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Churchill: Walking with Destiny

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A landmark reconsideration of the iconoclastic war leader, based on extensive new material--from private letters to war cabinet meetings-- by the bestselling, award-winning author of Napoleon and The Storm of War. When we seek an example of unalloyed courage, the man who comes to mind is Winston Churchill: the visionary leader, immune from the consensus of the day, who stoo A landmark reconsideration of the iconoclastic war leader, based on extensive new material--from private letters to war cabinet meetings-- by the bestselling, award-winning author of Napoleon and The Storm of War. When we seek an example of unalloyed courage, the man who comes to mind is Winston Churchill: the visionary 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 The Storm of War, Andrew Roberts gave us a tantalizing glimpse of Churchill the war leader. Now, at last, we have the full and definitive biography, as personally revealing as it is compulsively readable, about one of the great leaders of all time. Roberts was granted exclusive access to extensive new material: the transcripts of war cabinet meetings-- the equivalent of the Nixon and JFK tapes--diaries, letters, unpublished memoirs, and detailed notes taken by the king after their bi-weekly meetings. Having read every one of Churchill's letters--including deeply personal ones that Churchill's son Randolph had previously chosen to withhold--and spoken to more than one hundred people who knew or worked with him, Roberts identifies the hidden forces fueling Churchill's drive. Churchill put his faith in the British Empire and fought as hard to preserve it as he did to defend London. Having started his career in India and South Africa, he understood better than most idealists how hard it can be to pacify reluctant people far from home. We think of Churchill as a hero of the age of mechanized warfare, but Roberts's masterwork reveals that he has as much to teach us about the challenges we face today--and the fundamental values of courage, tenacity, leadership, and moral conviction.


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A landmark reconsideration of the iconoclastic war leader, based on extensive new material--from private letters to war cabinet meetings-- by the bestselling, award-winning author of Napoleon and The Storm of War. When we seek an example of unalloyed courage, the man who comes to mind is Winston Churchill: the visionary leader, immune from the consensus of the day, who stoo A landmark reconsideration of the iconoclastic war leader, based on extensive new material--from private letters to war cabinet meetings-- by the bestselling, award-winning author of Napoleon and The Storm of War. When we seek an example of unalloyed courage, the man who comes to mind is Winston Churchill: the visionary 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 The Storm of War, Andrew Roberts gave us a tantalizing glimpse of Churchill the war leader. Now, at last, we have the full and definitive biography, as personally revealing as it is compulsively readable, about one of the great leaders of all time. Roberts was granted exclusive access to extensive new material: the transcripts of war cabinet meetings-- the equivalent of the Nixon and JFK tapes--diaries, letters, unpublished memoirs, and detailed notes taken by the king after their bi-weekly meetings. Having read every one of Churchill's letters--including deeply personal ones that Churchill's son Randolph had previously chosen to withhold--and spoken to more than one hundred people who knew or worked with him, Roberts identifies the hidden forces fueling Churchill's drive. Churchill put his faith in the British Empire and fought as hard to preserve it as he did to defend London. Having started his career in India and South Africa, he understood better than most idealists how hard it can be to pacify reluctant people far from home. We think of Churchill as a hero of the age of mechanized warfare, but Roberts's masterwork reveals that he has as much to teach us about the challenges we face today--and the fundamental values of courage, tenacity, leadership, and moral conviction.

