- Summary & Background & Author Information
The book “Churchill: Visionary. Statesman. Historian” written by John Lukacs published in 2004 depicted the life of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill from the time of the Second World War towards the end of his career and death. Several chapters were assigned for Churchill’s relations with other World War II leaders and politicians who challenged his policies. Other sections were attached to how the world saw Churchill, the criticisms that continued to plague his life until his death. Churchill was former British soldier, writer, historian and journalist before he became the prime minister in 1940, becoming Britain’s war leader during the Second World War. He is considered one of 20th century is most influential leaders, knighted for his role in the Second World War and a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature . The author of the book, John Lukacs, was also a known visionary, critic and historian much like the subject of his book. The Hungarian-born historian is well-known for his studies of the underlying events that shaped the Second World War and the Cold War. His other works highlighted that these unnoticed events also had a significant impact to the wars in question .
In the book, Lukasc wanted to portray Churchill as an exemplary visionary statesman who managed to read all the signs that may bring Europe back to its knees and prevented its onset from affecting the entire region. The author expounded on this stance by countering several criticisms while discussing several themes. Themes such as Churchill’s relations with Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Stalin; how Churchill stood up for Europe and the criticisms the man faced prior to his death were raised in the book. The author wanted to convey that even if there are several works available regarding one subject such as Churchill, there will always be something new to discover about his history. Although his premise was to show the greatness of Churchill as a visionary, the author also agreed that not all of Churchill’s visions were correct as seen in his argument regarding the confederation of English-speaking people. In conclusion, I will critique the author’s portrayal of the Prime Minister as a visionary as noted on his relations with other leaders: notably Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and American President Franklin Roosevelt.
In the book, it could be seen that Churchill’s visions had influenced his relations with the Soviet Union and the United States. With regards to the Soviet Union and its Premier Joseph Stalin, Churchill understood that the Russian interest is not reconcilable with Britain’s very own interest considering Stalin’s brutality and cynical nature as a leader. Churchill understood ‘Stalin’s Russia as a great and present danger’ if nothing is done to stop its expansion to Eastern Europe whilst the region is being dominated by Germany . Stalin himself believed that Britain will greatly benefit if Russia goes to war with Germany. However, many misunderstood Churchill’s intentions over Russia as Churchill tried to make sure Russia keeps on fighting and made concessions to the country to make sure it continues. He was also aware of the various consequences should Russia lose to Germany. Churchill stressed that:
‘Should Russia come to an agreement with the Reich, all would be lost. It must not happen. If Russia were victorious, she would decide on her frontiers without consulting Great Britain; should she lose the war, the alliance would lose all its importance .”
On the other hand, when it came to Franklin Roosevelt and the United States, Churchill had the vision regarding the implications of the war and immediately wrote to Roosevelt regarding his sentiments. Churchill immediately stressed that without America, Britain and Europe would find themselves under Germany’s mercies . Roosevelt, throughout the course of the war, wanted to separate himself from Churchill because he thought he could handle Stalin better and get him to follow America’s goals. Churchill tried to warn Roosevelt to heed its warnings before the Yalta Conference regarding the possibility that the war ‘may well prove to be more disappointing than was the last’ for Europe . Roosevelt and his allies ignored such warnings due to the belief Churchill was only after its imperialist schemes. However, by 1945 when Russian aggression was clearly visible, America had to concede that Churchill’s foresight was well-sounded .
In a personal extent, the book was mostly written in a descriptive yet persuasive manner. On a descriptive level, Lukasc described to his readers what kind of leader and actor Churchill was throughout the War and how he was after his reign as the Prime Minister. The book illustrated many of Churchill’s mistakes and successes, which also became the author’s way on persuading readers that Churchill should be considered an exceptional politician and a legend. His presentation of facts and arguments were well organized, especially as to Churchill’s relationship with other leaders and critics. While reading the paper, it is visible that while Lukasc tried to identify some of Churchill’s faults, he is clearly emphasizing that Churchill is a one of a kind visionary. He had also used several biographies and some of Churchill’s statements in order to highlight particular stances. However, if one is not familiar with British history or politics, it is prudent for other readers to take caution with regards to the arguments written in this book.
Other reviewers also have several sentiments when it comes to the book’s depiction of the renowned Prime Minister. The review done by Christopher Harmon for the Journal of Military History in 2003, for example, stressed that the book was written as a counter-rebuttal for all the criticisms given to Churchill over the years. Similar to this writer’s personal assessment of the book, Harmon also warns other readers – especially those interested in studying the War and British politics – to take this book as a supplement book. This reasoning is because of the variety of arguments that may confuse new readers on British politics and history. The presentation of the book was unique given that the author opened his book with a series of questions as to how Churchill is currently viewed today before launching to his narrative regarding Churchill’s career and death. Each argument is well-cited; however, it is observed that there are overdone observations and anti-thesis that made the case difficult to assess. Nonetheless, it is clear that despite his flaws and the criticisms, the author still sees Churchill as a mountain visible from a distance as one of the major icons of the 20th century .
Burt, Daniel. The Biography Book: A Reader's Guide to Nonfiction, Fictional, and Film Biographies of More Than 500 of the Most Fascinating Individuals of All Time. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001. Print.
Harmon, Christopher. "Churchill: Visionary, Statesman, Historian (review)." Journal of Military History 67.3 (2003): 983-984. Print.
Lukacs, John. Churchill: Visionary. Statesman. Historian. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002. Print.
Rodden, John and John Rossi. "John Lukacs: Visionary, Critic, Historian." Society 43 (2008): 222-232. Print.