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In The Footsteps of Churchill: A Study in Character Hardcover – May 10, 2005


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A 2002 BBC poll established Churchill as history's greatest Briton. Leading British military historian Holmes offers not a biography but an interpretation of the man, one that highlights the ironic fact that the social and political order Churchill defended has virtually disappeared. His Churchill was an unquiet spirit; Holmes describes him as spinning from crisis to crisis for most of his life, gaining experience and wisdom the hard way: helping to commit an unprepared Britain to war in 1914; forging '20s economic policies that left later governments unable to undertake the military buildup Churchill then demanded; failing to maintain Britain's position as a great power after WWII. Both before and after that war, Churchill, Holmes shows, devoted his considerable talent as a historian to misrepresenting the historical record to his advantage. But in 1940 Winston Churchill was able to define his and Britain's century in battle against the Nazis, and, for Holmes, that has been enough to secure his greatness. Holmes has no use for the revisionist argument that Britain was best advised to compromise in the crucial summer of 1940. Instead he demonstrates that Churchill's eloquence, courage and honor left an unforgettable legacy to the British people, and to free men and women everywhere. Holmes similarly demolishes charges that Churchill was a racist and a warmonger. He presents a man truly larger than life. (June)
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From Booklist

As in Paul Addison's Churchill (2005), this analytic portrayal of Winston Churchill's personality assumes readers are familiar with the basic biography. Tackling Churchill's quip that he knew what history would say about him because he intended to write it, Holmes subjects Churchill's voluminous output to examination as part of his consideration of Churchill's traits and abilities, from his boyish egotism to his enduring eloquence. Holmes attaches the drama of Churchill's life to a framework of the two primary political trends that dominated British affairs during his career: the abandonment of imperial isolation as a foreign policy and the growth of a centralized welfare state. Weighing Churchill's start as a radical liberal and later movement to the right, Holmes turns over the criticisms accumulated by opponents (and later biographers) and adds more about Churchill's two performances as First Lord of the Admiralty. Fluent with Churchillian details, Holmes, despite manifest reservations, shapes them into a saliency that supports the case for Churchill's historical greatness. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; New edition edition (May 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465030823
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465030828
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,941,092 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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This is by far the best single volume life of Churchill.
C. Catherwood
This author, Richard Holmes, writes long, complicated sentences, using many more words than needed to make his points.
dana m
This book is best for readers who have some prior knowledge of the life of Winston Churchill.
Christian Schlect

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
British military historian Richard Holmes' "In The Footsteps Of Churchill: A Study In Character", is a book that, inspite of its brevity, offers a most penetrating, thoughtful analysis of Winston Churchill as a politician and statesman. While he is obviously someone favorably disposed to Churchill for some intriguing personal reasons, Holmes does offer a surprisingly nuanced portrayal of Great Britain's greatest 20th Century prime minister, which veers from a self-indulgent narcissist to a deliberative, often profound, observer of his fellow British politicians and of foreign affairs, especially in the 1930s, with respect to Hitler's Nazi Germany. Understandably Holmes, as a military historian, emphasizes Churchill's military service, his celebrated exploits as a military journalist and finally, his service as First Sea Lord in both world wars, as a means of exploring Churchill's personal character, and demonstrating how his military experience played an important part in defining it. Holmes may be the first historian I know of who does consider simultaneously Churchill's service as First Sea Lord, ultimately portraying a less than flattering portrait of someone who was too "wedded" to the interests of charismatic, flamboyant leaders like Admirals Fisher and Beatty (For example, Churchill seriously underestimated the crucial need of smaller escort vessels for the Royal Navy in both world wars, relying more on the advice of his admirals interested in big gun warships like ballecruisers and battleships.). And yet, inspite of a detailed exploration of Churchill's personal and leadership flaws, Holmes does conclude that ultimately, his strong, decisive leadership during World War II was necessary for ensuring Great Britain's survival.Read more ›
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By C. Catherwood on May 6, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is by far the best single volume life of Churchill. It gives the full picture, the weaknesses as well as the strengths, yet leaves an overall positive feeling of what a great man Churchill was. On CSPAN Book TV on May 9 and May 10 I recommended this book as THE book to read: so for anyone who has watched the broadcast, THIS is the book I commended. Christopher Catherwood (author of CHURCHILL'S FOLLY: HOW WINSTON CHURCHILL CREATED IRAQ and WINSTON CHURCHILL: THE FLAWED GENIUS OF WORLD WAR II, and major fan of Richard Holmes).
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Christian Schlect VINE VOICE on August 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Professor Holmes is a British military historian and it shows in this interesting attempt at describing Winston Churchill's character. He decidedly has an opinion, usually conservative, on most political and social issues of the last century and is happy to share them with the reader. He also spends more time on battle issues in the two world wars than would most authors of a character study of this type. This book is best for readers who have some prior knowledge of the life of Winston Churchill. The professor points out many of the faults and warts of his subject but the ultimate verdict is in recognition of his genius.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By David A Sitomer on November 4, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am an admitted Churchill groupie so it is hard for me not be be please with any works on this great and interesting man.
The book covers many aspects of his youthful adventures, that are often overlooked because of his statue during the blitz and World War II.
Descriptions of prison escapes during the Boer War, surveying the Battle of Omdurman, the Hindu Kush, The Dardanelles and the fight against the rise of Fascism - are all here.
This is also a great book for Churchill first timers. The book is a short biography plus many examples of his own writings. If you didn't know, Churchill made his living outside of politics as a writer of history books.
All in all this makes for a easy and enjoyable journey.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By dana m on February 1, 2012
Format: Paperback
I read the introduction and the first chapter, then gave up. This author, Richard Holmes, writes long, complicated sentences, using many more words than needed to make his points. At times his meaning seems hidden by piles of verbiage. I often wondered, what did he actually say. That got old fast.

In my short read, I found 2 points contradicting other narratives of Churchill's early life.

Other books I recall, say young Churchill provided money for his beloved nurse Mrs. Everest after the family let her go with no pension. This book says he didn't, implying he was selfish for not doing so, instead focusing on getting as much money as he could out of his mother for his own wants.

Other books say Churchill was psychologically neglected by his parents. This book says instead he was too emotionally demanding of attention from them, not that they were cold and unloving. And that he should have realized this treatment was normal for kids of that time and class.
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