Yippee!! I finished it!!

That would be Andrew Roberts’s book, Winston Churchill, Walking With Destiny, all 964 pages of it.  All 964 thin, single-spaced pages.  I figure it took me about six months to read it, in fits and starts.  It lives on my bedside table, right where I can see it, so I just decided to push on through.  This book is a fascinating read, and I enjoyed every page.  I bought my copy on the Hillsdale College cruise to Hawaii in 2018, and it is signed by the author.  Here are some quotes from the book, so you can get an idea of the author’s extensive research, and the subject’s wide-ranging activities and writings/speeches.

The author says “In the year Churchill was born, General Sir Garnet Wolseley signed a treaty forcing the defeated King Koffee of the Ashanti to end human sacrifice; in the year he died, the spaceship Gemini V orbited the earth and the Beatles released “Ticket to Ride”.

Churchill was right when he wrote that all his past life had been but a preparation for the hour and trial of his wartime premiership.  His early mastery of the “noble” English sentence, and his wide reading as a subaltern, enabled him to produce his wartime oratory.  His time in Cuba taught him coolness under fire, and how to elongate his working day through siestas.  His experience in the Boer War exposed him to the deficiencies of generals.  His time as a pilot and as secretary of state for air made him a champion of the RAF (Royal Air Force) long before the Battle of Britain.  His writing of Marlborough [a biography of his esteemed ancestor the First Duke of Marlborough] prepared him for synchronized decision-making between allies.  His penchant for always personally visiting the scenes of action, such as the Sidney Street Siege and Antwerp, prepared him for the morale-boosting visits around Britain during the Blitz.  His fascination for science, fueled by his friendship with Lindemann, led him to grasp the military aspects of nuclear fission.  His writing about Islamic fundamentalism, prepared him for the fanaticism of the Nazis.  His prescient, accurate analysis of Bolshevism laid the ground for his Iron Curtain speech, and his introduction of National Insurance and old-age pensions with Lloyd George before the First World War prepared him for accommodating the welfare state after the Second.  Above all his experiences in the Great War-preparing the Navy, the Dardanelles debacle, his time in the trenches and as minister of munitions-all gave him vital insights that he put to use in the Second World War.

Now, for some quotes from the great man himself.  While reading the book, I used a “write-on” bookmark, and by the time I was finished I had covered both sides of it with page numbers of quotes I intended to use later.  You could use a quote a day for many years before you’d run out of pithy quotes.

Churchill was a supporter of the Jews’ right to a homeland in the land of Palestine.  In 1921, he said:

It is manifestly right that the scattered Jews should have a national centre and a national home in which they might be reunited.

He also said, about the Arabs:

Left to themselves, the Arabs of Palestine would not in a thousand years have taken effective steps towards the irrigation and electrification of Palestine.  They would have been quite content to dwell-a handful of philosophic people-in waster, sun-drenched plains, letting the waters of the Jordan flow unbridled and unharnessed into the Dead Sea.

Churchill was prescient there.  Do you remember what happened to the Gaza Strip when the Israelis left it to the “Palestinians”?  The new residents trashed all the Israeli greenhouses where they grew fruits and vegetables for their tables, and again left the area a predictable wasteland.

Here is what Churchill said about Socialists, with whom he was competing as a politician in the 1920s:

Let them abandon the utter fallacy, the grotesque, erroneous, fatal blunder of believing that by limiting the enterprise of man, by riveting the shackles of a false equality upon the efforts of all the different forms and different classes of human enterprise, they will increase the well-being of the world.

Here is what Churchill had to say about totalitarians.  These are, verily, words for Our Time.

[for all the totalitarians’ pomp and seeming power] in their hearts there is unspoken fear.  They are afraid of words and thoughts:  words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home-all the more powerful because forbidden-terrify them.

On a lighter note, Churchill had a cat named Nelson, that lived with him at No. 10, Downing Street, while he was Prime Minister in the 1930s.  He said of the cat’s contribution to the war effort:

he acts as a hot-water bottle and saves fuel and power.

Churchill was very proud of the contributions of what he called the English-speaking Peoples to civilization.  He said that what connected them was:

Law, language, literature-these are considerable factors.  Common conceptions of what is right and decent, a marked regard for fair play, especially to the west and poor, a stern sentiment of impartial justice, and above all the love of personal freedom.

These are just a few samples of what you will find, should you decide to take on the project of reading this hefty book.  I can guarantee you an interesting read, with new discoveries around every page.

5 thoughts on “Yippee!! I finished it!!

  1. Sounds fascinating. I’ve added it to my list of books to read. Your first quote, about Churchill’s life span, reminded me of what I say about my great-grandmother: She was born four years after Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, and died a few months before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon (just shy of her 99th birthday). I don’t know that any other generation has seen such change in their lives.

  2. elizabeth dunn

    Andrew Roberts is a wonderful historian. I had the privilege of meeting him in D.C. at a book signing event and got his autograph on “A History of the English Speaking Peoples.” I’d highly recommend:
    1. Churchill: Walking With Destiny (as have you)
    2. Masters and Commanders
    3. Everything else he has written!

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