30 review for Churchill: Walking with Destiny

  1. 4 out of 5

    Richard Munro

    I thought Martin Gilbert was the last word on Churchill (of course, he prepared the pathway for Roberts I am sure to a degree) but with Andrew Robert’s WALKING WITH DESTINY I gained an insight on Churchill and his world that seems totally fresh and almost brand new to me. I literally laughed and chuckled as I read some of the amusing bon mots of Churchill and curious stories. That is a remarkable achievement. Churchill said: ‘After seeing many nations, after travelling through Europe, and after h I thought Martin Gilbert was the last word on Churchill (of course, he prepared the pathway for Roberts I am sure to a degree) but with Andrew Robert’s WALKING WITH DESTINY I gained an insight on Churchill and his world that seems totally fresh and almost brand new to me. I literally laughed and chuckled as I read some of the amusing bon mots of Churchill and curious stories. That is a remarkable achievement. Churchill said: ‘After seeing many nations, after travelling through Europe, and after having been a prisoner of the Boers, I have come to see that, after all, the chief characteristic of the English-speaking people as compared with other white people is that they wash, and wash at regular periods. England and America are divided by a great ocean of salt water, but united by an eternal bathtub of soap and water.’ Boring and tedious and old hat ANDREW ROBERT'S book is not. Thrilling and illuminating are the only words for it; the prose is like a torrent of clear fresh water clearing away mysteries and old misconceptions. We learn much about Churchill’s personal relations and among the most heart-rending are the difficult relations he had with his son, Randolph with whom there was almost a love-hate- relationship. Stories of alleged sexual dalliances outside of marriage by Mrs. Churchill or Churchill himself are not ignored but clearly documented. Some things Roberts leaves up to the reader, wisely. Roberts has reviewed 41 sets of new papers, the King’s diaries from WWII, Mary Soames’ 1940 diary, the verbatim war cabinet minutes (written in a short hand code that neverhad been deciphered until Roberts got a hold of them). Every quote, every reference is meticulously documented. In addition there are wonderful insights and quotes from the Maisky diaries -Ivan Maisky was the Soviet ambassador to the Court of St James. Maisky’s recently translated diaries featured meetings with Churchill, Anthony Eden and HG Wells. Then there are interesting quotes by Churchill about JFK in the Kay Halle letters at the JFK library. Churchill called JFK “that splendid leader” and asked if there was a photo of himself in the White House. In Walking with Destiny I learned Churchill’s biography of his father Lord Randolph Churchill ‘was at least partially intended as an explanation of the political somersaults being executed by the author at the time of writing it’. Roberts truthfully tells us… “it is almost worthless as historical biography today, because of the total lack of objectivity and Churchill’s willingness, indeed seeming eagerness, to ignore any evidence that undermined his hagiographical case…..”With this book, which became an overnight bestseller, Churchill dragooning his father into finally doing something useful for him. His casual cruelty as a father was of course not so much as hinted at…” This is a great precis of a book I only knew as a title. Even our Churchill could not overcome his desire to make his father seem greater than he was. Quite human, actually. In WALKING WITH DESTINY we learn what books Churchill read, what places in America he visited and the people he visited with. Roberts sprinkles his book with references to places associated with Churchill’s WWI service such as Plug Street Experience visitors centre at Rue de Messines 156, Ploegsteert, Comines-Warneton 7782, Belgium. It is indeed eerie to contemplate that Adolf Hitler was stationed only miles from Churchill. Churchill , we learn from personal letters, lamented the loss of his fellow officers and men from his Scottish regiment. They were not numbers to him but men: volunteers from Ayr, Kilmarnock, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leicester and Oldham including. Private W. Russell who was 19 years old when he was killed on 7th February 1916. Churchill had in 1899 stood for election in the northern industrial mill-town of Oldham - and lost. Places in Britain were not just names to Churchill but homes of the British people he had visited and come to know. We learn what his favorite movies were and the famous actors and authors he knew personally (Churchill had a crush on Ethel Barrymore a legendary actress and beauty of her time). I had no idea that Churchill spent a delightful and refreshing sojourn at the Casa del Desierto in Barstow, California later was added to the National Register of Historic Places ). Churchill said, “We have stopped for two hours at this oasis. We have left the train for a bath in the hotel” It is not far from Bakersfield and on the road to Phoenix. Before Pearl Harbor Churchill had visited 24 of the 48 states in addition to the District of Columbia. At one point Churchill was introduced to an audience by Mark Twain. He met Theodore Roosevelt. Churchill visited Civil War battlefields with Eisenhower and the famous historian Douglas Southall Freeman. I had no idea that Churchill had crisscrossed the USA several times and visited almost every site of historical or cultural interest such as the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Carnegie Hall, The Brooklyn Academy of Music and so on. Roberts writes “Churchill understood from an early age that his father, a leading light of the Conservative party in the first half of the 1880s, was a famous national celebrity, and he asked him for autographs to sell to his classmates.” Who knew? Roberts writes: “Churchill made a far more extraordinary series of predictions on a Sunday evening in July 1891 in a basement room of Dr Welldon’s house after chapel evensong, when he was discussing his plans with his friend Murland (later Sir Murland) Evans, who worked in the War Office during the First World War and was a man of irreproachable