(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)
In 1896/97 Churchill, then serving as a cavalry subaltern in India, experienced an intellectual awakening. Hitherto an indifferent student, he began a wide-ranging and intense self-education which he continued throughout his life until its last days.
Historian John Keegan tells us something about the awakening and reaches a conclusion about the young Churchill, who turned 22 on November 30,1896:
(Churchill’s demands for books) were met by his mother, who sent him expensive books by the crate during his Indian years. …No doubt.
The mainstay was Gibbon, the greatest of all English historians, whom “through the glistening hours of the Indian day, from …stables till the evening shadows proclaimed the hour of Polo, I devoured.”
Even before finishing all eight volumes of Gibbon, however, he had embarked on Plato’s Republic and then the twelve volumes of Macaulay’s History of England. …
Shortly afterward he launched into Schopenhauer, Malthus, Darwin, Aristotle’s Politics, Pascal, Saint-Simon, and Adam Smith. …
The young Churchill, in his leap to self-education, must have been the most unusual cavalry subaltern in any European army.
I hope you all have nice weekends that include some time for good reading.
John Keegan, Winston Churchill. (pgs. 38-39)