You can really understand why countries and people did what they did even though you might disagree with their actions.

It is hard walking in someone else's shoes. Churchill was very opinionated; and I don't agree with him on all things that is for sure.

message 5: by Virginia (new)

Virginia (va-BBoomer) | 210 comments I found it more than interesting that he 'stepped' out of British politics at one point because he disagreed with India becoming free from British rule. I wasn't aware that he felt this way, and after being brought to the India issue via the movie Gandhi, WC's standing on this issue doesn't put me in favor with him. But then, I know the bad feelings and opinions the whole reparation issue brought about, and he tells of that so clearly and completely, making that issue from the end of WW1 much more understood.
This book has forced me back to an encyclopedia for the basic facts and a renewal of the whys, wherefores, and results of WW1, a part of history I haven't touched in many, many years.

message 6: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Jan 19, 2009 10:12PM) (new)

Bentley | 44125 comments Mod
Yes Virginia, I think Churchill remembered his life in India as a young soldier and his sense of entitlement and I often think he viewed India as the crown jewel. He was quite adamant; he and Ghandi did not sit well with each other. I think Churchill felt that Ghandi was embarrassing the pride of the English sovereignty and it's stature around the world.

Churchill does a fairly good job of explaining the reparation issue; I agree. World War I isn't as much highlighted as WWII for some reason. Churchill has a way of stepping out of his narrative like an aside in a theater production where the actor steps out of character and talks to the audience.

It is like he is writing along and then he stops and acts like he is saying, oh by the way...on this other subject..this is the way I really feel.

message 7: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Jan 20, 2009 05:39PM) (new)

Bentley | 44125 comments Mod
Oldesq, I wondered at that statement too. I guess he was simply saying in my mind that a monarch being re-established would not have paved the way and would have eliminated any opportunity for a Corporal Hitler. Honestly, though I do not understand why a country would prefer or want a monarchy myself, I didn't think that was his point. Churchill also indicated that much of the opposition to such a move came from the US. I think that the US was calling a lot of the shots at that time and some of the decisions good or bad have to rest on our shoulders as well as the others who made them. Granted we never would even have been in the war in the first place had it not been for Japan; but it is certain that eventually we would have had to face Germany in the long haul. I think one of the reasons that the US was so adamant about not getting into the Second World War is because many felt that we got into the first one under false pretenses and we should never have been involved in that one in the first place. Reading chapter one did not make me feel that there was a lot of wise policy making going around at the end of World War I, more feelings of restitution and revenge or gaining satisfaction versus empathy and under the circumstances, maybe that was understandable. The losses had been huge.

message 8: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44125 comments Mod
I agree Oldesq with technology today; everyone knows everything instantly; sometimes history has a way of repeating itself.

message 9: by Mohamed Omar (new)

Mohamed Omar (mabdou) | 8 comments I am really enjoying your conversation here folks,thank you!

As a citizen of one of the countries that was occupied by G.B. I may look to the book from another perspective. Yes W.Churchill lis an amazing writer not doubt ,but I believe he is far from being a historian “by definition” he expresses the official(may I say imperial) British point of view .I am not blaming him at all ,I am really enjoying the book so far ,and the language is amazing ,but I just loved to point that It may not a neutral point of view.Any way this is common when politicians write about the era when they were in charge and I am really delighted to read further.

message 10: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44125 comments Mod
Mohamed wrote: "I am really enjoying your conversation here folks,thank you!

As a citizen of one of the countries that was occupied by G.B. I may look to the book from another perspective. Yes W.Churchill lis an ..."

Mohamed, you raise a valid point; I think we need to judge his assertions on an individual basis..point by point; because it is not unknown for Churchill to promote or advocate his own point of view. But on the other hand; all of the biographies and histories that I have read all seem to promote the biases or predilections of the writer.

I too am enjoying the book and look forward to discussing all aspects of the ideology Churchill puts forward. I think Churchill attempted to be neutral; but like I said I think it is difficult if not impossible for anyone to separate their beliefs from their discourse. It seems to always come through.

