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Great Contemporaries Paperback – 2001
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Written in his usual admirable style, these are Churchill's extended character sketches of the great men of his time, ranging from the very well-known (Trotsky, Hitler, FDR, Lawrence of Arabia) to people you have probably never heard of, such as the first Earl of Birkenhead and the Earl of Rosebery. After reading them, you will wish you had known them... Not one person in the U.S. Congress can pass comparison with "F.E.," the first Earl of Birkenhead. These were largely men raised as aristocrats, very well educated, and with huge personal abilities of their own. The chapter on Asquith will open your eyes.
It makes our leaders look like midgets.
Highly recommended, indeed!
Great Contemporaries is a series of essays written between 1929 and 1937 on the "great" leaders of the day. Churchill knew many of these leaders personally, and is able to supplement what might otherwise be a dry recitation of the facts of a career with personal stories and vignettes.
Perhaps the most famous of the essays is on "Hitler and his Choice, 1935." This essay is often cited by neo-Nazis and far leftists as proof that Churchill actually admired Hitler. But finally getting the chance to read the essay shows that any such analysis takes Churchill's words extremely out of context. Hitler was to be Churchill's great antagonist in the coming decade. In 1935, Churchill recognized that Hitler was facing a choice - would Hitler take a moderate road and perhaps be remembered as the leader who restored German honor, or who Hitler take the road of war. Churchill ends the essay with a warning, that German rearmament was continuing, and, of course, tragically, Churchill's misgivings were played out.
One problem, with this book is that many of the "great" men described are almost forgotten today, at least outside their home countries. Men like the Earl of Rosebery (Prime Minister in the 1890s) or King Alfosno XIII of Spain probably make no impression on the American reader while George Curzon is remembered, if at all, as the man who roughly proposed the border between Poland and the Soviet Union (the "Curzon Line").
The book includes essays on well-remembered men such as George Bernard Shaw, Clemenceau and Churchill's protégé T.E. Lawrence (better known as "Lawrence of Arabia"). These essays, full of personal remembrances by Churchill, are well worth the time.
The Last Lion, but then again it's only 1/3 as long. Well worth the time for those interested in Churchill.