Churchill by Andrew Roberts review – is it possible to break through the myth?
The great statesman’s standing in the Britain of 2018 is arguably higher than it was in 1945. This biography too easily dismisses his less heroic sideHow to assess the career of a world-changing politician who was also a prolific journalist, writer and incessant self-publicist? Aside from his other achievements, Winston Churchill wrote a six-volume, 1.9m-word account of the second world war and his role in winning it. Are we able, more than five decades after his death, to peer over the mountain of his reputation and his writings – more than 40 books and thousands of speeches – and find the real man? As well as the size of Churchill’s output, there is the seductive eloquence of his words. Like the lines of Blake’s “And did those feet in ancient time”, some of Churchill’s more lyrical passages are so perfectly constructed and deftly targeted that they can induce, even in sceptics, momentary lapses of critical analysis. I say this as a sceptic who, although publicly critical of the man and deeply wary of the myths that surround him, named my production company, Uplands, after a phrase taken from his most famous wartime speech (“If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands”). His command of language was such that he was a recipient of the Nobel prize in literature. Churchill the war leader has to be disentangled from the propaganda image created by him and those around him, and which was itself a significant part of the war effort. Like