What specific points Mohamed do you feel that Churchill is expressing the British point of view solely; I am very interested in hearing and discussing them. And I do agree that he was staunchly British.

I think it is so wonderful to have your input and various points of views. We all have various perspectives which are rich and having not lived during this time period that Churchill writes about; I find I learn so much from all of the input here.

message 11: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44125 comments Mod
Kristen wrote: "Bentley wrote: "Oldesq, I wondered at that statement too. I guess he was simply saying in my mind that a monarch being re-established would not have paved the way and would have eliminated any opp..."

Yes Kristen that is what I took him to mean; the window of opportunity would have been closed.

message 12: by Erica (new)

Erica DuBois Hmm...if this book was originally published in 1948, it is less a history book than "current events." I'm supposing I would have found it in that section of Barnes and Noble had I been browsing there in 1948...

this is an interesting article i got by googling (maybe you guys have read it). i will be doing a lot of googling, because though i know the basic facts, i definitely don't know enough to have strong opinions. this is an article critical of churchill's version of events:

message 13: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44125 comments Mod
Erica wrote: "Hmm...if this book was originally published in 1948, it is less a history book than "current events." I'm supposing I would have found it in that section of Barnes and Noble had I been browsing th..."

He wrote it after he had left office the first time; after the war was over; the English usurped him from his post. He did become prime minister again but there was a gap of a few years. During the gap after the war had ended; he decided to write this. So it really is not current events although not ancient history that is for sure; who knows where Barnes and Noble would have placed this at the time.

You will find many pros and cons about Churchill; a good pro resource is The Churchill Centre (although they try to present both views), in England and the World, Churchill was voted not only as one of the 100 Greatest Britons but in the BBC poll as the greatest of them all.

As far as opinions, everybody can have one and present their viewpoints and they are all welcome. We all read each book differently and whether you are critical or want to praise Churchill, as long as everybody is respectful, we welcome that kind of discussion. Churchill was very charismatic but he did have opposition and there were some folks who were not his admirers but his detractors; he also had strong opinions and beliefs which he fought hard for and with vigor and he could be very sarcastic with his humor. So I am sure that in his lifetime there were a fair amount of folks who though they are grateful to him may not have warmed up to him during his Parliament days.

I will set up a glossary so that all urls regarding Churchill can go there. Thank you for the url.

message 14: by Prunesquallor (new)

Prunesquallor | 37 comments Churchill, don't know much about the fellow, my usual haunts start around 25,000 BP and run down to the "collapse" of the Roman Empire, with secondary excursions into the U.S. Civil War, World War I, and World War II. So, with some background in these two "great" wars, why do I know so little about Churchill? I've taken numerous courses that cover the two "great" wars, but never found Winston's books listed as anything other than "memoirs" (like Hitler's "Mein Kampf") to be read as colorful adjuncts to the core bibliographies. Do modern historians avoid using Churchill as textbook material for some particular reason? The fellow has a reputation for being a "great historian," so why are his books not at the center of the curriculum? While, it seems, no professional historian I've talked with wants to "attack" Churchill's credentials as an historian, still, no one uses his books as teaching texts. Why not? Is Winston somehow NOT considered a "real" historian by the professional academics, but his popularity makes it too difficult for them to publicly criticize the man or his writings? Hmmm, should we be forewarned by this situation that his works are to be viewed more as opinion/ editorializing than "objective" history? Don't know, yet.