and fastidious recollection. ‘I can see vast changes coming over a now peaceful world;’ Churchill told Evans, ‘great upheavals, terrible struggles; wars such as one cannot imagine; and I tell you London will be in danger – London will be attacked and I shall be very prominent in the defence of London. I see further ahead than you do. I see into the future. This country will be subjected somehow, to a tremendous invasion, by what means I do not know, but I tell you I shall be in command of the defences of London and I shall save London and England from disaster … dreams of the future are blurred but the main objective is clear. I repeat – London will be in danger and in the high position I shall occupy, it will fall to me to save the capital and save the Empire’ This was completely new to me and I have read dozens of books about Churchill. Before he left for Cuba, in 1895 the director of British Military Intelligence, Colonel Edward Chapman, asked Churchill to discover anything they could on the penetration and striking power of the Spanish army’s new type of bullet. The Spanish had German Mausers and their weapons were superior to that of the American’s in 1898. Roberts writes: “This was Churchill’s inauguration into the world of Secret Intelligence, which was to become hugely important to him later on. Also interesting, this I did not know. I thought he did it on a lark by himself or as a journalist. Over and over again Roberts has new facts, new insights. Throughout the book there are marvellous quotations from Churchill’s works which unless you have read Churchill’s massive oeuvre in entire, you will find many less known quotations. Churchill wrote ‘Chance, Fortune, Luck, Destiny, Fate, Providence seem to me only different ways of expressing the same thing, to wit, that a man’s own contribution to his life story is dominated by an external superior power.’ Roberts writes of Churchill, {His} capacity for memorizing huge amounts of prose and verse stayed with him for life, and would continue to astonish contemporaries well into his old age. Many were the occasions that he would quote reams of poetry or songs or speeches half a century after having learned them. He was omnivorous in what his mind’s ear chose, which included long Shakespeare soliloquies but also much of the repertoires of music hall performers such as Marie Lloyd, George Robey, ‘Little Tich’, and George Chirgwin (‘the White-Eyed Kaffir’) We learn from Roberts how Churchill’s life and experience prepared him for leadership in WWII. Roberts writes with great detail: “By the outbreak of the Second World War, Churchill had delivered 1,695 speeches and travelled 82,633 miles to give them, an extraordinary display of energy, far more than normal politicians even of the front rank, and an indication of his decades-long drive and energy. By the time he came to deliver his great wartime addresses in the first half of the 1940s, therefore, Churchill was as experienced and assured a public speaker as it was possible for a Briton to be.” I felt I almost came to know Churchill during while reading WALKING WITH DESTINY. I could almost feel the soul of the great man as I read and pondered this work and chuckled with his witticisms. Roberts certainly did his best to treat this good and noble but imperfect human being with honesty and yet giving credit where it is due. Churchill was a great statesman but as Roberts point out time and again but also a wise political thinker and a great author –one of the greatest of all time in any language. Churchill is needed today when so many are deceived by the Siren call of the Bold State, Marxist influenced Multiculturalism and Socialism in general. No one in the 20th century compares to Sir Winston Churchill whose greatness is like granite –it endures. And as JFK famously said: “For no statement or proclamation can enrich his name now--the name Sir Winston Churchill is already legend.” Robert’s book is very engaging and would make any reader reappraise what he knows and has read. In short, WALKING WITH DESTINY is the very best education I know to learn about Churchill, his British society, his contemporaries, his family and his world. EVERY EDUCATED PERSON SHOULD READ and STUDY Churchill: WALKING WITH DESTINY. This is a great read, a must read. WALKING WITH DESTINY is a great book by one of Britain’s most distinguished historians and authors.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    On the author's speaking tours publicising this book, Dr Roberts states that this is the 1,011th biography of Winston Churchill. The obvious question is, why write about a subject so well covered before? First of all, Andrew Roberts has had access to new sources, including exclusive access to King George VI diary, an invaluable window in to the life of Churchill, as he met the King every Tuesday during the war and seems to have used the time to let off steam in confidential surroundings. The auth On the author's speaking tours publicising this book, Dr Roberts states that this is the 1,011th biography of Winston Churchill. The obvious question is, why write about a subject so well covered before? First of all, Andrew Roberts has had access to new sources, including exclusive access to King George VI diary, an invaluable window in to the life of Churchill, as he met the King every Tuesday during the war and seems to have used the time to let off steam in confidential surroundings. The author also has had access to Pamela Churchill's love letters, none of which seem to have been to her husband Randolph. Despite the books great length, it is a very readable account of Sir Winston's life, written beautifully. This book is bound to become a classic.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week: Andrew Roberts' five essays on Churchill that tie in with his new book about the man (which is called Churchill: Walking With Destiny). During his lifetime he experienced 'very many brushes with death, even in peacetime' - and this shaped his thinking and instincts, and his belief that he would one day save the country from disaster... Producer Duncan Minshull https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/play/m000...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Marks54

