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Our Supreme Task: How Winston Churchill's Iron Curtain Speech Defined the Cold War Alliance Hardcover – March 6, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1 edition (March 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781610390590
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610390590
  • ASIN: 1610390598
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,402,336 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"I read Our Supreme Task with considerable care and I recommend it emphatically. There is now an enormous literature about the Cold War but very little about how it actually came about and almost nothing about this address. This book fills the gap."

- John Lukacs, author of Churchill: Visionary. Statesman. Historian.

"Philip White has recreated the eight months between the Potsdam Conference at the end of World War II and the world-changing events in Fulton, Missouri, with impressive scholarship, a sure narrative skill and a fine eye for telling detail."

- Andrew Roberts, author of The Storm of War

"Philip White has lovingly produced a detailed yet eminently readable account of Churchill's speech in Fulton, Missouri, in 1946."

Nile Gardiner, Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom

"By reporting this event from every angle, Philip White builds the story of an unemployed world leader giving a talk at an obscure Missouri college into high drama. Churchill would have loved this book."

- Jesse Kornbluth, Headbutler.com


Andrew Roberts, author of The Storm of War

“Winston Churchill thought his Iron Curtain speech the most important of a long and stormy career that was studded with vital speeches; it was certainly one of his bravest.  Philip White has recreated the eight months between the Potsdam Conference at the end of World War II and the world-changing events in Fulton, Missouri, with impressive scholarship, a sure narrative skill and a fine eye for telling detail.”


John Lukacs, author of A New Republic: A History Of The United States In The Twentieth Century

“I read Our Supreme Task with considerable care and I recommend it emphatically. There is now an enormous literature about the Cold War but very little about how it actually came about and almost nothing about this address. This book fills the gap.”


Nile Gardiner, Ph.D., Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom

“Philip White has lovingly produced a detailed yet eminently readable account of Churchill’s speech in Fulton, Missouri, in 1946. White shows not only how the great British statesman crystallized in word and image the perilous divide between democratic west and communist east, but also how one speech defined an era, and how it continues to inspire today.”



 


Kirkus Reviews
“The genesis, occasion and aftermath of what Winston Churchill unhesitatingly called ‘the most important speech of my career’…. White fully reproduces the address and reminds us that Churchill’s call for increased Anglo-American solidarity in the face of Soviet aggression was not particularly well received… Today, we remember it as ‘one of the defining statements of the twentieth century.’ White’s at his best painting the small scenes in the background of the event: Churchill’s construction of the speech as he sunbathed and painted, the whiskey and poker-fueled train ride with Truman to Missouri and especially the frantic preparations for the big day by Westminster and Fulton officials, including the charismatic college president who conceived of the long-shot invitation to a world figure who unexpectedly said yes. A small slice of history charmingly retold.”
 

Newark Star-Ledger
“[An] absorbing reconstruction of events leading up to Fulton’s fifteen minutes of fame…. White shines a warm and winning spotlight on rural postwar America as he describes the hamlet’s feverish preparation to host the leader.”
 
Commentary
“The background and analysis White offers are valuable.”
 
Washington Times
“In Cold War history, the Westminster speech is cited frequently as a seminal moment in the skein of events that dominated the world for the next half-century. From time to time, I wondered, ‘Why Westminster? Was it simply because President Truman hailed from Missouri?’ The story is far more complex, and it is related entertainingly by Philip White in a first book that marks him as a historian to be watched.”  

 


About the Author

Philip White is a writer and a lecturer at MidAmerica Nazarene University, and a regular contributor to The Historical Society publications. Philip’s business writing has been recognized with awards from the Public Relations Society of America and the International Association of Business Communicators. He lives in Olathe, KS, with his wife and two sons.

More About the Author

Philip White writes about history, culture and technology. He is a regular contributor to the publications of the Historical Society at Boston University and guest lectures at MidAmerica Nazarene University. His business writing has won awards from the Public Relations Society of America and International Association of Business Communicators. Philip lives in Olathe, KS, with his wife and two sons.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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I much look forward to Mr. White's next offering.
Nick Carter
The author's vivid descriptions take you back to that momentous occasion in a way that makes you feel as if you were there experiencing it for yourself.
J.S.
It gives all the background to Churchill's great Iron Curtain ("Sinews of Peace") speech.
Richard Munro

