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The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History

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From London’s inimitable mayor, Boris Johnson, the story of how Churchill’s eccentric genius shaped not only his world but our own.   On the fiftieth anniversary of Churchill’s death, Boris Johnson celebrates the singular brilliance of one of the most important leaders of the twentieth century. Taking on the myths and misconceptions along with the outsized reality, he portra From London’s inimitable mayor, Boris Johnson, the story of how Churchill’s eccentric genius shaped not only his world but our own.   On the fiftieth anniversary of Churchill’s death, Boris Johnson celebrates the singular brilliance of one of the most important leaders of the twentieth century. Taking on the myths and misconceptions along with the outsized reality, he portrays—with characteristic wit and passion—a man of contagious bravery, breathtaking eloquence, matchless strategizing, and deep humanity.   Fearless on the battlefield, Churchill had to be ordered by the king to stay out of action on D-Day; he pioneered aerial bombing and few could match his experience in organizing violence on a colossal scale,  yet he hated war and scorned politicians who had not experienced its horrors. He was the most famous journalist of his time and perhaps the greatest orator of all time, despite a lisp and chronic depression he kept at bay by painting. His maneuvering positioned America for entry into World War II, even as it ushered in England’s post-war decline. His openmindedness made him a trailblazer in health care, education, and social welfare, though he remained incorrigibly politically incorrect. Most of all, he was a rebuttal to the idea that history is the story of vast and impersonal forces; he is proof that one person—intrepid, ingenious, determined—can make all the difference.


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From London’s inimitable mayor, Boris Johnson, the story of how Churchill’s eccentric genius shaped not only his world but our own.   On the fiftieth anniversary of Churchill’s death, Boris Johnson celebrates the singular brilliance of one of the most important leaders of the twentieth century. Taking on the myths and misconceptions along with the outsized reality, he portra From London’s inimitable mayor, Boris Johnson, the story of how Churchill’s eccentric genius shaped not only his world but our own.   On the fiftieth anniversary of Churchill’s death, Boris Johnson celebrates the singular brilliance of one of the most important leaders of the twentieth century. Taking on the myths and misconceptions along with the outsized reality, he portrays—with characteristic wit and passion—a man of contagious bravery, breathtaking eloquence, matchless strategizing, and deep humanity.   Fearless on the battlefield, Churchill had to be ordered by the king to stay out of action on D-Day; he pioneered aerial bombing and few could match his experience in organizing violence on a colossal scale,  yet he hated war and scorned politicians who had not experienced its horrors. He was the most famous journalist of his time and perhaps the greatest orator of all time, despite a lisp and chronic depression he kept at bay by painting. His maneuvering positioned America for entry into World War II, even as it ushered in England’s post-war decline. His openmindedness made him a trailblazer in health care, education, and social welfare, though he remained incorrigibly politically incorrect. Most of all, he was a rebuttal to the idea that history is the story of vast and impersonal forces; he is proof that one person—intrepid, ingenious, determined—can make all the difference.

