Churchill’s Shadow: The Life and Afterlife of Winston Churchill

Norton. Oct. 2021. 656p. ISBN 9781324002765. $40. BIOG
British journalist and author Wheatcroft (The Controversy of Zion) focuses on certain issues and events in the trajectory of the admired, sometimes-misunderstood Winston Churchill (1874–1965), sketching his lasting influence in politics and culture in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Wheatcroft maintains that Churchill, thinking stereotypically and strategically, wrongly backed Edward VIII during the abdication crisis and poorly judged men, such as his press lord associates. From the beginning of his career, Churchill was unpredictable; a gambler (on the stock market as well as in war); stunningly flamboyant (appealing to many, distasteful to a few); and an author of his own myth. Wheatcroft provides some analysis of his own, namely that Lend-Lease much favored the Americans over the British and that the 1945 election loss happily helped Churchill avoid the challenges of postwar reconstruction. Largely relying on the works of historians such as Martin Gilbert, Roy Jenkins, and Andrew Roberts (whose 2018 book he regarded as too laudatory), Wheatcroft reconsiders Churchill’s extensive writings and additionally seeks to correct popular cultural portrayals of Churchill on television and film.
VERDICT Fans of history will find much value in this readable work; historians may be challenged by some of its interpretations.
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