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Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat: The Dire Warning: Churchill’s First Speech as Prime Minister Hardcover – May 13, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Churchill was Britain’s prime minister from 1940 to 1945 and from 1951 to 1955 and led the nation through World War II. On May 13, 1940, he gave his first speech before the House of Commons, three days after Germany invaded France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. In his now-famous speech, he said, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.”  Lukacs, a history professor with more than 20 books to his credit, posits that beneath Churchill’s bravery lay his understanding of a looming catastrophe, still unimaginable to most: that it was probably too late, and that Adolf Hitler was close to winning the war. In this lucidly written history, the author tells of Churchill’s determination to succeed in defeating Hitler, his nine secret sessions with the War Cabinet, and the British army’s defeat at Dunkirk. Lukacs has captured this moment in history with meticulous precision. --George Cohen


"Foreign Affairs"
"Lukacs knows his story and tells it well."

"City Journal"
"For his noble deeds and speech, the great English statesman surely deserves our gratitude and admiration. And it is to John Lukacs's credit that he allows us to appreciate this against the obfuscations of both the revisionist Left and Right....Lukacs is wonderfully attentive to the human element, to the difference that a single man made in shaping history."

"A short book, packed with drama and incisive analyses."

"Christianity Today"
"World War II: We think we know it all, yet along comes a little book from a masterful historian that gives us a famous incident afresh, and in a way that sheds light on the whole terrible conflict. For readers of history on your gift list, this is a perfect choice--and be sure to set aside a copy for yourself."

"New York Review of Books"
"Anything Lukacs writes is worth reading."

"Washington Post Book World"

"Washington Times"
"Powerful and moving history... compact page-turner of a book."

"Deseret News"
"In this extraordinary book, John Lukacs, an eminent World War II historian, discusses what he considers an extraordinary speech."

"Roanoke Times"
"This "snapshot" of one the world's greatest leaders in the infancy of his ascendency to glory provides a valuable contextual understanding of the skills of one man who engaged Adolph Hitler in a war of wills and had the will to win."


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 147 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First edition (May 13, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465002870
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465002870
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #908,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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See all 15 customer reviews
If you want to see why character matters, read this book.
Lao T. Sue
As always, Lukacs regularly inserts into his narrative trenchant observations about the discipline of History and the practice of writing it.
R. S. Corzine
This marvelous little book captures the essence of what it must have been like in England in 1940 when Churchill became Prime Minister.
Thomas Grover

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By David Donelson on July 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Few men have used the English language with such grace and to such good ends as Winston Churchill. John Lukacs focuses on the key phrase in Churchill's first speech before Parliament as Prime Minister to provide some wonderful insights into both Churchill's thinking and the nation's state of mind as continental Europe crumbled before the onslaught of Hitler's armies and Britain began to realize it was the last, lone defender of the free world.

Churchill's speech was little appreciated at the time. In fact, the man was himself Prime Minister almost by default. Chamberlain was still the leader of the Conservative Party, Halifax probably could have had the post had he really wanted it since he was the first choice of King George VI, and it was only through Labour's insistence that they would not join a national government unless it was led by Churchill that the question was finally decided. One of the many telling details Lukacs reveals is that Chamberlain was wildly applauded when he entered the House to hear Churchill speak on May 13, 1940; Churchill's entrance was mostly ignored.

The speech was significant, Lukacs says, not so much for its poetry as for what it tells us about Churchill's vision of history as it shaped his leadership both throughout the war and afterward. Early on, Churchill recognized the power of Hitler's war machine and the strength of the German nation. He also had a truly terrifying vision of a world plunged into darkness by the very possible Nazi victory in Europe. The cold, black science of Fascism would mean the end of civilization, and Churchill knew that Britain was at the very beginning of a long, hard struggle whose outcome was far from certain.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds: A Novel of Scandal, Love and Death in the Congo
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Michael P. Maslanka on May 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Thankfully weighing in at only 147 pages, Lukacs looks at Chuchill's speeches during the desperate days of May and June 1940 , puts them in context, and gives us this Big Idea: only Churchill really understood what was at stake and that defeat would mean a new Dark Age. To fight on, even if defeated, would give hope and be a symbol for those hundreds of years later who might rise up and emerge from the darkness. Also of interest: why the way he treated Chamberlin after he was voted out and Churchill voted in made all the difference in preventing a peace at any price with Germany. Churchill was magnanimous to him, and Chamberlin appreciated it and so became an ally(albeit one who did not so much overtly support Churchill as one who did not obstruct his leadership). Lukacs quotes a bit of the speech that Churchill gave after Chamberlin died. I have read it before and it is powerful, the grasping of the gist of this truth: don't second guess, today's hero is tomorrow's goat, and back again. And then this gem:"The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions." Worthwhile read.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Christian Schlect VINE VOICE on May 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This concise book goes beyond the actual speech of the title and allows for Professor Lukacs' informed and strong views about Prime Minister Churchill's bedrock thinking on the immense issues of civilization that were at stake in 1940.

I think this book will be most enjoyed by those readers having a fair prior understanding of the dismal political realities in Europe and America at the start of World War II.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Giordano Bruno on April 20, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat" is more a panegyric than an essay in history, so I suppose your response to the book will depend a good deal on your admiration, or lack thereof, for Winston Churchill. I have a spot of trouble with the man, chiefly stimulated by his post-war stances in regards to reimposing the British hegemony and to perpetuating the "Great Game" in the guise of the "Cold War". Still, I'd hardly be eager to quibble with author John Lukacs over Churchill's courage and bulldog tenacity. Britain could hardly have discovered a man better gifted to "bugger through" (his words, not mine) the greatest calamity of history.

Lukacs bases his panegyric on passages from Churchill's speeches in the early years of his prime ministry, before America's entry into the war continuing until just thereafter. His thesis is basically that Churchill alone comprehended the full menace of Hitlerian Germany's military-industrial might -- Churchill the Prophet, Churchill the bulwark of realism, the 'man on horseback' really of Romantic historiography. I'm not very comfortable with the "Great Man" philosophy of world events, though I have to admit that the constellation of Hitler, Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt all in one decade demands some explanation. In order to render full hagiographic adulation to Churchill, it's interesting that Lukacs has to attribute more potency to Adolph Hitler as a war leader, and more pound-for-pound fighting strength to the German military than many writers have chosen to do. Lukacs would have us believe that Germany could seriously have defeated both the UK and the USSR, by virtue of fanaticism and discipline, if the USA had remained non-combatant, as well as that Churchill uniquely understand the gravity of the menace for the 'future of civilization'.
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