It is often muttered that the best MPs are those who have experienced a little bit of life first, and not treated politics as a career that begins the moment they graduate from the student union. Even a career politician like Churchill, who became an MP at a young age, had already been a soldier and journalist, had killed men in battle, and had travelled to far-flung corners of the world before he entered Parliament. In many ways, this tenet should also apply to historians. Academic life can be a very closed society: one reads, teaches, produces papers, attends conferences, but does that make one qualified to judge the lives of others? It can pay to have been around the block a little, especially when dealing with such a towering figure as Churchill, with all his mighty achievements and failures.
Max Hastings certainly fulfils this criterion, having had, like Churchill, a career that has taken him to many distant parts of the world, often covering wars and conflict. He has been a journalist and editor, met numerous prime ministers, heads of state and other powerful men, and in