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Justin Vaughan on March 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I've read several Churchill-related books, but most have been about his years as war leader in WW2, his 'wilderness years' in the 1930s when he warned the nation about the dangers of Nazism, or about earlier periods of his life. Until I became familiar with this story, I had no idea that one of his most important speeches was given during a second `wilderness time' right after the war and marked the unfortunately fast transition from world war to cold war. This book really filled that missing piece for me.
The broad subject, how the free world confronts totalitarian regimes, seems as relevant today as ever before. But what I found most compelling is the way the author moves effortlessly between the global stage on which Churchill and Truman played and the nostalgic details that transported me into the world of small-town America in the 1940s. This is a special book - highly recommended!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Berwick24 on March 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've always been a big fan of history books, but I prefer ones that take a closer look at events and provide information you can't get in other places. This book does a great job of that. It sets the scene well, provides a lot of details, and brings out the personalities that were involved in pulling off one of the most important speeches ever delivered. Churchill is a fascinating subject, and so is the book's focus on a small, midwestern town hosting this larger-than-life political figure. I really enjoyed the book. The research in it is extensive. I highly recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J.S. on March 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Our Supreme Task is a narrative non-fiction about Winston Churchill's unlikely journey to the small town of Fulton, MO. The author does an excellent job of describing the true events leading up to Churchill's famous Iron Curtain Speech, which took place in the small gymnasium of Westminster College. I don't typically read history books, but Our Supreme Task really surprised me and held my interest with its funny anecdotes about Churchill, Truman, and McCluer (the man who invited Churchill to come speak). The author's vivid descriptions take you back to that momentous occasion in a way that makes you feel as if you were there experiencing it for yourself.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Middleton on March 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
To anyone alive during the Cold War, the phrase "Iron Curtain" had a clear and precise meaning: the Soviet sphere of influence in Central and Eastern Europe. This book is the story of how that term was born, and propelled into the popular imagination.

It begins at the end of WWII, at Potsdam, as Churchill met Truman for the first time and lost the 1945 election. In that bitter conference Churchill seems to have finally realised the duplicity of the Soviets, and that Europe has simply traded one dictator for another. This sets the scene nicely for what is to come, both in showing Churchill's thoughts, and also how he came to be a private citizen (although the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, but to be fair this was probably as close to being a private citizen as Churchill ever was).

We then segue to Fulton, Missouri, and focus on Bullet McClure and Westminster College - and his incredible idea to invite Churchill to give the annual 1946 Green Foundation lecture. Introduced by Truman (itself a feat of some doing), the letter finds Churchill receptive, and the focus is then on Churchill in America, writing and giving the speech.

Its clear that for all Churchill spoke as a "private citizen" that he took care to clear his words with his Government and (deniably) with Truman himself. The text of the speech is reproduced in full.

In addition to all the above, it's the story of how a small college in a small town found itself hosting a great man to give a historic speech. It's both a scholarly work, well researched and footnoted, and also very readable: the practical difficulties involved are made clear, and the personal side of these great events is never overlooked. As a study of rhetoric of the Cold War - and how it was perceived and framed, at least in the West - its unique. If you have an interest in the Cold War or Churchill, this is great book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By discusj on March 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I find most history books very dry, but Our Supreme Task reads more like a novel - good character development, suspenseful, and a quick read. Highly Recommended!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
White's depiction of the events leading up this watershed occasion illustrate the author's intense research, dedication to detail, and hunger for showing the interconnection of seemingly small moments in history. The level of granularity in the storytelling lifts the heart of this budding history buff. A great read, that is incredibly easy to become addicted to. Looking forward to future works.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having put together and held together the Great Coalition which defeated the Axis, Winston Churchill should have been able to retire from public life, to spend his waning years in comfort to pursue those interests he was forced to put aside during the war years.

But it was not to be. Having met with Stalin many times, whose hands were at least as bloody as Hitler's, he understood that the free world could not even catch its breath before facing another challenge: that of the shadow of Soviet domination. There were those who were war-weary and did not want to face this challenge so soon after WWII, there were others who were apologists for the Soviet system (and who really believed all that "Uncle Joe" propaganda) and finally there were those who were actively working within the British and American governments for the interests of the USSR instead of their respective governments.

Churchill recognized this, just as he recognized the type of threat presented by Nazi Germany the decade before.

Due to a set of interesting circumstances presented in Philip White's book we get the whole story of how Churchill's so-called "Iron Curtain" speech came about in the town of Fulton, Missouri. The speech does not simply deal with the topic of communist domination but also discusses the future of freedom as only the great orator Churchill could. It defined the reality of Soviet moves in the months following WWII, whowing Soviet aggression for what it was.

It was a great speech and this is a great book.
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