    There have been a lot of biographies of Winston Churchill, and this does not address the numerous fine books in which glimpses of his life are provided as part of other stories. If one gets a chance to visit the Churchill War Rooms and the Churchill Museum in London, it will provide an opportunity to check out particular days of Churchill’s life - a really engaging museum. So ir is hard to conclusively determine if Andrew Roberts’ new Churchill biography is the best one volume biography in print There have been a lot of biographies of Winston Churchill, and this does not address the numerous fine books in which glimpses of his life are provided as part of other stories. If one gets a chance to visit the Churchill War Rooms and the Churchill Museum in London, it will provide an opportunity to check out particular days of Churchill’s life - a really engaging museum. So ir is hard to conclusively determine if Andrew Roberts’ new Churchill biography is the best one volume biography in print. I can certainly see why someone would think that. This is a marvelous informative and entertaining book, while at the same time a well researched, critical, and wise book about Churchill. ... and why care about such a book? Because Churchill is arguably one of the most interesting and most important individuals of the 20th century. Take a look at most of the major events affecting England and Europe up through 1955 and there is a good chance that Winston Churchill was involved in an important manner. He was also arguably the most prolific historian ever and certainly the best selling historian of the 20th century. During most of his life, Churchill was also an idiosyncratic outlier in world event. He occasioned conflict more than agreement and he demise from politics was actively worked for by many more people than supported - with one small period that proved an exception - when he was Britain’s Prime Minister during WW2. This is a long book because Churchill had a long, eventful, controversial, and consequential life. To attempt a summary would be foolish. Roberts takes as his focus for an account of this life a quote by Churchill to the effect that his life was all a preparation for his role as wartime prime minister and leader of the resistance against Hitler. This focus works well and the book reads easily. What I liked the most about “Churchill: Walking with Destiny” is how Roberts takes all of the contradiction about Churchill, his strengths and weaknesses, his character flaws, his outdated imperial perspectives, his great eloquence, his ability to learn from his experiences and his mistakes - and brings them together to argue why such a complex mix of character and talents and flaws make Churchill the world historical figure that he was. It is a striking picture of the ultimate complex leader. This was a person whose life would be difficult to make up and yet who outlived all his opponents and was acknowledged by the entire world at the time of his death. The book is smartly written, in well organized parts with fairly short chapters. Roberts is a skilled historian with several notable books to his credit, including works on WW2, military leaders, and Napoleon. The narrative is mixed with analysis and the author provides analysis rather than hagiography. It is hard to keep track of the names, dates, places, and events, but I do not see how that can be helped in a strong account of a crowded, eventful, long, and important life. The book proceeds at a macro political level, coupled with parallel personal narratives of family and other key actors. Tactical detail and military dynamics are not the focus, although the references are certainly sufficient to point readers in the right direction if they wish to learn more. I am aware of the limitations with recommending such a long book, but it is worth the effort.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    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. 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 lat 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. 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. 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.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jojo

