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Churchill (2002)

af John Keegan

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402546,958 (3.65)10
When today's world leaders need inspiration and strength in times of crisis, they often turn to Winston Churchill, quoting him and citing his heroic example. The son of a member of Parliament, Churchill, a poor academic student, wanted to be a soldier early in life. But after he escaped from a South African prison camp, his national fame catapulted him into a life of politics. In this Penguin Life, the eminent historian John Keegan charts Churchill's career, following his steadfast leadership during the catastrophic events of World War II while England was dangerously poised on the brink of collapse. With wonderful eloquence, Keegan illuminates Churchill's incredible strength during this crucial moment in history and his unshakable belief that democracy would always prevail. Keegan looks at Churchill's speeches, which are some of the greatest examples of English oratory, and identifies his ability to communicate his own idea of an English past as the source of Churchill's greatness. He also sheds light on the political climate of Churchill's time. The result is an insightful, sensitive portrait of Churchill the war leader and Churchill the man.… (mere)

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Winston Churchill biographies come in all shapes and sizes, from the massive to the svelte. John Keegan's contribution to the genre is definitely on the latter end of that spectrum; his book, a volume in the Penguin Lives series, covers Churchill's nine decades in less than 200 pages. To achieve this, Keegan must condense a long and active life, one that stretched from participation in Queen Victoria's "little wars" to an effort to achieve detente with the Soviet Union. This invariably requires the sacrifice of depth and detail, yet it also gives Keegan an opportunity to define more clearly the overarching themes of Churchill's life, which he sees as defined by clearly delineated moral principles to which he remained true throughout his long political career.

Keegan also brings to his task a long career as a military correspondent and historian, and it is no surprise that his coverage of Churchill's career is exceptionally insightful considering the space available. And yet there are weaknesses that contrast with the book's strengths. The book itself suffers from poor editing, and the narrow focus of his bibliography on military titles raises questions about the depth of knowledge informing Keegan's analysis. For these reasons, Paul Addison's superb [b:Churchill: The Unexpected Hero|1604091|Churchill The Unexpected Hero|Paul Addison|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1387699760s/1604091.jpg|1597388] is far superior as a short biography, but for those unable to locate a copy of it Keegan's book will fit the bill for anyone seeking a useful introduction to Churchill and his achievements. ( )
  MacDad | Mar 27, 2020 |
As an eminent military historian, John Keegan was an ideal choice for this contribution to the Penguin Lives series. Several full-scale Churchill biographies are available, and for readers disinclined to tackle a detailed multi-volume work, Keegan's book offers a fine introduction. Despite this book's relative brevity (~200 pages, 5x8" in dimension), the author manages to cover Churchill's entire life and career. The years surrounding World War II will be of particular interest to the general reader, and here they are given particular attention, making up ~60 pages of the book. Churchill is presented in full complexity, and his early, disastrous military mistakes, his problematic views (notably racism and colonialism), and political difficulties are neither hidden nor over- emphasized. In the final chapter, "Apotheosis", Keegan argues that Churchill is worthy of great admiration, primarily for his role in helping to save England during the war years. Indeed, in his account, it is hard to imagine England having resisted the German attack without Churchill's courage and stirring rhetoric.

Note: The Publisher's Weekly summary of this book wrongly states that Churchill once belonged to the Labour party. While Churchill did join the Liberal party before returning to the Conservatives, he certainly never joined Labour, despite his support for government programs to help the poor. ( )
1 stem danielx | Mar 6, 2016 |
. ביוגרפיה צנועה שמחזיקה הרבה מרתק ( )
  amoskovacs | Jan 24, 2012 |
I’ve been hunting for a biography on Winston Churchill for some time and when I found this golden nugget of a mini-biography “Winston Churchill” by none other than John Keegan I snapped it up straight away. This elongated essay by Mr. Keegan about one of the greatest leaders of the twentieth-century is part of Viking’s Penguin Lives series and was an excellent source of some amazing historical information. What I was truly astounded by was reading about how disappointingly Churchill, the great historian, orator, writer and leader was at academics. Mr. Keegan is a thorough and incredible historian and I look forward to more editions of the Penguin Lives series as well as my next Keegan book. ( )
  BruderBane | Nov 18, 2009 |
A quick introduction to the life of Churchill - a little shallow especially after WWII. But he has accomplished a lot ! ( )
  npaulsen | Nov 19, 2008 |
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When today's world leaders need inspiration and strength in times of crisis, they often turn to Winston Churchill, quoting him and citing his heroic example. The son of a member of Parliament, Churchill, a poor academic student, wanted to be a soldier early in life. But after he escaped from a South African prison camp, his national fame catapulted him into a life of politics. In this Penguin Life, the eminent historian John Keegan charts Churchill's career, following his steadfast leadership during the catastrophic events of World War II while England was dangerously poised on the brink of collapse. With wonderful eloquence, Keegan illuminates Churchill's incredible strength during this crucial moment in history and his unshakable belief that democracy would always prevail. Keegan looks at Churchill's speeches, which are some of the greatest examples of English oratory, and identifies his ability to communicate his own idea of an English past as the source of Churchill's greatness. He also sheds light on the political climate of Churchill's time. The result is an insightful, sensitive portrait of Churchill the war leader and Churchill the man.

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