In This Review

Churchill: Visionary. Statesman. Historian
Churchill: Visionary. Statesman. Historian
By John Lukacs
Yale University Press, 2002, 200 pp.
Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
By John Keegan
Viking, 2002, 192 pp.

This is a good year for admirers of Winston Churchill. Lukacs, a lucid but not uncritical worshiper, has written about him for many years. Keegan, the great military historian, has come out with a brief biography that neglects no aspect of his life. Like many biographers of Churchill, they have both fallen under the spell of his eloquence, his character, and his often visionary leadership.

Lukacs examines Churchill's relations with Stalin, Franklin Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower, as well as his feelings toward European integration. He also deals at length with Churchill's critics, especially recent ones such as John Charmley and Niall Ferguson. Looking at Churchill as a historian, he covers his funeral in a chapter brimming over with sentiment. This superb little book is a pleasure for the reader. The mix of critical intelligence, sure appreciation of what Churchill did to stop the dark evil of Adolf Hitler, nuanced understanding of the many strands of Churchill's personality, and literary talent is admirable. Is Lukacs always fair? Perhaps not: his tepid assessment of Roosevelt and his distaste for Eisenhower go a bit far. But it is hard to resist this tour de force.

Meanwhile, Keegan recounts how he discovered a recording of Churchill's war speeches in the summer of 1957 in New York, when he was still only a teenager. He was overwhelmed. He pays more attention than does Lukacs to the private Churchill, a man with very few friends (but many cronies) and close only to his formidable wife. In a straightforward and fair account, Keegan tells the story of Churchill's life, without frills. He rightly focuses often on Churchill's oratory and sense of history; like Lukacs, he ends with a chapter called "apotheosis" that recounts his funeral.