Still, Sir Winston was indeed a man of God-like status in multitudinous ways and he remains so today for many Britons, outvoting the likes of William Shakespeare, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton and Isambard Kingdom Brunel as the greatest ever countryman. Although, rather worryingly, on the very last page (number 982) historian Andrew Roberts informs us that in a survey of 3000 British teenagers in 2008, no fewer than 20 percent thought Churchill to be a fictional character. Simultaneously, 58 percent thought Sherlock Holmes and 47 percent thought Eleanor Rigby to be real people.

Of course, Holmes never helped bomb Dresden to ash and Rigby never coined the expression "Iron Curtain", and neither did Churchill include "consulting detective" on his resumé or have a number one single among his various achievements, so one has to wonder why there is such confusion among these academically challenged youngsters.

The figure 1000 pops up again in a different context, for Roberts says that his is the 1010th biography of Winston Churchill. In answer to the obvious question as to why we need add to the previous 1009, the last major biography of the Great Man was by Roy Jenkins in 2001 and since then 41 major sets of private papers of people who worked with him have been deposited at the Churchill Archive in Cambridge, UK.

Roberts is thus the first biographer to have used not only these sources but also Queen Elizabeth allowed him to be the first Churchill biographer to use her father King George VI's diaries in Windsor Castle. These detail the meetings between the two men, and Roberts also draws upon many other new documents such as verbatim accounts of War Cabinet meetings. This latest telling of the tale, then, is offered as a totally fresh view of one of the greatest British prime ministers with a goldmine of revelations. Churchill himself wrote 43 book-length works in 72 volumes during his lifetime (1874-1965), mostly memoirs from his own viewpoint, and he received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953.

Roberts has been researching and writing about Churchill for 30 years and his very first book was about him, since when he has had five books with "Churchill" in the title or subtitle. In this latest book, he says, pretty much every page has something of primary research that won't have been read in any other biography.

The historian says he is objective and has not written a hagiography, and delves into his subject's many mistakes such as the failed Gallipoli campaign of 1915-16 when Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty, his economic mistake as Chancellor of the Exchequer in restoring the UK to the Gold Standard in 1925, and his strong support for King Edward VIII to stay on the throne and marry an American divorcee during the abdication crisis of 1936. Roberts does not whitewash or ignore these faults but aims to put them in their historical context.

He also gives the other side of criticisms that he says simply don't hold water, such as that the sinking of the British ocean liner Lusitania in 1915 with the loss of 1201 people was largely the responsibility of Churchill not by any action of his but by inaction, that Churchill advocated the use of chemical weapons – poisonous gas – in Iraq after World War I and that his actions contributed to the disastrous famine in Bengal, India, in 1943-44 when at least three million people are believed to have died.

Upon becoming Prime Minister in 1940, Churchill said: "At last I had the authority to give direction over the whole scene. I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial... I thought I knew a good deal about it all, and I was sure I should not fail. Therefore, although impatient for the morning, I slept soundly and had no need for cheering dreams. Facts are better than dreams."

Roberts' last chapter provides a summary of the pros and cons about Churchill, the man said to have towered over the 20th century. According to The Sunday Times reviewer Dominic Sandbrook the book is "undoubtedly the best single-volume life of Churchill ever written". Roberts' previous book was "Napoleon the Great" (2014) and his new "Leadership in War: Lessons From Those Who Made History" will be published in November 2019.


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