30 review for The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dolf Patijn

    You meet Boris Johnson in the pub for a drink. You mention Churchill and 4 hours later you leave the pub, wondering where the time went. That´s what it feels like to read this book. I learned a lot of facts about Churchill that I didn't know before. I certainly learned more about the impact that Churchill had, not only on British politics and life but also on the rest of the world. This book is beautifully written and well paced. I absolutely loved it. NB: 25-06-2016. After seeing Boris Johnson in You meet Boris Johnson in the pub for a drink. You mention Churchill and 4 hours later you leave the pub, wondering where the time went. That´s what it feels like to read this book. I learned a lot of facts about Churchill that I didn't know before. I certainly learned more about the impact that Churchill had, not only on British politics and life but also on the rest of the world. This book is beautifully written and well paced. I absolutely loved it. NB: 25-06-2016. After seeing Boris Johnson in the run-up to the Brexit referendum, I wouldn't want to have a pint with him anymore. What a pompous arse. The book is still good but I can't stand the writer anymore.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Smith

    There’s a point near the end of the book, when talking to a grandson of the great man, that the author summarises Churchill’s achievements. More published words than Shakespeare and Dickens combined, wins the Nobel Prize for Literature, kills umpteen people in armed combat on four continents, serves in every great office of state including Prime Minister (twice), is indispensable to victory in two world wars and then posthumously sells his paintings for a million dollars. Not bad! There’s quite There’s a point near the end of the book, when talking to a grandson of the great man, that the author summarises Churchill’s achievements. More published words than Shakespeare and Dickens combined, wins the Nobel Prize for Literature, kills umpteen people in armed combat on four continents, serves in every great office of state including Prime Minister (twice), is indispensable to victory in two world wars and then posthumously sells his paintings for a million dollars. Not bad! There’s quite a bit of hero worship in this book – Boris is clearly awe struck by the man – but it’s very hard not to come away thinking how much Churchill packed into his lifetime. Was he the greatest Britain of all time? Well maybe, certainly a poll taken in 2002 concluded he was. But anyway you look at it he was certainly the right man for the right time. I hadn’t realised just how much Churchill was swimming against the tide in opposing Hitler. It seems that there were an awful lot of appeasers about at the time and its absolutely conceivable that, had it not been for the Homburg wearing statesman, we could well have entered into some sort of agreement with Hitler. Who knows what the world would look like now had that been the case! This is a very personal portrait, painted by Boris. He has a quirky style that worked for me. For instance, in one section he talks about Churchill’s cock-ups and introduces a scoring system to explain how much of a disaster each of the actions truly were (or weren’t) and to what degree Winston was actually responsible. As I found in the rest of the book, he tends to err on the side of his hero but it was a great way of providing a fresh perspective on these events. For information the list includes: - The disastrous Gallipoli campaign - His opposition to increased home rule in India - Returning Sterling to the Gold Standard - His resistance to the abdication of Edward VIII There were lots of personal facts about Churchill of which I was hitherto unaware. For instance, by all accounts he had an enormous vocabulary, he showed tremendous personal bravery as both a war correspondent and a soldier and was the standing Prime Minister at the age of 80. The list goes on. There’s also an interesting comparison between author and subject in that Churchill achieved all he did without a ‘classic’ education; he never attended university. Contrast this with Boris, who lists Eton and Oxford University amongst the outstanding centers of education he’s attended. But the similarities between the two are, perhaps, more striking. Like his hero, Boris served time as a journalist before entering politics, where he is also seen as something of a one-off, a maverick. Both were born into money and it’s perfectly conceivable that Boris could emulate ‘the man’ by becoming leader of the Conservative Party (and thereby quite probably Prime Minister) in the not too distant future. Overall, I found this to be a fascinating – if rather one-sided – account of the life and achievements of one of the great figures of recent history. If you feel you want to know more about Churchill and want to be entertained at the same time, look no further.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Perry