    I enjoy insights in to our great leaders and especial Mr Churchill. This gave many new aspects of his long life and many exploits.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Socraticgadfly

    As other reviewers have noted, why a new Churchill, especially with Martin Gilbert’s iconic tome? Roberts, a fine writer himself, has new sources, including King George VI’s diary. The king, even several months after calling for Churchill, still wasn’t sold on him. He may not have been totally sold until El Alamein and Torch. He also got to read Pamela Digby Churchill Harriman’s love letters, providing more background on the Churchill family. Among the more scandalous references is that Winston an As other reviewers have noted, why a new Churchill, especially with Martin Gilbert’s iconic tome? Roberts, a fine writer himself, has new sources, including King George VI’s diary. The king, even several months after calling for Churchill, still wasn’t sold on him. He may not have been totally sold until El Alamein and Torch. He also got to read Pamela Digby Churchill Harriman’s love letters, providing more background on the Churchill family. Among the more scandalous references is that Winston and Clementine apparently knew of one of her affairs during WWII but did NOT immediately tell Randolph. The best plus otherwise? Roberts looks at all different versions of the scene where Halifax and Churchill meet Neville Chamberlain in the effort to decide who will be the new prime minister. And, the story that sounds most likely to be true most reinforces Churchill’s nature. Roberts lays them all out, with analysis, in detail. Second? His twisted relation with Eden. On one side, Churchill saw him as a surrogate son for the wastrel Randolph. On the other, he treated him in his second premiership with something bordering contempt. And, Eden put up with it. He could have threatened resignation had Churchill not offered his own resignation two years earlier than he actually did. After his first more severe stroke in late 1952, it was time for Churchill to go. He could have stayed on through Elizabeth’s coronation, then gone into the sunset. And he should have. Speaking of? That’s one of the nits with this book. Roberts as interpreter, as historians are, doesn’t officially come out for that. But, a few more pluses, first. One is offering more detail on Churchill as the father of the tank, by best arguments. Another is his general magnaminity to political foes. A third is being generally honest about Churchill’s racism (except for being philo-Judaic), and other black marks. A fourth is showing how his love, his god, his mammon was the British Empire. Biggest nits? 1. Occasionally, Roberts disagrees with himself. Nowhere more than on Operation Anvil. Contra Churchill, even if the Brittany ports had been seized largely undamaged, the extra supply from Marseilles would have been a plus, in addition to the Ljubljana Gap being a dead end. In reality, Marseilles as a port was vital. But, Roberts sometimes appears to agree with the American and British General Staffs in supporting it, and other times to agree with Churchill in opposing it. 2. Without accusing Churchill of promoting genocide in Bengal related to the 1943 famine, one can ask if he really did all he reasonably could, even given the exigencies of war, and at a minimum, not exonerate him as fully as Roberts does. Read Wiki for more; I think Roberts is simply wrong. (And his historical compatriot Max Hastings is among those who agree that he's wrong. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bengal_...) 3. More on his relationship with Randolph would have been nice. 4. More on his pre-1957 relationship with Macmillan would have been nice, as he strongly supported Mac replacing Eden. 5. Whether Churchill was a "functional alcoholic" or not, Roberts seems unaware of the concept in discussing ad libitum Churchill's drinking history. This is a four-star book overall, but, it could really be a 4.5 star. I revised the original five-star on further reflection about the Bengal famine and Roberts' take on it. I personally vehemently disagree with Churchill on the “need” for America to enter the First World War. We had no vital interest involved, there were no huge moral issues, and both submarine warfare zones AND blockade by extension violated international law. We should have let Europe beat itself senseless.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Esteban Martina

    Boring and shallow. Some stuff interesting but lacks deeper analysis. Maybe it was written for first time readers of the subject with only passing interest on the matter.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Zohair Laadlali

  10. 4 out of 5

    Gordon Davis

  11. 5 out of 5

    Stuart Ewens

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ionela Paun

  13. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Nesbitt

  14. 5 out of 5

    Libby Thompson

  15. 4 out of 5

    Emily

  16. 4 out of 5

    Obasi Deborah

  17. 4 out of 5

    Martha Birnbaum

  18. 4 out of 5

    David Hulbert

  19. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Bullard

  20. 5 out of 5

    Howard Messing

  21. 4 out of 5

    robert e. cullen

  22. 4 out of 5

    Godwin Leleji

  23. 4 out of 5

    Gilbert michaud

  24. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

  25. 4 out of 5

    Darcy Moore

  26. 4 out of 5

    Steven

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nick Lincoln

  28. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  29. 4 out of 5

    Donna Holland

  30. 5 out of 5

    Allen Foley

    Epic book, The authors research, access to diaries and accounts does give a good global picture of Churchill through his life. In general it presents a balanced view of his virtues and faults. However I cannot overlook the copious amounts of alcohol that Churchill imbibed that have been brushed aside as not being a factor in his behavior. Otherwise an excellent biography.

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