The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History

The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History

Boris Johnson

Language: English

Pages: 400

ISBN: 1594633983

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


From London’s inimitable mayor, Boris Johnson, the New York Times–bestselling story of how Churchill’s eccentric genius shaped not only his world but our own.
 
On the fiftieth anniversary of Churchill’s death, Boris Johnson celebrates the singular brilliance of one of the most important leaders of the twentieth century. Taking on the myths and misconceptions along with the outsized reality, he portrays—with characteristic wit and passion—a man of contagious bravery, breathtaking eloquence, matchless strategizing, and deep humanity.

Fearless on the battlefield, Churchill had to be ordered by the king to stay out of action on D-day; he pioneered aerial bombing and few could match his experience in organizing violence on a colossal scale, yet he hated war and scorned politicians who had not experienced its horrors. He was the most famous journalist of his time and perhaps the greatest orator of all time, despite a lisp and the chronic depression he kept at bay by painting. His maneuvering positioned America for entry into World War II, even as it ushered in England’s postwar decline. His open-mindedness made him a trailblazer in health care, education, and social welfare, though he remained incorrigibly politically incorrect. Most of all, he was a rebuttal to the idea that history is the story of vast and impersonal forces; he is proof that one person—intrepid, ingenious, determined—can make all the difference.

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society of today. Overall, a revolution had taken place in Britain—but a benign revolution in which the essentials of the constitution had been preserved. He had first met Queen Elizabeth II in 1928, when she was two years old. He remarked to Clementine that she was a ‘character’ with an ‘air of authority and reflectiveness astonishing in an infant’. You might think there was something a bit smarmy about detecting an air of authority in a two-year-old, but he lived to be Prime Minister when she

Lord Randolph Churchill to Sir Stafford Northcote, 3 March 1883; Winston Churchill, Lord Randolph Churchill (New York: 1907), p. 192. ‘looking down on the Front Benches . . . sublime’ Sir Stafford Northcote, ibid., p. 177. ‘opportunism, mostly’ John Charmley, A History of Conservative Politics Since 1830 (London: 2008), p. 59. ‘Little Randy’ . . . they cried’ Mary Lovell, The Churchills: In Love and War (London: 2012), p. 88. ‘an old man in a hurry’ Lord Randolph Churchill, 1886; Winston

fraught with so much danger to life. It really is wrong of you.’ F. E. Smith told him he was being ‘foolish’ and ‘unfair to his family’. His cousin Lady Londonderry said he was ‘evil’. His wife, Clementine, was distraught—and sometimes Churchill would steal away without even telling her. ‘I have been very naughty today about flying,’ he confessed on 29 November 1913, as though he had been to the larder and eaten the children’s pudding. His next instructor was another dashing young captain,

prospects, his ego—all those things that matter to politicians—were engaged in the cause of fighting on; and this has led some historians to make the mistake of thinking that it was all about him, and not about the British interest. In the last few years there has erupted an unsightly rash of revisionist accounts, suggesting that Britain should indeed have done what so many people—in all walks of society—were hoping and praying for: struck a bargain with Nazi Germany. The argument goes that the

oil. Most of the complement was drowned. Altogether the British shot 150 shells into the fortified harbour at Mers-el-Kébir, near the Algerian town of Oran, on that cloudless day in 1940. By the time their guns fell silent, five French ships were crippled and one destroyed; and 1,297 French seamen had been killed. A massacre had taken place; and there were plenty who were willing to call it a war crime. Across France there was a sense of indignation, a hatred that the Nazi propaganda machine

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