In Command of History by David Reynolds
Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War

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Synopsis

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

A New York Times NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR

A BEST HISTORY OF THE YEAR SELECTION –The New York Sun

NOTE: This edition does not include photographs.
 

About David Reynolds

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David Reynolds is a professor of international history at Cambridge University. He has held visiting positions at Harvard University and Tokyo’s Nihon University and is the author of eight books, including Rich Relations: The American Occupation of Britain, 1942—1945, one of his two prizewinning studies of Anglo-American relations in World War II. He lives in Cambridge, England.
 
Published September 19, 2012 by Random House. 656 pages
Genres: History, Travel, War, Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for In Command of History

Kirkus Reviews

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History, the adage has it, is written by the victors. That's nowhere more true than in the matter of Winston Churchill, the self-aware subject of this engaging study.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of In Command of History: Church...

Publishers Weekly

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For many, the fact that Churchill won his Nobel for literature comes as a surprise, but he was a prolific—and very well paid—historian and journalist. Awarded Britain's Wolfson Hist

Aug 29 2005 | Read Full Review of In Command of History: Church...

The New York Times

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He cites one of the research assistants' dismissal of the question as to how much of "The Second World War" Churchill actually wrote: It's " 'almost as superficial a question' as asking a master chef, 'Did you cook the whole banquet with your own hands?' " While the most compelling parts of "In C...

Nov 13 2005 | Read Full Review of In Command of History: Church...

The New York Times

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After he lost the 1945 election, Churchill set to work on a history of the war. David Reynolds looks at the making of a magnum opus.

Nov 13 2005 | Read Full Review of In Command of History: Church...

The New York Times

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After he lost the 1945 election, Churchill set to work on a history of the war. David Reynolds looks at the making of a magnum opus.

Nov 13 2005 | Read Full Review of In Command of History: Church...

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