Confederates from Iowa:

Not to Defend, but to Understand

No crystal ball for 2018 (or the Civil War): Winston Churchill’s insight for historians

A Swedish proverb says, “Shared joy is a double joy.”  In this season of the year, I share my relish for Winston Churchill in an excerpt from The Last Lion Alone, 1932-1940.

Churchill’s biographer, William Manchester, writes:

He [Churchill] was often called irrational and cheerfully admitted it.  So, he replied, was politics; so was human experience.  It did not, he observed, ‘unfold like an arithmetical calculation on the principle that two and two makes four.  Sometimes in life they make five, or minus three, and sometimes the blackboard topples down in the middle of the sum and leaves the class in disorder and the pedagogue with a black eye.

The element of the unexpected and the unforeseeable is what gives some of its relish to life, and saves us from falling into the mechanical thrall of the logicians.‘[i]

Winston Churchill (by Yousuf Karsh,

Stereotypical, bland expression was anathema to Churchill.  His thinking, writing, and speaking blended together in a grand symbiosis.  Manchester gives a glimpse into Churchill’s speech-writing process. He states:

On the average, he [Churchill] spends between six and eight hours preparing for a 40-minute speech.  Frequently, as he dictates passages which will stir his listeners, he weeps; his voice becomes thick with emotion, tears run down his cheeks (and his secretary’s).[ii]

# # #

My readers, I wish you all a happy and prosperous 2018.

[i]William Manchester, The Last Lion, Alone, 1932-1940 (New York:  1988), 107.

[ii] Ibid., 32-33.


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  1. Ian

    Sounds like Churchill borrowed from Lincoln the habit of practicing his speech out loud to judge the tempo and emotional level.

  2. Churchill was undoubtedly one of the greatest men of all time. He would have been a genius politician/leader in any age. He understood the power of words properly phrased and delivered, and his instincts and insights were remarkable. It is too bad that such genius makes its appearance so rarely.

  3. Marc Naigeon

    Great post about a great man. Thank you David. Happy new year to you and your Loved Ones!

    • David Connon

      Hi, Marc. Thank you for your kind comment. Happy New Year to you and your loved ones, too!

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