"Churchill waged the Second World War twice over: as Prime Minister steering his country from disaster in 1940 to victory in 1945, and again as the conflict's principal historian, with six volumes of memoirs published over the subsequent decade. The saga of his premiership is celebrated, the story of his war memoirs virtually unknown, yet Churchill the historian has shaped our image of Churchill the leader. As he liked to say when locked in wartime controversy, 'I shall leave it to history, but remember that I shall be one of the historians.'" (David Reynolds, "In Command of History," p. xiv, 2007)

"Churchill wrote the 'History of the Second World War' in substantial measure as an exercise in self-vindication and political re-engagement." (David Cannadine et al, "Winston Churchill in the Twenty-first Century," p. 3, 2004)

Winston Churchill... I was going to pass up the "opportunity" to group-read this particular book because I feared the forum would all too soon become a chorus of conservative voices singing out the praises of a man who has been shaped (and indeed actively shaped himself) as an untouchable icon of the right. When the "history" that defines Churchill was largely written by him, and then inspired the accolades of hundreds of earnest works of pure hagiography, I despair of ever being able to get an "objective-historical" view of Winston. Who was he, REALLY? What contributions to the flow of history did he REALLY make? Was he as consistently prescient as his own words suggest? How are his thoughts and actions to be judged? Do his writings really come up to the basic standards of "history," or are they more "propagandistic" in nature?

I have a strong suspicion that merely reading Winston's own books will not get me close to the sort of understanding of him that I am seeking. So, in my basic ignorance, I'll have to do a good deal of supplementary reading, and hope the "experts" can lead me to a "corrected" view of the "Greatest Statesman of the Twentieth Century."

But, here's the rub, if Churchill was so good at shaping his own image, and if professional historians are reluctant to debunk the myths associated with that public image, how will we ever come to a rational, "objective" understanding of Churchill and his place in history?

What I normally do in preparation for such discussions, is precisely what Erica has done -- I "Google-up" the topic and look for a range of sources, "negative," "balanced," and "positive." I must confess, I'm having trouble finding both the "negative" and the "balanced" when it comes to Churchill bibliographic research:

"Even to breathe a word of criticism of the 'Greatest Englishman of All Time' was regarded as virtually treasonable in the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1970s and 1980s the multi-volume official biography by Martin Gilbert added massively researched detail in a further act of hero-worship. ... Now, however, a new iconoclast has suddenly emerged, and a flurry of angry reviews, debates on radio and television, and -- that most certain sign of ruffled feathers in the Establishment -- outraged letters to 'The Times,' shows that he has succeeded in hitting his target. In his 'Churchill: The End of Glory,' the young historian John Charmley attacks Churchill's reputation head-on. Far from being the hero who rescued Britain from the humiliations of appeasement and led the country to victory over Hitler by his indomitable spirit, Churchill, says Charmley in the concluding passage of his book, was a failure:"

Churchill stood for the British empire, for British independence,
and for an 'anti-Socialist' vision of Britain. By July 1945 the first
of these was on the skids, the second was dependent solely
upon America, and the third had just vanished in a Labour
election victory. (J. Charmley, "Churchill, The End of Glory")

(cf. Richard J. Evans, "The Reunification of Germany," pp. 204-205, 1997)

So, maybe in Charmley, I will have a "negative" but academically sound interpretation of Churchill to help balance the adulatory accounts of such author's as Martin Gilbert? But I'm still floundering about in my search for a genuinely "balanced" (and readable) account of Churchill's place in history. Any suggestions?

message 15: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Jan 22, 2009 10:10AM) (new)

Bentley | 44125 comments Mod
Prunesquallor, Charmley is not well thought of but he is negative (even most Brits do not feel that his viewpoints are academically sound); remember these weekly threads are no spoiler threads and should only deal with the pages that we are reading; I will open up some supplemental threads so that we can discuss Churchill's live as a whole. Have you begun reading the book as yet; Churchill does have an interesting style. In America, we usually do not focus so much on British history; however if you were an English school boy or girl; you would certainly know a lot about the man.

As far as research, urls, etc.; I have already set up a thread for all of those discussions; so all urls should go there.

Remember all; this is a non spoiler thread and not a pro or con discussion about the man. The Off Topic Cafe is also open for discussions that veer in a different direction.

message 16: by Prunesquallor (new)

Prunesquallor | 37 comments Hullo, Bentley!

