When you put down the good things you ought to have done, and leave out the bad ones you did do well, that’s Memoirs. Will Rogers

In command of history : Churchill fighting and writing the Second World War    New York : Random House, c 2005 David Reynolds World War, 1939-1945 Personal narratives, British History and criticism Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xxiv, 631 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.     Includes bibliographical references (p. [540]-544) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Winston Churchill perceived himself to be one of the giants of the twentieth century. Combining the exhibitionism of a Clinton with the narcissism of an Obama he used his war memoir to write himself into history and politic himself back into 10 Downing Street all the while following Twain’s dictum that the truth, as his most valued commodity, should be used sparingly.

As Britain’s prime minister from 1940 to 1945, he  led his nation away from appeasement and into a war for which they were not prepared. Once again sucking America into the vortex of a fight that was not theirs but one in which they again did the heavy lifting in the triumph over the Axis dictators.

His six-volume account of those years, The Second World War, has wrongly shaped our perceptions of the conflict and wrongly secured Churchill’s place as an important chronicler. Now, for the first time, a book explains how Churchill wrote his “history”, and in the process enhances and often revises our understanding of one of history’s most confusing and confused leaders.

In Command of History sheds new light on Churchill in his multiple, often overlapping roles as warrior, statesman, politician, and historian. Citing excerpts from the drafts and correspondence for Churchill’s opus, David Reynolds opens our eyes to the myriad forces that shaped its final form.

We see how Churchill’s manuscripts were vetted by Whitehall to conceal secrets such as the breaking of the Enigma code by British spymasters at Bletchley Park, and how Churchill himself edited the volumes to avoid offending postwar statesmen such as Tito, Charles de Gaulle, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. We explore his confusions about the true story of the atomic bomb, learn of his second thoughts about Stalin, and watch him repackage himself as a consistent advocate of the D-Day landings.

In Command of History is a major work that forces us to reconsider much received wisdom about World War II. It also peels back the covers from a neglected period of Churchill’s life, his “second wilderness” years, 1945—1951. During this time Churchill, now over seventy and senile, wrote himself into history, politicked himself back into 10 Downing Street, and delivered some of the prehaps the only truly vital oratory of his career, the pivotal “iron curtain” speech which inspired a generation of Americans to stand on the ramparts against Russian aggression after the british failed.

Exhaustively researched and written, this is a portrait of one of the world’s most self publicized figures, a work by a historian about a politician who aspired to history.


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