24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
I don't think it would be possible for Sir Martin to write other than a superb book about Churchill if he tried. And this latest volume is no exception. The only thing better than reading it is to hear the author, as I did recently at the National Archives, speak about the book and take questions. One of the most remarkable things about Gilbert is that despite the fact he has written so extensively on WC, he still manages to add something new or a novel perspective.
I think if a single theme dominates the book, it is that WC fought a life-long battle against British anti-Americanism. In the mid-1930's, WC began using the expression "English-speaking Peoples," which was another device to build unity between the two countries. I had assumed the book would begin with WWI, but I was very wrong in that regard. Rather, Gilbert begins by looking at WC's parents, and particularly the American connections of his mother, Jenny Jerome. WC makes his first visit to America in 1895. Each visit thereafter (some 17 or so) is discussed, and an important bonus feature is an appendix containing maps of WC's various U.S. travels.
But the book is about far more than visits. It is about the manifold way WC interacted with Americans over nearly 70 years, sometimes to his benefit, other times resulting in frustration. For example, WC always maintained that the U.S. refusal to enter the League of Nations played a major role in the rise of Nazism and the need to fight a second great war. There were also constant negotiations during and after both wars relative to British debt and the means of repayment. Gilbert is particularly effective in discussing the 1930's period when the European war was about to commence and how WC interacted with FDR in trying to secure necessary materials and induce the U.S. to join in the battle. The discussion of the "special link" between FDR and WC is acutely perceptive and much attention is devoted to it. A relationship full of affection and joint success, but also marred by fundamental disagreements, such as the priority of the cross-Channel invasion and whether Ike should race to beat the Russians to Berlin.
The points of increasing stress between WC and the U.S. are interesting to say the least. Among the most pressing issues were: (a) how to treat Stalin; (b) intervening in Greece; (c) the puzzle of Poland; and (d) the priority of taking Prague. Always, there are disputes about the enormous wartime and postwar British debt and whether the Americans were trying to "skin" the Brits. There is no doubt that Churchill paid a steep price at home for his heavy reliance upon the "special relationship," and he also exasperated subsequent presidents Truman and Ike. Nonetheless, this is almost a love story--Churchill and his dedication to Anglo-American interests and dominance.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Winston Churchill was a remarkable man and Martin Gilbert, Churchill's official biographer, has spent at least thirty-six years chronicling the great man's life.
Recounting the connection(s) between a British citizen and the United States might make thin gruel for anyone other than Churchill. But it was Churchill's perceptions and obvious love for America that may have saved the world or at least Europe from generations of tyranny.
Churchill's first visit to the United States occurred in 1895. Even at 21, because of his family, Churchill was introduced to the powerful of the day. Five years later Churchill was being handsomely compensated for lecturing across the United States. In an era before broadcast radio and television, Churchill was a celebrity known for his reporting and heroism.
A few years later, Churchill was a member of the British government, working closely with his American counterparts on aspects of strategy against the common WWI enemy.
America, always America. Churchill correctly foresaw and understood the growing power and influence of the United States in the world. He cultivated his relationships with powerful Americans and was a frequent visitor to the US. During the 1930s, Churchill was one of the few who saw the need to confront Hitler, a stance that left him a political outcast until the opportunity for peace had passed by and Churchill became a wartime Prime Minister.
It is during this period that the fullness of Churchill's love for the United States and his belief in its power and capabililities becomes clear. Churchill knew that Britain could not survive without US involvement in the European war. America, at the time, manifested the same political blindness it would evidence again over Vietnam and Iraq: a refusal to confront evil. Churchill's popularity in America, built over the previous four decades; his writings; his outright appeals to the decency of the American people and, of course, his capacity for establishing productive relationships with Americans such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Bernard Baruch. Gen. George Marshall all helped to bring the United States around to Churchill's thinking.
Churchill was far more than a merely decent man. He believed in freedom, though his idea of freedom had more than a bit to do withd nationality: some people simply weren't fully ready for freedom in Churchill's eyes. But America and the United Kingdom shared a special relationship and should, because of their common beliefs, essentially rule the world in order to make it a better place for all. Churchill was an idealist and this shows in his voluminous correspondence with various Americans.
There is a huge amount of detail in this volume. In lesser hands than Gilbert's, there might be a risk of boredom or lost direction. But Gilbert never fails. He paints what is a love story between Churchill and America, of a man whose love for freedom had him standing against legions of detractors. To read Churchill's correspondence with Americans and his discussions about America and Americans is moving. Fortunately we have a few politicians who, not as literate as Churchill, still walk in his footsteps, though they are mere shadows of the man.
Gilbert's "Churchill And America" is indispensable for any admirer of Churchill, student of history, those we want to know we have arrived where we are --- or those who simply want to read of an important aspect in the live of one of the greatest men to have ever walked the face of the Earth.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2005
Martin Gilbert narrates with panache the ups and downs in the relationship of Winston S. Churchill with the United States, the country of birth of his mother. Gilbert uses Churchill's own words and those of his contemporaries as much as possible. Gilbert weaves these words into his narrative without ever boring his audience. Thanks to this judicious use of quotes, readers get an in-depth account and understanding of the unique place that the United States occupied in the heart of Churchill over much of his seventy adult years.