Yes, I have started "The Gathering Storm," and find that if we are applying the same criteria of judgment that we used in our discussions of Herodotus, I have some initial problems regarding Churchill's "objectivity:"

"France, by right alike of her efforts and her losses, held the leading place. Nearly a million and a half Frenchmen had perished defending the soil of France on which they stood against the invader. Five times in a hundred years, in 1814, 1815, 1870, 1914, and 1918, had the towers of Notre Dame seen the flash of Prussian guns and heard the thunder of their cannoade. ... There was hardly a cottage nor a family from Verdun to Toulon that did not mourn its dead or shelter its cripples. ...All their lives they had dwelt in fear of the German Empire." (Churchill, TGS, pp 4-5)

I personally have a great deal of difficulty seeing the above account as "objective" history. It is effective prose that seeks to engage the uninformed reader's sympathy for the French people, while establishing the absolute hostility and antagonism of the Germans towards the French through a significant portion of time (1814 - 1918). Note that nowhere does Churchill refer to the historical fact that Great Britain and France were traditional competitors and enemies for hundreds of years, while the Prussians had little engagement with France until the wars of conquest by Louis XIV. Winnie also fails to mention that in 1814 and 1815 the British army was on French (Belgian) soil and that the Prussians were there as British allies in the attempt to end the conquest-career of Napoleon I. By the manner in which Churchill selectively presents his material, it "appears" that only the Prussians were involved in these invasions of France; and the entire context of the Napoleonic invasions of Germany (1802 - 1812) are blithely ignored. In the Franco-Prussian War, it was actually Napoleon III who first declared hostilities as he feared (rightly or wrongly) the unification of the German states would upset the place of France as the first power on the continent. (Some say Louis Napoleon was "tricked" into the war by a clever Bismarck so that German unification could be sped up by the common German effort to defeat an antagonistic foreign enemy.) But, if Napoleon III had not been on the verge of removal in France by popular revolution, he probably would not have started a war with the coalescent Germans -- but, to stave off social-political reform at home, Louis Napoleon tried to unify the French people under the banner of his establishment by involving them in a foreign war. (Fritz Fischer in 1967 would point out that this may have been what the German ruling class was hoping to achieve in 1914, but then that thesis applies equally well for ALL the European nations, including Great Britain).

Additionally, the French were not the only ones to have lost great numbers of men in WW I, the Germans lost 1,600,000 men compared to the French loss of 1,359,000, British losses of 658,700, and Russian losses of 1,700,000. The same "mourning" that Churchill attributes to the French was felt throughout the extent of Europe. So why does Churchill mention only the anguish of the French? Is he trying to work upon our sympathies here, to attach us further to the concept of a perfectly innocent France, the tragic victims of concentrated Germanic aggressive hatred? Maybe.

Churchill also, admittedly from a 1948 perspective, still trumpets the absolute and sole German War Guilt for WW I. But even in his own time, other "historians," more objectively were seeing the great debacle as a pan-European affair, a clash of competing nations heavily influenced by the precepts of imperialism, Social Darwinism, and the over-arching desire for capitalistic gain.* In this sense it was the European culture as a whole that was responsible for the war, not Germany alone.

In fact, some reasons given for the "appeasement" of Hitler refer to the perception in Great Britain itself, between 1930 and 1939, that Germany had been unfairly saddled with the burden of sole War Guilt. Surely, in 1948, Churchill would have been aware that his interpretations were NOT the unanimous opinion despite his assertion: "Germany, the head and forefront of the offence, regarded by all as the prime cause of the catastrophe which had fallen upon the world..." (Churchill, TGS, p. 4,1948)

"Regarded by ALL."

I think not, not even if we restrict ourselves to the inter-war period 1919 - 1939.

So, while I personally hold no brief for the full exculpation of the Germans in the First World War (and actually lean in my personal bias towards the French cause, flawed as it was) I certainly DO fault Churchill for slanting his interpretation beyond my own standards of acceptance. Harumph, even Herodotus treated the Persians with greater objectivity -- LOL!