    I read this in 2014 not knowing anything about Boris Johnson. It's a pretty good book. While I don't agree with BoJo's politics, at least the U.K. will have a leader who has *truly* written a book and who reads. I've resisted the temptation to change my review or my rating. Portrait Venerating Lionhearted Leader Who Lifted Course of History, Facing Down der Führer Providing a Perfect Contrast to the Leaders of the Free World these days This book's strongest point is its accessibility on the length I read this in 2014 not knowing anything about Boris Johnson. It's a pretty good book. While I don't agree with BoJo's politics, at least the U.K. will have a leader who has *truly* written a book and who reads. I've resisted the temptation to change my review or my rating. Portrait Venerating Lionhearted Leader Who Lifted Course of History, Facing Down der Führer Providing a Perfect Contrast to the Leaders of the Free World these days This book's strongest point is its accessibility on the lengthy and complex history of this legendary world leader. In a clear, conversational tone that overlays an erudite tenor, Johnson measures the near-majesty of a man who played the leading role in stanching the tide of evil threatening 20th Century Europe and from plunging the world into chaos. I was skeptical that this might be another droning history book. Johnson quickly drew me in though, to what seemed an enthusiastic scholarly chat in a pub, full of good humour. I found it refreshing to read a book on history not written by an academic historian, the like of which has written books that have been used to cure difficult cases of insomnia. Like Winston Churchill, the author Boris Johnson (nicknamed by some, "BoJo") is a former newspaper man and a politician. I think all comparisons hit a brick wall after that.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    If you are looking for a personal, breezy hagiography of Winston Churchill then Boris Johnson’s THE CHURCHILL FACTOR: HOW ONE MAN MADE HISTORY will be of interest. Johnson’s effort is not a traditional biography of the former occupant of 10 Downing Street, but a manifesto imploring the reader to consider the genius and greatness of Churchill. Johnson is concerned that as time has passed fewer and fewer of the non-World War II generation have forgotten or are not aware of Churchill’s accomplishme If you are looking for a personal, breezy hagiography of Winston Churchill then Boris Johnson’s THE CHURCHILL FACTOR: HOW ONE MAN MADE HISTORY will be of interest. Johnson’s effort is not a traditional biography of the former occupant of 10 Downing Street, but a manifesto imploring the reader to consider the genius and greatness of Churchill. Johnson is concerned that as time has passed fewer and fewer of the non-World War II generation have forgotten or are not aware of Churchill’s accomplishments as he states at the outset “we are losing those who can remember the sound of his voice, and I worry that we are in danger….of forgetting the scale of what he did.” For the author, World War II would have been lost, if not for Churchill, and he further argues that the resident of Chartwell House and Blenheim Palace saved civilization and proved that one man can change history. Johnson’s writing is very entertaining. His phrasing is both humorous and poignant, i.e., “the French were possessed of an origami army! They just keep folding with almost magical speed.” In his description of Churchill, he looked “like some burley and hung over butler from the set of Downton Abbey. However, aside from the humor presented, Johnson has a serious purpose as he seems to want to align himself with Churchill as a means of furthering his own political career. The question is what do we make of Johnson’s THE CHURCHILL FACTOR? Many who are familiar with Johnson’s career can foresee this Member of Parliament, mayor of London, former editor of The Spectator, and columnist for the Daily Telegraph pursuing the leadership of the Conservative Party, and at some point attaining the position of Prime Minister. By manipulating Churchill’s legacy as a comparison to certain aspects of his own life, Johnson may have hit upon a vehicle for his own political ascendency. Johnson suggests certain similarities with his hero, but then upon reflection he negates them, but for those who are familiar with the British political system, Johnson’s ambitions are clear. Johnson’s thesis rests on rehabilitating the less savory aspects of Churchill’s personality and politics, at the same time presenting him as the genius who saved the world from Nazism. Johnson strongly suggests when reviewing the political choices that existed in England as the Dunkirk rescue was ongoing in May, 1940 there was no alternative to Churchill. Neville Chamberlain and Lord Halifax were both appeasers and wanted to make a separate peace with Germany. Johnson reviews Churchill’s career as a journalist, soldier, and social reformer to reflect on his preparation for taking on Hitler, and does not find him wanting in any area. The author tackles the opposition to Churchill within the Conservative party and why he was a lightning rod for his opponents. Johnson explains why he was so despised by many head on. He argues that Churchill, like his father Randolph, suffered from a lack of party loyalty and we see that both followed their own path when it came to shifting parties and then returning to the conservative fold. In addition, Churchill helped bring on ill will by always being a self-promoter and political opportunist. Churchill made a number of errors during World War I and later, in his career. The following come to mind: the fiasco at Antwerp in October, 1914, and Gallipoli in September, 1915 that forced many to question his ability as a military strategist when he was First Lord of their Admiralty. Further, Churchill’s ill-fated plan to block the Bolshevik victory in Russia after World War I, as well as fighting to prevent Indian self-government where not well thought out. Lastly, Churchill’s support for Edward VIII’s desire for a divorce and forfeiture of his throne angered many conservative back benchers. Johnson presents Churchill’s bonifedes as a military leader by spending a good amount of time reflecting on Churchill’s bravery. He discusses Churchill’s love of planes and desire to develop an air force. He reviews his combat experience in the Sudan, the Boer War, India and the trenches of