In This Review

Churchill: A Biography
Churchill: A Biography
By Roy Jenkins
Farrar, 2001, 1002 pp.

A prolific author (and ex-politician), Jenkins judges Churchill to be "the greatest human being ever to occupy Downing Street." In this superb biography, the author's wit and familiarity with British political institutions are on full display as he details Churchill's electoral campaigns, his House of Commons speeches, and his political maneuvers. Even when disagreeing with Churchill's policies, Jenkins appreciates his qualities, especially the man's enormous energy and curiosity, eloquence and love of the English language, and courage. On the more critical side, Jenkins takes aim at Churchill's 1916 campaign in the Dardanelles, his imperialism, and his handling of the 1926 U.K. general strike. He should have retired from politics while still in good health, Jenkins believes, for his ability to govern effectively dwindled with the years. The author also demolishes common perceptions of the British leader. For example, the emotional link between Churchill and President Franklin Roosevelt was "never as close as was commonly thought," and Churchill was a "committed European" as early as 1948 (but no longer one when he returned to power in 1951). Most important, however, is Churchill's wartime role and his ability to amplify his country's influence during its decline -- both unforgettable and heroic contributions to his nation's history.