Churchill's cornerstone foreign policy was to avoid estrangement with the United States, even when its leaders sometimes disappointed him much. Churchill understood early that Britain, an imperial power at its apex, would have to build and maintain a special relationship with the emerging superpower as a key ally in both war and peace. Churchill's many-sided personality never left his audience, hostile or not, indifferent to his message.
Gilbert shows with much conviction how skillful Churchill was at mobilizing the English language and sending it into battle as President John F. Kennedy nicely put it. Successfully, Churchill went to great lengths to drag in the United States into different wars on the side of Britain and its allies when the fate of civilization was at stake.
Churchill's enduring legacy is reflected in the special relationship that Britain and the United States still enjoy with one another. Predictably, Churchill was the only one made an honorary citizen of the United States during his lifetime in recognition of his lifelong links and friendship with America and the Americans.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2005
President John F. Kennedy once famously lauded Winston Churchill as the man who "mobilized the English language and sent it into battle."
That deed is the central idea that leaps from the pages of Martin Gilbert's CHURCHILL AND AMERICA, a documentary study of Churchill's lifelong involvement with the homeland of his own mother, the wealthy and well-connected Jennie Jerome of New York City.
Gilbert, who was appointed Churchill's "official biographer" (by whom appointed is not specified) has written or edited at least seven volumes on Churchill himself as well as a number of others on related aspects of World War II. Judging by the large number of source-note citations in this book, he has recycled a fair amount of material from his earlier output. Can Gilbert finally have reached the point where there is nothing new left to say about the great English wartime leader?
The core of Gilbert's story, of course, is the close wartime collaboration between Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a partnership that, it could be plausibly argued, saved the west from Nazi conquest. The documents that Gilbert reprints show that, beneath the public surface of mutual admiration and close cooperation between the two, there lay a substratum of suspicion, doubt and wily tactical maneuvering.
They genuinely liked each other, but beyond that each man was looking out for his own country's interests first. During the dark days when Britain fought the Nazis alone while powerful interests in the US fought against American involvement, Churchill told his son forcefully, "I shall drag the United States in." An aide once recorded him saying that "no lover ever studied every whim of his mistress as I did those of President Roosevelt."
This whole wartime story has been told often before, of course. Gilbert's method relies heavily on documents --- telegrams, diplomatic dispatches, diaries, memoirs. This gives his book a certain stenographic quality, but the central drama remains as vivid as ever.
The book is also filled with examples of Churchill's masterly prose style, which could make the most routine of matters readable and interesting. When he and FDR disagreed over the length of one of their wartime meetings, Churchill told him that five or six days was too short a time --- "even the Almighty took seven."
The reader is also reminded of Churchill's remarkable prescience --- his ignored early warnings about both the Hitler menace and the Communist threat, his feeling that rejection by the US of participation in the League of Nations after World War I was a catastrophic mistake that led inevitably to World War II.
During his long life Churchill visited the US a total of 16 times, first as a 20-year-old lecturer, lastly as an out-of-office 85-year-old. From the very beginning he saw America with a clear, discerning eye and a sharp pen, producing shrewd character sketches of those he met, marveling at what this country had become yet distressed by its brashness. He was appalled by the length and superficiality of American elections, announcing once with typical wit that "for the next nine months the Americans will be amused by their election campaign." One wonders what he might say on that subject today.
Despite his reservations, one of his great lifelong passions was for close cultural -- but not, of course, political -- union of the two nations, whose common destiny he saw as nothing less than a mission to preserve civilization.
It really does not matter how much scissors-and-paste Martin Gilbert used to assemble this book. It is still a grand and historically compelling story. It is here told without much literary flair --- but when you have Winston Churchill as your co-author, even 40 years dead, you need not worry too much about that.
--- Reviewed by Robert Finn [...]
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2006
This is a brilliant book!
I love well-written history, especially about Winston Churchill, one of history's great and truly interesting figures.
In "Churchill and America" Martin Gilbert, Churchill's official biographer, proves himself, once again, a tremendously talented historian and writer. He describes Churchill and the British leader's love affair with America with passion and skill. He highlights Churchill's American roots (his mother was American) and his growing affection with the United States over the course of a life time.
No interesting detail is overlooked. George Washington was part of Churchill's family pedigree. Three of his ancestors fought against the British in the American Revolution. And Churchill himself was an honorary American citizen, an honor of which he was immensely proud.
Churchill first visited the United States in 1895, when he was twenty-one. "What an extraordinary people the Americans are!" he wrote to his mother. During both the First and Second World Wars he worked closely and effectively with his American counterparts to defeat Germany. His love and understanding of the United States and its people helped to ensure that the Allies emerged victorious, especially in WWII. His close relationship with FDR was seminal to that victory. He sought to ensure that Great Britain and America remained friends forever and cautioned his colleagues upon his retirement as Prime Minister: "Never be separated from the Americans."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2011
Over one half of this book focuses on the World War II years. Martin Gilbert has a style of "only the facts". There is little probing beneath the surface as the book quotes Churchill enormously and also uses letters sent to Churchill. I was, for instance, hoping to find some enlightenment as to why Churchill did not attend Roosevelt's funeral, but found virtually none. Churchill travelled continuously during the war years - so why did he not go to the U.S. to at least meet Roosevelt's successor Truman? I did find some interesting speculation on this in Tom Meacham's "Franklin and Winston".
