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Churchill History Lecture Series: How Churchill Waged War

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Allen will be introducing his new book How Churchill Waged War in a discussion with Professor David Reynolds, and writes:

“It is perhaps a self-evident thing to say, but while waging war, Churchill and his contemporaries did not how it was going to turn out. They were making policy and strategy on incomplete information, wrestling with a multitude of interrelated problems that were not always easy to prioritise or disentangle, and which were often influenced by fears that did not materialise or by factors that turned out to be inconsequential. Events could assume a momentum that it is not so easy for us to discern or understand. By looking at some key decisions in context and in detail, I hope that I will be able to give insights into Churchill’s style of leadership, but also to reveal something of the mind-set, constraints and challenges within which he was working. My aim is to put the spotlight on history in the making, and to challenge some of the more simplistic black and white assumptions about Churchill’s wartime ministry.

“It is an approach that is perhaps best illustrated by a quote from an unpublished memoir by John Martin, a civil servant who joined Churchill’s inner team as a Private Secretary in the Spring of 1940. When reflecting on those momentous days, Martin was prepared to admit with the luxury of hindsight that they may have formed ‘the finest hour’, but that was not how they had seemed at the time: Then, he wrote, they had been ‘a time of agony piled on agony’.”

Allen Packwood is the Director of the Churchill Archives Centre and a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge.

This talk is part of the Churchill History Lecture Series series.

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