Thanks for your views on Charmley, I'll take a ride down to the university and see if I can find some academic journal reviews that place him in context. Sigh, still have no idea where to find an "objective" reading of Winston, egad, seems only the extremes are represented?


* See the historiography sections in John Keegan, "The First World War," and James Joll, "The Origins of the First World War," for historians between 1920 and 1939 who addressed this issue and whose works should have been available to Churchill by 1948.

message 17: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44125 comments Mod
Hello Prunesquallor,
Having seen first hand the cemetaries and burial grounds in France, it is daunting. Unbelievable and very sad. Charmley is Charmley; intelligent man but debunked by his countrymen and very negative about Churchill (almost personal).

The French I guess had been invaded regularly by Germany; hence the disdain and fear maybe that it could happen again. Also, what Churchill did say was not untrue specifically; they had experienced what they had experienced; did it seem that he was being more cognizant of the French peoples' sufferings more than others; that might be a point that is valid. But their population growth suffers even today in France because of the huge numbers of their male population who were killed in their youth.

As you find more referential data, I have set up a thread for all of it; so that folks can read it all as they have time and decide for themselves.

Good research, Prunesquallor.

message 18: by Prunesquallor (new)

Prunesquallor | 37 comments Regarding "spoilers," hmmm, could always be a problem, sometimes to make a point validly one needs to mention things not strictly in the assigned reading. Feel free to move my posts to an ancillary section should they be deemed inappropriate for any given thread. That's why we have moderators.


message 19: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44125 comments Mod
Prunesquallor wrote: "Regarding "spoilers," hmmm, could always be a problem, sometimes to make a point validly one needs to mention things not strictly in the assigned reading. Feel free to move my posts to an ancillary..."

Prunesquallor; thanks for understanding. We have both supplemental threads (which are not non spoilers and the weekly threads which are non spoiler). Your points are noted and they can be debated on the threads which are supplemental and we always have a lot of those.

message 20: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44125 comments Mod
Erica wrote: "this group is very controlling of discussion. well, i found your comments on point, prunesquallor. i might be a bit too wild for this club. i'm enjoying the book. my impression on reading it is..."

Erica, these threads are what we call non spoiler threads. We have explained the differences in the policies area. We will move your comments to the Off Topic thread. Thanks for understanding.

message 21: by Prunesquallor (new)

Prunesquallor | 37 comments RE Bentley: "The French I guess had been invaded regularly by Germany..."

Ah, that's my point (though I can be wrong!), I think we can dismiss the 1814 and 1815 episodes as not representing "German invasions" of France, but simply part of the overall Coalition efforts by Russia, Great Britain, Austria etc to push the invading French back into the boundaries of France. I think even the French accepted this. So, we are left really with just the 1870 Franco-Prussian War as the focus of a nationalistic dread -- while even this war is debatably as much French precipitated as German.*

But, if I'm catching your point here, Bentley, to the French of 1914 - 1918, the Franco-Prussian War would certainly be attributed to German aggression, and WW I would be seen as "more of the same." Yet, precisely here, I have another problem with Churchill's "objectivity." While his failure to address this issue "fairly" (as I see it) does not represent "untruth specifically," it does, I think, unduly distort the first time reader's perception of events in that Churchill tries (wrongly I believe) to establish a long-term (1814 on) German-French contest, that does not seem to be supported by the facts.

After 1870, then, I grant you, there was a tremendous nationalistic phobia in France concerning Germany and a series of re-conquest plans (Plan 15, 17, etc.**) seeking to avenge the loss of Alsace/ Lorraine.

All this information was available to Churchill between 1919 and 1948, so I would expect him, if he were living up to the "code" of a professional historian, to have accounted "objectively" for this data.

At this point in my reading of Churchill's memoirs, I do not view him as an "historian." Perhaps later chapters will reverse this preliminary estimation? And I should like to add, that because I find fault with Churhill's treatment of this section of his memoirs, I do not make this a blanket condemnation of ALL his corpus, LOL, I'll take him on piecemeal as we progress through his narrative, and sing his praises (almost hagiographicly) -- when I think he deserves it!


