Churchill: Walking with Destiny

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Penguin, Nov 6, 2018 - Biography & Autobiography - 1152 pages

One of The Wall Street Journal’s Ten Best Books of 2018
One of The Economist’s Best Books of 2018
One of The New York Timess Notable Books of 2018

“Unarguably the best single-volume biography of Churchill . . . A brilliant feat of storytelling, monumental in scope, yet put together with tenderness for a man who had always believed that he would be Britain’s savior.” —Wall Street Journal

In this landmark biography of Winston Churchill based on extensive new material, the true genius of the man, statesman and leader can finally be fully seen and understood--by the bestselling, award-winning author of Napoleon and The Storm of War.

When we seek an example of great leaders with unalloyed courage, the person who comes to mind is Winston Churchill: the iconic, visionary war leader immune from the consensus of the day, who stood firmly for his beliefs when everyone doubted him. But how did young Winston become Churchill? What gave him the strength to take on the superior force of Nazi Germany when bombs rained on London and so many others had caved? In Churchill, Andrew Roberts gives readers the full and definitive Winston Churchill, from birth to lasting legacy, as personally revealing as it is compulsively readable.

Roberts gained exclusive access to extensive new material: transcripts of War Cabinet meetings, diaries, letters and unpublished memoirs from Churchill's contemporaries. The Royal Family permitted Roberts--in a first for a Churchill biographer--to read the detailed notes taken by King George VI in his diary after his weekly meetings with Churchill during World War II. This treasure trove of access allows Roberts to understand the man in revelatory new ways, and to identify the hidden forces fueling Churchill's legendary drive.

We think of Churchill as a hero who saved civilization from the evils of Nazism and warned of the grave crimes of Soviet communism, but Roberts's masterwork reveals that he has as much to teach us about the challenges leaders face today--and the fundamental values of courage, tenacity, leadership and moral conviction.

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Churchill: Walking with Destiny

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Roberts (Napoleon: A Life) serves up an extraordinary biography of Winston Churchill. A resolutely pro-British empire “child of the Victorian era” who was emotionally neglected by his aristocratic ... Read full review

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I found it just as easy to read this biography as I do to read an essay by George Orwell because it is written with striking clarity and in a straightforward manner. I am not suggesting for one moment that it is not scholarly but that it is thoroughly palatable and enjoyable to read. The book also reaches deep into your emotions in unexpected ways.
Churchill had a puckish sense of humour and so has Andrew Roberts. Such a figure of Falstaffian early Elizabethan Regency Victorian and Edwardian proportions fully warrants over one thousand biographies but this latest one is streets ahead of the others because the author has a palpable feel for his subject.
It is no hagiography however, and Professor Roberts deals at length with the many mistakes Churchill inevitably made in his long political career. When making judgments on Churchill I feel that the author takes me into his confidence and appeals to my sense of justice truth and fair play.
There is much new material that simply does not appear in the biographies by Roy Jenkins and Boris Johnson because Professor Roberts has accessed recently released archival material such as the Ivan Maisky and Mary Soames diaries plus those of King George V1 cabinet minutes and civil servant's memoranda. He also quotes extensively from Hansard. This is not thematic history but good old fashioned linear history ie a story with a beginning middle and end which is what most readers want.
The joy of this publication is that it should appeal to the teacher and student the political pundit and to what quaintly used to be called in Churchillian language the Man on the Clapham Omnibus.
It has worldwide interest and it is no coincidence that the first thirty three purchasers of the biography were from Iceland who jetted over from Keflavik especially to receive their signed copies.
I found much in the book which deals with the purpose of life and the extent to which we are not fully in control of events. The idea of destiny can of course be a delusion and and illusion as it was when Hitler escaped virtually unscathed from the 1944 Bomb Plot only to carry on making egregious mistakes that eventually led to allied victory. It calls to mind what Lord Hailsham said on Desert Island Discs that the only occasion in history that he could discern the finger of God in action was when Churchill took over the premiership on 10 May 1940.
The book being over one thousand pages long deals with all the controversies in his career that you would expect. There are many occasions when Professor Roberts says that Churchill's conduct is not his finest hour. However nothing can detract from the ultimate conclusion that Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was a very great man without whom humane civilisation would not have been saved during those stern days of the Second World War.

Selected pages


May 1940
PART TWO The Trial
MayJune 1940
JuneSeptember 1940
September 1940January 1941
JanuaryJune 1941
June 1941January 1942
JanuaryJune 1942

January 1906April 1908
April 1908February 1910
February 1910September 1911
October 1911August 1914
August 1914March 1915
MarchNovember 1915
November 1915November 1918
November 1918November 1922
November 1922May 1926
June 1926January 1931
January 1931October 1933
October 1933March 1936
October 1938September 1939
September 1939May 1940
JuneNovember 1942
November 1942September 1943
September 1943June 1944
June 1944January 1945
JanuaryJuly 1945
August 1945October 1951
October 1951April 1955
April 1955January 1965
Walking with Destiny
Illustrations Select Bibliography
About the Author

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About the author (2018)

Andrew Roberts is the bestselling author of The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War, Masters and Commanders: How Four Titans Won the War in the West, 1941-1945, Waterloo: Napoleon's Last Gamble and Napoleon: A Life, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for biography and a finalist for the Plutarch Award. He has won many other prizes, including the Wolfson History Prize and the British Army Military Book of the Year, and frequently writes for The Wall Street Journal. He lives in London and often lectures in New York.

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