James Holland

Giant Among Men

Finest Years: Churchill as Warlord 1940–45


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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. 

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