* I am trying to recall now, if the French ever thought the way Churchill assumes they did, that is that there was a long standing Franco-German conflict. From my course work regarding both France and Germany, I think that the French largely ignored Germany after the successful "theft" of Alsace back in the 1640s; and I don't remember any special antagonism against the Prussians for their part in defeating Napoleon I in 1814/ 1815, where most of their nationalistic hate was directed against England. As late as 1905, with the Fashoda Incident in Africa, the French and British nearly went to war, again.

** These were "contingency plans in France, on a par with the "Schliefen Plan," -- something ALL the nations at that timed seemed to think important. In fact, even Great Britain had a 1902 "contingency" plan for violating Belgian Neutrality in order to enter Germany through an undefended frontier.

message 22: by Prunesquallor (last edited Jan 22, 2009 01:27PM) (new)

Prunesquallor | 37 comments Hullo, Erica!

Yes, you make several excellent points in message # 25. (Now moved to another topic heading, see Bentley message 26 above)

Regarding the 1948 date of Churchill's TGS, yeah, I agree, he is writing from a perspective of immediacy, the war having just been concluded. In this sense, he is one of the first on the scene to give us an extended treatment of WW II and the events that led up to it. Consequently, he gets to establish the primary base from which later works will diverge. We are, in a way, at his mercy...

Would Churchill have altered his narrative (more toward what I would view as being within the parameters of "professional objectivity") had he been granted a few decades of reflection? Hmmm...

David Reynolds, "In Command of History," presents the thesis that Churchill was disgruntled with having been "dumped" by the British people shortly after the war, and he was writing TGS et al, to "vindicate" himself and his programs with a view to returning to power as Prime Minister (got there in 1951, I think).

In this case, maybe Churchill started writing his books for the wrong reason, personal vindication/ and a hoped for return to power? I don't know if Reynolds' work is considered "controversial" as apparently Charmley's is, or the definitely hopeless work of Irving. But if Reynolds is acceptable as a mainstream academic (but not a Churchill worshipper)then I would expect Winston to have, at times, a strong, non-professional historian's biases -- biases that we, as readers looking for "real history" should be aware of. (Split infinitives are OK, Churchill liked 'em!)

message 23: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44125 comments Mod
I think they are histories but certainly are also memoirs and narrative historical accounts. I have placed in the Resource thread a url which discusses Winston as an historian and seems to present some of the views you have put forward. Whatever the opinion, these are great resources and we are fortunate to have them since Churchill has access to many journals, letters, documents that otherwise might not have seen the light of day. I consider him a brilliant writer and very entertaining and I am enjoying the book tremendously. Also placed a 1914 article in the resource area which you might find interesting.

message 24: by Prunesquallor (new)

Prunesquallor | 37 comments Thanks, Bentley!

It's good to have your input here, especially since you have the Churchillian perspective that comes with doing the "Early Life" reading.

Yes, ABSOLUTELY, Churchill's writings should be regarded as invaluable historical resources, having first hand material from a man who was so involved in the great issues of his time is fantastic! LOL, he also "reads" better than most of the academic treatments, and so far, in my edition, no pesky footnotes to break the flow of a grand narrative!

message 25: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44125 comments Mod
Churchill though beloved now; could at some times be a polarizing figure; I think his sarcastic humor is delightful but I am sure those on the receiving end might not have felt so inclined. My Early Life does add a bit of perspective when reading this work; I think you understand the frailities of the man and his human qualities more (both strengths and weaknesses). And I think his works with all of their warts for some were extremely far reaching and entertaining. It is a grand narrative whatever side you might find yourself on.

message 26: by Prunesquallor (new)

