The Roar of the Lion by Richard Toye
The Untold Story of Churchill's World War II Speeches

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Richard Toye...provides a nuanced and discriminating account of the pivotal episode in Churchill’s career.
-Financial Times


''My aunt, listening to the Prime Minister's speech, remarked of "our greatest orator", "He's no speaker, is he?"' -diary of teacher M.A. Pratt, 11 Nov. 1942.

The popular story of Churchill's war-time rhetoric is a simple one: the British people were energized and inspired by his speeches, which were almost universally admired and played an important role in the ultimate victory over Nazi Germany. Richard Toye now re-examines this accepted national story - and gives it a radical new spin.

Using survey evidence and the diaries of ordinary people, he shows how reactions to Churchill's speeches at the time were often very different from what we have always been led to expect. His first speeches as Prime Minister in the dark days of 1940 were by no means universally acclaimed - indeed, many people thought that he was drunk during his famous 'finest hour' broadcast - and there is little evidence that they made a decisive difference to the British people's will to fight on.

In actual fact, as Toye shows, mass enthusiasm sat side-by-side with considerable criticism and dissent from ordinary people. Yes, there were speeches that stimulated, invigorated, and excited many. But there were also speeches which caused depression and disappointment in many others, and which sometimes led to workplace or family arguments. Yet this more complex reality has been consistently obscured from the historical record by the overwhelming power of a treasured national myth.

The first systematic, archive based examination of Churchill's World War II rhetoric as a whole, The Roar of the Lion considers his oratory not merely as a series of 'great speeches', but as calculated political interventions which had diplomatic repercussions far beyond the effect on the morale of listeners in Britain. Considering his failures as well as his successes, the book moves beyond the purely celebratory tone of much of the existing literature. It offers new insight into how the
speeches were written and delivered - and shows how Churchill's words were received at home, amongst allies and neutrals, and within enemy and occupied countries.

This is the essential book on Churchill's war-time speeches. It presents us with a dramatically new take on the politics of the 1940s - one that will change the way we think about Churchill's oratory forever.

About Richard Toye

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Richard Toye was born in Cambridge in 1973. He studied at the Universities of Birmingham and Cambridge, and is currently Professor of Modern History at the University of Exeter. His books include Lloyd George and Churchill: Rivals for Greatness, Churchill's Empire: The World that Made Him and the World He Made, and Rhetoric: A Very Short Introduction. He lives in Exeter with his wife and their two sons.
Published August 22, 2013 by OUP Oxford. 320 pages
Genres: History, Travel, War, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction
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Reviewed by David Reynolds on Aug 16 2013

By detailing the variety of reactions to Churchill's oratory and the fluctuations of responses over time, Toye brings out a larger point about the British war experience.

Read Full Review of The Roar of the Lion: The Unt... | See more reviews from Guardian

Financial Times

Reviewed by Peter Clarke on Aug 23 2013

Richard Toye...provides a nuanced and discriminating account of the pivotal episode in Churchill’s career.

Read Full Review of The Roar of the Lion: The Unt... | See more reviews from Financial Times

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