The Roar of the Lion: The Untold Story of Churchill’s World War II Speeches by Richard Toye; Churchill and Empire by Lawrence James - review by Paul Addison

Paul Addison

Speaking for England

The Roar of the Lion: The Untold Story of Churchill’s World War II Speeches

By

Oxford University Press 309pp £25 order from our bookshop

Churchill and Empire

By

Weidenfeld & Nicolson 452pp £25 order from our bookshop
 

When Roosevelt asked one of his advisers who Churchill’s speechwriter was, he was told, ‘Mr President, he rolls his own.’ After the revelation that parts of his war memoirs and much of his History of the English-Speaking Peoples were ghosted, I half expected Richard Toye to bring us the news that many of his speeches were drafted by officials, with Churchill adding the rhetorical flourishes. Not so: he really did write them himself. He was briefed, of course, by the relevant government departments. If he spoke on foreign affairs, the Foreign Office would usually be asked to comment, though not if he was in the mood to slip some controversial statement past them. When he spoke on military matters, he did so as minister of defence, an office he combined with prime minister, in collaboration with the chiefs of staff. As a policymaker he was never a one-man band, but the structure, style and rhetoric of his speeches were all his own. 

Churchill had always depended on the force of his oratory to compensate for the mistrust he so often inspired. Whenever his fortunes were at a low ebb, he could hope to restore them with a formidable display of debating power in the House of Commons. It did not always work.

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