In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War

David Reynolds, Author . Random $35 (631p) ISBN 978-0-679-45743-5

For many, the fact that Churchill won his Nobel for literature comes as a surprise, but he was a prolific—and very well paid—historian and journalist. Awarded Britain's Wolfson History Prize, this highly readable book by Cambridge historian Reynolds supplies the backstory to Churchill's massive postwar publishing project: the epic The Second World War. As the author notes, he's writing "a book about personal biography and public memory," beginning with Churchill's crushing defeat in the July 1945 election and offering a unique perspective on WWII, the onset of the Cold War and Churchill's determination to write the history of the 20th century's signal conflict. But Reynolds's real achievement is his grasp of the motives behind that determination: "Churchill's sense of the fickleness of fame... impelled him to be his own historian." He quotes a 1944 letter to Stalin in which Churchill writes, "I agree that we had better leave the past to history, but remember if I live long enough I may be one of the historians." Packed with detail and vivid characterizations (but still clearly a scholarly, thoroughly researched work), it's a different take on one of the few men capable of both making history and writing it. 16 pages of b&w photos. Agent, Irene Skolnick Agency. (On sale Nov. 1)

Reviewed on: 08/29/2005
Release date: 11/01/2005
Show other formats
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!