(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)
Today begins a two-part series within the series focused on the work of a great historian and Churchill’s official biographer, Sir Martin Gilbert.
In In Search of Churchill: A Historians Journey (John Wiley & Sons, 1994) Gilbert recounts his initial involvement in the research and writing of Churchill’s life. The year was 1962 and Churchill’s only son, Randolph, had been selected by Churchill to write his biography. Gilbert explains:
My employment with Randolph was to begin in October 1962. Merton College, which had just elected me to a Junior Research Fellowship, agreed that I could also spend time working with Randolph at Stour. My friends, and I, assumed that my engagement would be of short duration. I was still there four and a half years later. I started work under the watchful eye of Michael Wolff, who bore the brunt of responsibility for the whole enterprise: the other researchers and the secretaries of what Randolph called the “book office.”Randolph Churchill died almost six years later in June, 1968. With the help of Gilbert and others in the “book office”, he'd completed the first two volumes of his father's official biography.
Much has been made of Randolph’s irascibility and worse: in these pages I hope a fair picture will emerge of a man who made many enemies by his often violent conduct, but who could be kind, considerate and generous. On my first working day at Stour, which was a copy of his book Fifteen Famous English Homes, inscribed “Martin Gilbert from Randolph S. Churchill”.
I had no idea until then that he had written half a dozen books. A month later he gave me another of them, The Rise and Fall of Sir Anthony Eden, inscribed “Martin from Randolph”. I had been accepted as part of his team. (p. 13)
Gilbert was selected to complete what became an eight-volume biography which he did during the next twenty years until the publication in 1988 of the final volume, Never Despair.
Last year Gilbert put up a net site at which he tells something of his life and provides brief descriptions of all his works which include histories of both world wars and the Holocaust.
I hope you give the site a look. If you read this post on a busy weekday, why not email it to yourself and then find some quiet time over the weekend to go back to it, click on the link to Gilbert’s site and read what is a brief account of the work of one of our greatest historians?