Book Review: Churchill’s Trial

Churchill’s Trial: Winston Churchill And The Salvation Of Free Government, by Larry P. Arnn

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]

When I saw the chance to review a book about Winston Churchill from Larry Arnn, who I am familiar with from his online lectures for Hillsdale College, I was immediately interested, although I have read at least a few books about Churchill already [1]. This particular book, which does for Winston Churchill what an eminent political philosopher like Harry Jaffa has done for Abraham Lincoln, examines the words and behavior of Winston Churchill with regards to free government. This book, in its eloquent defense of the philosophical consistency of Winston Churchill, who was such a verbose writer that many people have been lost in trying to figure out what he thought about anything, given his tactical inconsistency in favor of a consistent set of ideals that sought for dignity and well-being, for an honorable peace, and for freedom that served the benefit of all. These are not necessarily easy principles to articulate and support, but Churchill’s prolific speaking and writing and his passionate and forthright manner of presentation certainly aided him in his political rhetoric.

In terms of its contents, this book is divided somewhat complexly into several parts. After an introductory section that includes a note on style, a justification of the choice of Churchill as a model for analysis, and a comment on the trial that he faced over the course of his life in preserving freedom against both outright tyranny in the form of Communism and Nazism and the more creeping threat provided by socialism, the book is divided into three parts. The first part, with four chapters, looks at Churchill’s view of war. This view is suitably complicated, looking at Churchill’s experience in the Sudan and South Africa, as well as his elevated kind of strategic interests in World War I and World War II, as well as his concern over the more terrible kind of war fought in the modern world with industrial and nuclear forms of death-dealing. The second part of the book has one chapter that deals with the importance of the British Empire to Churchill’s understanding of the British role as a major power in the world, which was in some way dependent on the resources of the Commonwealth. The third part of the book deals with the threats to free government found in peace, including Churchill’s resolute opposition to socialism in England, what was meant by his statement that socialism would require some sort of Gestapo, namely in the increase of a nosy and increasingly intrusive bureaucracy, along with his desire for social reforms to ameliorate the conditions of people so that there would be no calls for the dangerous increase in power of authorities that simply cannot be trusted to act properly and with proper restraint. After this the book includes a conclusion that summarizes the contents of the book, a lengthy and appreciative acknowledgements section, as well as three appendices with notable political and philosophical works by Churchill himself: Fifty Years Hence, What Good’s A Constitution, and The Sinews Of Peace.

For those people who appreciate the life and example of Winston Churchill, this book does an excellent job in showing the words of Churchill and how they served a political worldview that was hostile both to the domination of society by wealthy aristocrats or businessmen as well as the domination of society by unaccountable technocratic and bureaucratic elites. As an egalitarian scion of the aristocracy who was half-American and who loved both the traditions of the House of Commons as well as promoting modern technological feats like the tank, a patriotic Briton, a man who was courageous in warfare and yet determined to preserve, if at all possible, an honorable peace through strength, Winston Churchill was an immensely complicated man. The fact that he switched parties twice in his career, thought that he was over the hill and past his prime before getting his first opportunity to become Prime Minister during the darkest days of World War II, and who then won his first and only election as an old man after five disastrous years of Labor misrule in Great Britain only makes his career more approachable for those of us who are worried that we too are wasting the productive years of our lives as backbenchers in obscurity. For as Churchill bemoaned the lack of heroes in his time and became one, perhaps the same may true for some of us, if we do not grow weary in well-doing, and can endure the years of unjust obscurity that we are faced with.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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