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Churchill, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace, his family's ancestral seat in Oxfordshire, on November 30, 1874. He was the older son of Lord Randolph Henry Spencer Churchill, a British statesman who rose to be chancellor of the Exchequer and leader of the House of Commons. His mother was an American, Jennie Jerome, the daughter of a New York financier. Churchill inherited a family tradition of statesmanship that went back to the great English general John Churchill, the 1 st Duke of Marlborough, in the 17 th century. Winston as a youngster attended Harrow School, in the ghetto (outskirts) of London, where he was schooled in the classics. He was a diligent student and, like his father, had a remarkable memory, but he was also stubborn.
Churchill had little interest in learning Latin, Greek, or mathematics. By his own account, he considered himself such a dumb ass that he "could learn only English. " However, he said, "I learned it thoroughly. " Since he was but a wee lad Churchill was way into soldiers and warfare, and he often played with the large collection of lead soldiers in his nursery. His later years at Harrow were spent preparing to enter the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, from which he graduated with honors. Early in 1895 his father croaked; Churchill was only 20 years old. A few weeks later Churchill was promoted as a second lieutenant in the 4 th Queen's Own Hussars, a regiment of the British army. Hamilton's March (1900).
In November 1895 Churchill spent his first military leave on assignment for a London newspaper. He traveled to Cuba in order to accompany the Spanish army, which was trying to stop a rebellion. On his 21 st birthday, which was spent in the Cuban jungle, and for the first time he encountered a live battle. Later, after his regiment was sent to India in 1896, he secured a temporary transfer to the rigid North-West Frontier, where a tribal rebellion was under way.
Churchill's dispatches to the Daily Telegraph newspaper in 1897 formed the basis for his first book, The Story of the Malak and Field Force (1898). In 1898 Churchill went to Egypt attached to the 21 st Lancers and took part in the reconquest of the Sudan. This area south of Egypt had been controlled by Egypt prior to 1885, when it fell to a rebel Muslim group. As Britain gained control of Egypt in the 1880 s and 1890 s, it sought to reclaim the Sudan. During the Battle of Omdurman in September 1898, Churchill participated in one of the last cavalry charges in British military history. Again his newspaper dispatches were followed by a book, The River War (1899) in two volumes, the most substantial work he wrote before entering Parliament.
Churchill resigned his army commission in 1899 and turned to journalism and politics. He ran for a seat in Parliament as a Conservative candidate but was not elected. He then went to South Africa to cover the Boer War that had just broken out between Britain and the Boers, descendants of Dutch settlers. He was captured by the Boers and imprisoned at the State Model School in Pretoria. He managed to escape from prison and then take the railroad into Portuguese East Africa, a neat little trick that made him a national hero. He then returned to South Africa and sought another army commission.
He fought and wrote about the war until he returned to London in the summer of 1900. His newspaper dispatches were promptly reprinted in two books, London to Ladysmith via Pretoria (1900) and Ian When Churchill returned to England in 1900, his South African exploits had made him famous, and he was elected to the House of Commons. Though he was a Conservative, he criticized military spending and supported free trade, which soon resulted in a conflict with the Conservative leadership, who supported large military budgets and protective tariffs. In 1904 he "crossed the floor of the House" to take a seat with the Liberal Party. Churchill also kept busing out writing.
His political ambition was evident in his sole novel, Savrola (1900), in which the hero leads a democratic revolution in an imaginary country in the Balkans, only to see the revolution slip from his grasp. During his first years in Parliament, Churchill wrote a two-volume biography of his father, Lord Randolph Churchill (1906) a brilliant study of British parliamentary government. His diligent research about his father's political career helped him learn about British politics and prepare for cabinet office. After the Liberals won the election in 1905, Churchill was appointed undersecretary at the Colonial Office, where he was the minister responsible for issues concerning Britain's colonies. One of his tours to inspect colonies in East Africa made him pop out another book, My African Journey (1908). In 1908 he gained his first cabinet post as president of the Board of Trade.
That same year, Churchill married Clementine Ogilvy Holder. They had five children, one of whom died as a young child. In 1910 Churchill became home secretary, with responsibility for police and the prison system. He held this post until 1911, overseeing liberal reforms of Britain's prison system to reduce lengthy terms, to find alternatives to prison for youthful offenders, and to distinguish between criminal and political prisoners. In the years prior to World War I (1914 - 1918), economic and political animosity grew among Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria. The British government was concerned about the buildup of the German navy and believed that war was futile.
