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In Command of History: Churchill Fighting…

In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War

by David Reynolds

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Penetrative, comphrehensive snslysis and review of the process, decision makiing and response to Churchill's epic epistolary tour de force, "The History of World War Two". The author carefully and skillfully disects the methodolgy for creating this highly regarded series while providing an excellent historical perspective pf Churchils's very skilled crasfting of his version of history. As a conducter leads an orcestra, Churcill guided his "syndicate" to a work skillfully tuned to the subtleties and nuances of the the political world when the events occurred as well as that during the series genesis. Shifts of pespective and emphasis were tools used to support Churchill's vision of himself as the "man of the Century" ( )
  jamespurcell | May 1, 2017 |
"In command of history" is the type of magisterial work that Churchill would have been proud to have his name on. It is clear that Reynolds has completed an enormous amount of research to write this book and one would be hard pressed to find someone with greater knowledge of Churchill and his life.

This knowledge and the resulting indepth recording of it in print is ultimately the reason why this doesn't receive five stars. There were perhaps too many cases where he includes small, irrelevent details as if to show how much research he has undertaken, but instead gets the reader bogged down in details.

Also evident is the post-event rewriting of history that Churchill and others (including Mountbatten's reworking of his disastrous Dieppe Raid) participate in. Having said that, I did like Churchill's handling of the Fall of Singapore and his ambiguious acceptance of the blame for it.

Well worth a read, whether you're a WWII buff or just someone who wants to understand the major event of the last century and one of its key players. ( )
  MiaCulpa | Aug 7, 2014 |
The title of this book gives a great hint as to what this book is about - commanding history. This relates not only to history making in time time it is being made, but also history making when it comes to setting the record. And then again, it doesn't.
The author provides an extremely detailed account of the writing of Winston Churchill monumental 6 volume work World War II. How does an author write the history when so many documents belong to the government, and when many are secret? How to make it worthwhile when the government threatens the tax almost all of the earnings? How to get the most out of book publishers and newspapers in many countries? How to get the work done when time is so short? How to fund holidays on the continent? And how, most importantly, how to make sure that the author comes out looking best?
What comes out is now not a great secret: Churchill nearly manipulated the public service to work for him to get access to documents, but still managed to avoid (to his disadvantage) mentioning the Ultra Secret - Bletchley Park; he set up a trust; but still made a record amount of money from a publisher deal; he had a team of writers and researchers, but stressed deadlines to beyond the limit; he convinced the American publishers that a holiday in Europe or North Africa was needed to get stuck into the writing; and he fibbed a lot.
The account is thorough - perhaps a bit too much, but then the story would be incomplete. The most interesting parts are where Reynolds analyses what Churchill 'wrote' and places it alongside the facts - and Churchill does not come out of it looking good. Yet, we know that we ended the war as a winner (despite loosing government) and this was strengthened by these books. Errors, conflicting accounts, and threats of lawsuits did not get in the way of a very popular book.
However, Churchill is still treated with respect. And allowances are made for the fact that he was operating in a climate of the Cold War, in which the Russians could not come out looking too good, but yet still not upset too much. And Churchill also had an electorate to whoo - he twice attempted a return as Prime Minister, the second time successfully.
I suggest reading this book only after reading Churchill's volumes. ( )
1 vote robeik | Nov 30, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679457437, Hardcover)

Winston Churchill was one of the giants of the twentieth century. As Britain’s prime minister from 1940 to 1945, he courageously led his nation and the world away from appeasement, into war, and on to triumph over the Axis dictators. His classic six-volume account of those years, The Second World War, has shaped our perceptions of the conflict and secured Churchill’s place as its most important chronicler. Now, for the first time, a book explains how Churchill wrote this masterwork, and in the process enhances and often revises our understanding of one of history’s most complex, vivid, and eloquent leaders.

In Command of History sheds new light on Churchill in his multiple, often overlapping roles as warrior, statesman, politician, and historian. Citing excerpts from the drafts and correspondence for Churchill’s magnum opus, David Reynolds opens our eyes to the myriad forces that shaped its final form.

We see how Churchill’s manuscripts were vetted by Whitehall to conceal secrets such as the breaking of the Enigma code by British spymasters at Bletchley Park, and how Churchill himself edited the volumes to avoid offending postwar statesmen such as Tito, Charles de Gaulle, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. We explore his confusions about the true story of the atomic bomb, learn of his second thoughts about Stalin, and watch him repackage himself as a consistent advocate of the D-Day landings.

In Command of History is a major work that forces us to reconsider much received wisdom about World War II. It also peels back the covers from an unjustly neglected period of Churchill’s life, his “second wilderness” years, 1945—1951. During this time Churchill, now over seventy, wrote himself into history, politicked himself back into 10 Downing Street, and delivered some of the most vital oratory of his career, including his pivotal “iron curtain” speech.

Exhaustively researched and dazzlingly written, this is a revelatory portrait of one of the world’s most profiled figures, a work by a historian in full command of his craft.

“A fascinating account that accomplishes the impossible: [Reynolds] actually finds something new and interesting to say about one of the most chronicled characters of all time.” –The New York Times Book Review



(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:06 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

As Britain's prime minister from 1940 to 1945, Churchill courageously led his nation and the world away from appeasement, into war, and on to triumph over the Axis dictators. His classic six-volume account of those years has shaped our perceptions of the conflict and secured Churchill's place as its most important chronicler. This book explains how Churchill wrote this masterwork, and in the process enhances and often revises our understanding of one of history's most complex, vivid, and eloquent leaders. It forces us to reconsider much received wisdom about World War II, and peels back the covers from an unjustly neglected period of Churchill's life, his "second wilderness" years, 1945-1951.--From publisher description.… (more)

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