Prunesquallor | 37 comments LOL "sarcastic humour" precisely why my wife idolizes the fellow! She threatens to censor my remarks here if I ever lose sight of Churchill's status as one of the wittiest politicians ever -- a valid claim to greatness in itself. Warts and all, I still like the man and would rather chat with him than any other politician, save perhaps, Abraham Lincoln, another witty statesman!

message 27: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44125 comments Mod
BTW: in reading what Winston is writing about in The Second World War; if you want to find a fairly well respected biographer; Roy Jenkins did do a biography of Churchill which is well respected. I have placed an interview that Charlie Rose did with Jenkins before he died in the resource area.

message 28: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Jan 22, 2009 03:16PM) (new)

Bentley | 44125 comments Mod
Kristen wrote: "Just started on the book today and I'm only half-way through this week's reading but I thought I would post something anyway. I have so much other required reading for school and I'm still finishi..."

Hello Kristen,

I posted a book which had been scanned by google. It is in the resource area and is titled "Versailles and after - 1919 - 1933" . It may give you some background info regarding your questions that you cited here.

message 29: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44125 comments Mod
Someone was asking about why Churchill might have thought that France had suffered more. From some outside resources that I have been reading; it was stated that France in relationship to its total population had the greatest losses.

The source stated that "France was the European country which suffered the most from World War I, with respect to the size of its population, losing 1.4 million young men out of a total population of 40 million. France was also at the time the European country with the lowest fertility rate, which meant that the country had a very hard time recovering from the heavy losses of the war. France had to open its doors to immigration, which was the only way to prevent population decline between the two world wars."


message 30: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 2 comments Bentley wrote: "BTW: in reading what Winston is writing about in The Second World War; if you want to find a fairly well respected biographer; Roy Jenkins did do a biography of Churchill which is well respected. ..."

Thanks for the resource. I had the same questions as Kristen but was later to the discussion board than she. As a "first time reader" I have enjoyed the book thus far. Regardless of his historian status, he is a great writer and, for me, has effectively 'set the stage' regarding political and economic climate leading to WWII. Of course, in setting the stage he also brought a myriad of questions about the time between the two wars. I am relatively new to history and appreciate the extra resources that have been posted so I can do some further research. I started the book with the assumption that it would be a memoir with historically significant insight that only Churchill was in the position to give. I don't think I'm ready to debate the Churchill as historian subject but am enjoying the writing and his perspective.

message 31: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44125 comments Mod
Rachel wrote: "Bentley wrote: "BTW: in reading what Winston is writing about in The Second World War; if you want to find a fairly well respected biographer; Roy Jenkins did do a biography of Churchill which is w..."

You are welcome Rachel; for me it seems to be very well written and an enjoyable read as well. I have this feeling about everything in life; I can always learn something from it.

message 32: by Bookmagic (new)

Bookmagic | 3 comments I am late in getting started but began reading last night. I had no idea the US loaned so much money to Germany after WWI. It seems like a lot a bad financial planning. I am also getting a bit confused with some of the transitions in British leadership, I find their government confusing at times with how often it seemed they were changing PM's. It may have just been the way WSC wrote it, condensing alot of pre-WWII into a few paragraphs.

message 33: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44125 comments Mod
Response to Kristen (message 44):

The source cited actually answers your monetary question; it opens to that specific scanned page. Google scans a great many sources like that one.

I have not personally read the Taylor book.

message 34: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44125 comments Mod
Bookmagic wrote: "I am late in getting started but began reading last night. I had no idea the US loaned so much money to Germany after WWI. It seems like a lot a bad financial planning. I am also getting a bit conf..."