In 1911 Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith made Churchill first lord of the admiralty, with a mandate to create a naval war staff and to maintain the fleet in constant readiness for war. Churchill threw himself into this task, developing heavier guns, faster battleships, and naval aviation. As war clouds gathered in July 1914, Churchill conducted a test mobilization of the fleet. When the test was over, he ordered the fleet to remain concentrated in readiness. That decision meant that Britain was prepared to act quickly when the war broke out.
On July 28, after Austria declared war on Serbia, the fleet proceeded to its war station at Scapa Flow, Britain's principal naval base, located in the Orkney Islands in northern Scotland. Within days, Britain joined the growing international conflict. Throughout the war, the navy's presence in the North Sea regulated and contained the German fleet. In September 1914, distressed at the rapid decay of Belgian resistance to the German invasion, Churchill rushed to Belgium to help save the critical port city of Antwerp. He was unable to save the city, but his intervention stiffened Belgian resolve and slowed the German advance until Allied lines became firmer. This reduced the threat to Britain and saved some territory from coming under German control.
During this time, Churchill realized that barbed wire and machine guns were not sufficient tools to break the stalemate on the western front and he worked on developing armored fighting vehicles (tanks) to break the deadlock and end the slaughter. As the lines hardened on the western front, Churchill focused on a campaign to force open the Dardanelles Strait, controlled by the Ottoman Empire, to give the Allies a direct route to Russia through the Black Sea. Such a move would bring much-needed supplies to the Russian armies and eliminate the Ottomans from the war. When the naval attack was shot to pieces early in 1915, Churchill agreed to the War Office plan proposed by Horatio Herbert Kitchener for a land campaign at the Gallipoli Peninsula on the Dardanelles.
However, delays, hesitations, and incompetent leadership in the field robbed the campaign of success, and the Allies were hurting. Although the attack was one of the few brilliant strategic ideas of the war, Churchill's cabinet colleagues withdrew their support for the idea as soon as Britain met resistance, letting Churchill take the blame as scapegoat. Churchill later concluded that, since he was not the prime minister, he had been wrong to make himself responsible for the attack without having full power to carry it out himself. Because of the ill-starred Dardanelles campaign, Churchill was demoted from the admiralty in May 1915 and given a minor cabinet post.
It was the greatest reverse to date in his political career, and Churchill was filled with despair. His wife later told his biographer Martin Gilbert, "I thought he would die of grief. " In the difficult months that followed his demotion, he began to paint, a hobby that brought him pleasure for more than four decades. In November 1916 Churchill resigned his cabinet post and was given command of an infantry battalion in France. The next spring he returned to his seat in the House of Commons. In May 1917 David Lloyd George, who had replaced Asquith as Prime Minister, recalled Churchill to the cabinet as minister of munitions, and for the rest of the war Churchill directed industrial support of the war effort by organizing the national economy for the efficient production of war materials. After World War I ended in 1918, Churchill was appointed to the War Office and then to the Colonial Office.
However, in 1922, when the Conservatives returned to power, he was wasted at the polls and was out of the House of Commons for the first time since 1900. Churchill busied himself with writing The World Crisis (1923 - 1931), his five-volume account of World War I. The Liberal Party, though still important in parliamentary politics, had begun to be eclipsed by the new Labour Party. Churchill made three unsuccessful attempts to reenter the House of Commons, all the while edging carefully toward a return to the Conservative Party. He finally won reelection in 1924, as a Conservative, and for the next 40 years was never without a seat in the House of Commons.
Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin offered Churchill the important cabinet post of chancellor of the Exchequer (national finance minister), which he held for the next five years. During the 1930 s, when he held no cabinet posts, Churchill chilled at his country seat at Chartwell in Kent and supervised a literary factory of secretaries and assistants who helped him write hundreds of newspaper articles and several more books. He wrote his autobiography My Early Life (1930), which he called "a story of youthful endeavour, " and two books of essays, Thoughts and Adventures (1932) and Great Contemporaries (1937). His most sustained writing project during these years was the four-volume Marlborough: His Life and Times (1933 - 1938), which political philosopher Leo Strauss called "the greatest historical work...
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