"Churchill and America" makes for highly interesting reading because the story in itself is great history. But there are still many things missing. Eleanor Roosevelt is absent and Clementine is rarely present.
Martin Gilbert follows the path of many historians in the assumption that Roosevelt caved in at Yalta. He does not mention the concessions that Stalin gave about the U.N. or that Poland was already a "fait accompli" for Stalin by that time (there were millions of Russian troops in Poland by January 1945).
My favourite quote (in a telegram to Truman): "An iron curtain is drawn upon their front. We do not know what is going on behind this enormous Muscovite advance into the centre of Europe which will isolate us from Poland".
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"Churchill and America" tells the story of a lifelong, history changing relationship between the Man and the Nation of the Twentieth Century. Churchill's relationship with America began when his father, Lord Randolph Churchill married Jennie Jerome of New York. As he commented to a Joint Session of Congress, if his father had been American and his mother British, rather than the other way around, he might have gotten there on his own. When a British officer suggested that they could make a bastard rifle, half British and half American, Churchill reminded him that he too was half British and half American. Throughout his life, Churchill would be a frequent visitor and constant observer of America.
Many think of Churchill's close collaboration with Franklin Roosevelt during World War II as the beginning and sum of Churchill's involvement with America. It was only its culmination and climax. America had long been a place of work and recreation for Churchill. His income depended heavily on lecture tours, book sales and investments in America. With American entry into World War I, Churchill would become a main liaison between the two English speaking powers. A lifetime of visits to our shores and contacts with American relatives prepared him well for his role as the chief fashioner of the Anglo- American Alliance. His close relationship with FDR would change the course of the war.
Just as Churchill's American adventure did not start with World War II, neither did it end there. Both in and out of power he would work closely with Presidents Truman and Eisenhower, although not always as closely as he would have liked. Even in retirement he would make a sentimental journey to his "other country" which awarded him honorary citizenship.
This book is well written and holds the reader's interest throughout. From both the historical and literary perspectives, it merits five stars.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Winston Churchill's blood was American. His father was of noble descent as was Winston who was born at Blenheim Palace. Winston Churchill's father was British but his rather feisty mother was born in the borough of Brooklyn, U.S.A.
Winston first visited America when he was 21 on October 21, 1895. He was on his way to report the happenings of the Spanish War in Cuba. He was met in New York City by his mother's illicit lover Bourke Cockran who entertained Winston. Winston proceeded to Cuba to report on the hostilities in Cuba.
Later in 1900, Winston went on a lecture tour of the East Coast and onto the Midwest in Chicago. Later during World War I Churchill recognized that the future of the English Speaking Peoples was determined in the actions of America during World War I. Without the help of America the Great War would have been lost.
Churchill continued his visits to the U.S.A. His friendship with Charlie Chaplin and William Randolph Hearst continued in his so called Wilderness Years. His unfortunate accident in Manhattan in 1931 along with his loss of fortune in the N.Y.S..E. are indeed matters of legend.
Later after the Battle of Britain, the meeting at Placentia Bay with FDR stirs the participants to a great Anglican-American Alliance of magical proportions.
Down the road Winston seduces FDR in doing the Lend Lease. Further, FDR succumbs to help Great Britain in all of their efforts. At this point Winston was truly the number one Patrician of the free world.
After the War Winston goes on to warn the world of the increasing Soviet menace. Winston was a true British Politician of the Imperial kind. But he was also of the American ilk!! Long live Winston!! 5 Stars no problem!!!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2011
Winston Churchill's life has been examined from all possible angles yet, somehow, Martin Gilbert accomplishes something new here. "Churchill and America" is very readable and authoritative as one would expect from this author but for me, it illuminated the genesis and meaning of what has been called the "special relationship" between the United States and Britain like no other book. Today we tend to think of this as an American convenience but the well-documented story Mr. Gilbert has to tell shows that Churchill devoted his life to building such a relationship; he saw it rightly as essential to Britain's survival. In FDR he cultivated a willing partner; Wilson was much less inclined to be so entangled and Congress was a thorn in everyone's side for decades. What short-comings this book does have are derived from its laser focus. If it related to Churchill but didn't involve America, the author gives it little or no space. The reader is well served by having some knowledge of Churchill's story although that isn't essential to devour this thoroughly enjoyable book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 25, 2010
Sir Martin Gilbert never ceases to amaze me with his knowledge and penmanship. Churchill and America is simply FANTASTIC! The story is exciting and enjoyable to read, I learned so much from Sir Martin's book, as I have done with all that I have read of his. Every book Sir Martin Gilbert writes is backed so well with strong research. So, as I said in the title: 'THE BEST' - Can one really say more?
Churchill and America