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Warlord: A Life of Winston Churchill at War, 1874-1945 Hardcover – November 11, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 864 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (November 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060575735
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060575731
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,115,914 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. D'Este (Patton: A Genius for War) is a master analyst of 20th-century military leadership, and this book may be his finest yet. Showing a remarkable knowledge of archival and printed sources, he tells the complex story of a statesman and warrior. As a child, Winston Churchill was headstrong, highly opinionated, and virtually impossible to control. Those traits remained throughout a life he often regretted having spent in council chambers rather than on battlefields. His experiences as a young man in India, South Africa and the Sudan left him with both an abhorrence of war and a passion for soldiering. D'Este skillfully demonstrates how these traits shaped Churchill's persistent advocacy for preparedness and negotiation as means of averting war and his determination to see war through when deterrence failed. D'Este camouflages neither personal weaknesses nor questionable policies. But his expertise as a military historian provides contexts too often lacking in evaluating Churchill's roles in the 1915 Gallipoli campaign, 1940's Battle of Britain and the D-Day invasion in 1944. Elegantly written, this tour de force belongs in every library addressing the 20th century. 16 pages of b&w photos, 9 maps. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* D’Este, a biographer of Patton and Eisenhower, has long detected an absence of objectivity about Churchill’s military career. Here he astutely lauds Churchill’s soldierly courage but questions how Churchill-the-politician acted as, in effect, an operational general. A list of battles he directly affected, from Antwerp in 1914 to Anzio in 1944, amounts to a record of military disaster, but D’Este weighs in the balance Churchill’s attitudes toward waging war and the specific decisions he made in World War II that ultimately made him victorious. Churchill’s abhorrence of inaction was evident in his youth, inducing him to seek out combat experiences he was fortunate to survive and eager to publicize. He also, D’Este argues, then formed a distrust of generals and admirals, a confidence in his own military intuition, and the flaw of dismissing military factors that bored him, such as logistics. Neither idolator nor revisionist, D’Este yields an ambivalent impression of Churchill that, while no denigration of his heroic leadership of Britain in 1940, underscores his paradoxes, such as a fascination with war’s spectacle that vied with an unfeigned horror of its carnage. It is just such paradoxes that render him perennially intriguing to the reading public. --Gilbert Taylor

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Finally--and this is no little thing--this book is an easy, easy read.
Nicholas E. Sarantakes
D'Este goes into great detail about Churchill's relationships with his generals and admirals in WWII.
Stephen C. Long
He was a demanding boss who could be rude, irascible, condescending and possessed a massive ego!
C. M Mills

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

71 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas E. Sarantakes on November 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
A retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel, Carlo D'Este has had a second career as a historian. Using his military background, he has picked a narrow topic: the U.S. Army in the European theater of World War II and written some of the most informative and readable accounts of the war in print. His biography of General George S. Patton, Jr. is a work that anyone thinking of taking up this art form should read as an example of how to do it right.

With "Warlord," D'Este has moved into new territory, British military history. The readers should know that the story that unfolds on these pages is primarily European in nature. Although over half of this book is about World War II, the author is examining the British experience and that is a different topic from what he has done in the past. Pearl Harbor does not take place until page 556 (out of 700 of text) and even then, only as a dependent clause.

D'Este's research is extensive and creative. He has looked at Churchill's student records at Harrow and examined the papers of Lord Moran, the Prime Minister's personal physician. In between, he hits all the important archives.

The quality of coverage that comes from this exploration of the historical record is uneven, though, ranging from brilliant to merely adequate. The book is extremely weak on the World War I years. Serious Churchill buffs/fans/students will be disappointed. With that point made, most Americans know little of World War I and the discussion of the Great War should be more than adequate for general readers. D'Este also builds on this material.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Stephen C. Long on November 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Carlo D' Este states clearly that his purpose in writing this biography is to explore Churchill the warrior. The book, he says, "is less about events and more about Churchill the man -- his leadership, his triumphs, and his failures." D'Este succeeds in this goal.

D'Este describes Churchill as in company with men "born for war," such Frederick the Great, Oliver Cromwell and his own famous ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough. Churchill, D'Este maintains, cannot be understood if one approaches him as a politician or statesman who was destined to conduct a war but rather must be understood as a warrior who realized that politics forms a part of the conduct of war.

Men "born for war," including Patton, the subject of another excellent D'Este biography, never lose their romantic and self-centered approach to war--even after confronting its most horrible conditions. Most men who experience war hate it. Men like Patton and Churchill never lose their love for it. D'Este shows that Churchill was deeply conflicted about his feelings for war. Having experienced the horrors of war first hand, he empathized deeply with the soldiers and sailors (and their families) who bear the full brunt of the horrors of war. Yet because he personally loved the danger and fighting, he wondered if he could ever forgive himself for his love of war.

D'Este goes into great detail about Churchill's relationships with his generals and admirals in WWII. Churchill tended to try to micromanage his military leaders. Sometimes that was helpful, but with a good commander it made relationships very rocky.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By C. Hutton on November 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Martin Gilbert and William Manchester have written muti-volume biographies of the long and fascinating life of Winston Churchill. They cover his fighting life from India and South Africa to the World Wars, his political life from party-switching to Prime Minister, and his personal life from his successful marriage to his career as a painter and writer. Mr. D'este has a narrow focus of exploring his military life through a half century of war, first as a participant and then as a decision maker. This book is a long (over 800 pages) but a nice introduction to his life of Winston Churchill. It picks its stories well (for Churchill had lots of stories) and tells them well. However for the reader who is familiar with the outline of Churchill's career, this book will be a review.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Philip J. Kinsler VINE VOICE on July 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a biography of Churchill as a soldier and war leader, and does not pretend to cover his other personas as politician and writer. It is the first book I have read that provides both the undeniable genius, and the personality flaws of the man. It balances both of these points of view. It shows Churchill as both a Victorian romantic with a "swords and bayonets" view of warfare--and as a visionary and extraordinarily powerful leader who saved Britain and perhaps the world from Hitler. As D'Este says, perhaps Churchill was the only person alive who could have kept Britain in the fight between the fall of France and the entry of America into WW II some 18 months later. This book does not pretend to cover Churchill's political career--read Roy Jenkins for that. Nor does it pretend to cover the entire life of the man--Manchester did that in his first two volumes. What the book does extraordinarily well is to show both the indispensable leader and the petulant narcissist that co-existed within Churchill.

As Bob Dylan said, "Hero's a nuisance to live with at home." Churchill was certainly that--unbelievably vain, self-centered, demanding everyone change their lives' schedules to keep up with his nocturnal habits, interfering with generals at every turn. He also insisted on finding generals who would fight, rather than just be good British club buddies--and this likely turned around the war.

D'Este often argues that Churchill was a strategic disaster. That his intense focus on the Mediterranean was strategically a mistake and led to the horrid war of attrition in Italy. There is another point of view on this matter.
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