Book Review: Winston Churchill: British Prime Minister & Statesman

Winston Churchill:  British Prime Minister & Statesman, by Sue Vander Hook

For a variety of reasons I have always been fond of reading books by and about Sir Winston Churchill, that great war leader of Great Britain who nonetheless had a checkered political life and a somewhat dubious legacy given the failure of the British empire that became inevitable thanks to World War II (and American refusal to support the empire) as well as his lack of soundness in economic matters.  Although this book is certainly aimed at a younger audience than I happen to be a part of, it is a book I can readily recommend to a young person with an interest in British political history or who has a fondness for Winston Churchill and wants to read a bit more about him in a small and easy to understand package before tackling some of the longer works about him and by him [1] that exist.  And if this book is certainly not the last word on the Prime Minister’s life and career, for many readers it will be a good first word that will lead the reader into uncovering more mysteries about the man and his life and times.

This book is a short one at about 100 pages long and it is divided into nine chapters.  The author begins with a view of Winston Churchill as a prophet of truth concerning his hostility towards Hitler and how little it was shared by the English people and elites of the time (1).  After that the author goes back to Winston’s childhood to explore his education and his relationship with his wet nurse and more distant relationship with his parents (2).  This leads to a discussion of Winston’s military training (3), which he was enthusiastic about as a good student of military history.  After that the author explores Winston’s young adulthood where he somehow managed to juggle the jobs of being a soldier and a journalist before entering into politics (4) as a war hero of the Boer War.  After that the author discusses Churchill’s role in World War I (5), largely clearing him of blame for Gallipoli, as well as the wilderness years that followed (6) before his return to glory in World War II (7).  The last couple chapters of the book discuss somewhat poignantly the struggles of England in the Battle of Britain (8) as well as the last years of Churchill’s life (9) after he got the order of the boot from voters in 1945, after which the book ends with a timeline, essential facts, additional resources, glossary, source notes, index, and comments about the author.

In reading this book I had a sense that this book was really aiming to serve as a generally positive look at the life of a man about whom much could be said and whose complexity has led him to be interpreted in a variety of ways.  For those who view Churchill’s early recognition of Hitler as an enemy and early insight with regards to the Cold War that sprang directly out of World War II, this book will be a pleasing look at a political prophet.  For those who want to follow Churchill’s tangled relationship with the political parties of England and his own political identity, this book will raise a lot more questions than it answers.  Likewise, this book raises a lot of questions about Churchill’s relationship with his wartime allies as well as his own complex family background and the thorny question of the education of the British elite (and indeed education in general).  I found it nice to have a little book that raised a lot of questions and did not try to answer them all but readers should still be aware of this tendency as well as the book’s generally favorable view towards its subject.

[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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