It is never too late Bookmagic; glad to have you joining the conversation. I was amazed at that myself; why stress such onerous reparations and then pay out exorbitant monies which obviously could not be paid back by the government you are lending it to. I think there was a lot condensed in the first few chapters; just my take.

message 35: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44125 comments Mod
Yes Oldesq, that may be true; but it is certain that the left hand obviously did not know what the right hand was doing. It also I think was a huge factor in the problem that WC describes. Why expect to be paid back a huge sum which the country cannot pay holding their feet to the fire and then dole out stupendous aide money and loans. If the country cannot pay the reparations; then why loan them money and still maintain the same reparation expectations or ever expect to be paid back at all (for anything!). The US was not only not going to be paid the reparations; but now the loans.

message 36: by The Antiquary (last edited Feb 08, 2009 07:52AM) (new)

The Antiquary | 9 comments Hi, a little late, but with regards India, thought I'd point out that Churchill's concern about the consequences of Indian independence was borne out by the the events of Partition.

It is hard to judge how original such thoughts and opinions were at the time, but Churchill's further prescience in 1925 in the matter of weapons such as guided missles is similarly impressive.

Oldesq wrote: Churchill writes that "defeat had brought [the German citizens:] on its scaly wings democratic forms and liberty in an extreme degree. (I am at a loss as to this comment other than to suppose it is in opposition to an ineffectual democracy- preferring instead a paternalistic monarchy?). ..."

Churchill's education certainly would have covered Plato's critique of monarchy and democracy:
Imagine (less of a strain given recent events) the President being chosen by the votes on American Idol. The idea that pure democracy, like pure alcohol, is best watered-down.

I'd best not go into too much detail but constitutional monarchy and the House of Lords (as it formerly was) are not just for show but an effective check against corruption and is ultimately a proven uniting force. Note that all three 'lords' recently accused of corruption are party appointees, career politicians, and not hereditary peers - a lot of people were not surprised - at any rate, getting too far out of bounds now...

On ch.5 now, soon be caught up.

message 37: by Sara (last edited Feb 11, 2009 05:38PM) (new)

Sara | 4 comments A little late in joining the discussion on this book. Turns out free shipping takes a month to get to Hawaii.

I am new to WWII history and, as a result, find this reading very interesting, as anything I read is pretty much new to me. The extent of my WWII knowledge has come out of high school US history courses, so I know very little about Churchill. Although, I am also currently reading "My Early Life" to supplement this. This spring I spent a month in Europe and actually saw many memorials erected in honor to those lost in WWII. Even though, I live in the state where the attack that brought the US into the war occurred, I have always viewed WWII as something far in the past. Only recently have I realized how recent it really was and how its events still affect the current state of world affairs.

This first section seems very pertinent to our current political state in the US. With our recent economic collapse I found the section on the beginning of the Great Depression very interesting. Although I would have hoped for a little more exploration of the topic. I have a feeling that the Great Depression had quite an effect on the rise of WWII, as so much of what Churchill suggests as the causes of the war were financial. However, this is just a guess of mine.

message 38: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 67 comments Hi everyone, hope all is well. Sorry its taken me so long to post but I am just now catching up. A couple of points ..

Churchill is certainly biased. But wouldn't we all be a little surprised if he wasn't? After all, we are all a product of our environments and if you the leader of your country (or previous leader) you are bound to focus on the view you are an advocate for. Can you imagine if Obama was saying that America wouldn't make it out of this financial crisis sooner?

One thing that really jumped out at me was on page 31 an 32 where Churchill describes the American economy in 1929 "The prosperity of millions of American homes had grown upon a gigantic structure of inflated credit, now suddenly proved phantom." I see a lot of similarity between that time period and the one we are in. It seems like we really don't learn from history or our mistakes. Sometimes it seems like our entire economy is based on a cycle that ebbs an flows on fear and greed..

message 39: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44125 comments Mod
Sara, welcome to the discussion; it is never too late to get started. Really surprised how long it takes for Borders to get books to Hawaii. Thinking of you in beautiful Hawaii while we wait for a wintry mix/snow storm in the next couple of days.

Reading My Early Life is a great companion to reading this book; it gives you a real perspective on what makes Churchill tick and the influences in his life.

I agree with you about Pearl Harbor and the lasting affects of the world wars; they do seem long ago for us who were not born yet.

I think you make some astute points on the effects of the Great Depression on world events.

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