World War I. He concludes that Churchill’s own personal bravery allowed him to ask whether other candidates in 1940 had the experience and demeanor to lead England against the Nazis. Johnson also tackles some of the negative charges against Churchill. For Johnson, Churchill is a social reformer in the context of being a capitalist and a free trader. He argues that next to his mentor, Lloyd George, Churchill had great concern for workers and the lower classes. For Churchill, workers were the bedrock of the British Empire and without them the empire would collapse. Johnson points to Churchill’s championing of Labour exchanges, a Trade Board Bill to enforce minimum wages for certain jobs, unemployment insurance with worker, government and employer contributions, a 20% tax on land sales in order to fund progressive programs and redistribute wealth. Churchill was concerned that if the needs of the workers were not met, unrest could “scuttle” British power overseas. One might argue that Churchill was somewhat of a hypocrite based on some of his racist and imperialist goals, Johnson would say that he was nothing more than being politically pragmatic. Perhaps Churchill’s “compassionate conservatism” was years ahead of George W. Bush. The author rests much of his argument on Churchill’s amazing work ethic and the motor of his exceptional brain. Johnson offers a great deal of evidence to support his claim, i.e., Churchill’s prodigious writing that earned him a Nobel Peace Prize for Literature at the age of seventy-five. Churchill’s work developing tank technology during World War I, his role in creating the boundaries for the Middle East, the partition of Ireland, and diplomacy during World War II to save England from the Nazis and rallying his own people. Lastly, the use of his personal charm to “drag” the United States into World War II. Once out of power Churchill sought to warn the west about Stalinist expansionism. His “Iron Curtain” speech in 1946 made public his concerns, but Churchill had internally warned his cabinet and FDR at least a year earlier. As in the 1930s when he warned about Nazism, as World War II came to a close he was seen as a war mongerer by many. Despite the fact that he was correct in both cases, this did not help him politically at home or in his relationship with President Truman, as he was soon out of office. Once he returned to power in 1951, and with the death of Stalin in 1953, Churchill worked for a summit of the great powers as he was deathly afraid of a thermonuclear war. Though he did not achieve his goal, after he left office for good in 1955, a four power summit did take place. For Johnson, in the end, Churchill’s ideas prevailed, from his speech in Fulton, MO in 1946 to the final collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Churchill had called for rapprochement between France and Germany, and a united Europe all of which was eventually achieved. One of the major blemishes that exists in dealing with Churchill’s career lies in the sands of the Middle East. As Colonial Secretary he had to undue the negative results of the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence, the Sykes-Picot Agreement, and the Balfour Declaration all issued during World War I making very contradictory promises that Johnson describes as “Britain sold the same camel three times.” The story of the Cairo Conference and Churchill’s influence on the creation of Iraq, Transjordan, Syria, and Palestine has been told many times, but even Johnson must acknowledge that what Churchill had created, though it lasted for decades was bound to come a cropper. Further Churchill’s optimism concerning Jewish-Palestinian relations was ill-conceived. Johnson, as his want, does not blame Churchill, but the selfishness of both sides, particularly the lack of Arab leadership, a rationalization to deflect away from Churchill anything the author finds unacceptable. Despite his errors the author proposes that Churchill, even in old age, was a man ahead of his times, and based on his amazing career who is to say that Johnson was wrong. Perhaps the major criticism one can offer is how the author presents his material. I for one enjoy objective biography, not subjective hero worship, particularly when there are so many instances of a lack of source material to support the author’s conclusions. However, if one is interested in a fast read encompassing Churchill’s entire career, Johnson’s effort could prove to be intellectually challenging, and entertaining.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    Blood, toil, tears and sweat... Winston Churchill needs no introduction and, in the UK, nor does Boris Johnson, but perhaps he does elsewhere. Boris is one of those few people who are known to all by their first names – if you mention Boris over here, everyone will assume that it's this Boris you mean unless you specify otherwise. A leading light in the Conservative Party, he has been the Mayor of London for the last six years and is strongly tipped in many quarters to be a future leader of the P Blood, toil, tears and sweat... Winston Churchill needs no introduction and, in the UK, nor does Boris Johnson, but perhaps he does elsewhere. Boris is one of those few people who are known to all by their first names – if you mention Boris over here, everyone will assume that it's this Boris you mean unless you specify otherwise. A leading light in the Conservative Party, he has been the Mayor of London for the last six years and is strongly tipped in many quarters to be a future leader of the Party and possibly a future Prime Minister. This is pretty spectacular for a man who is best known for being exceptionally funny on panel games, having a silly hairstyle and being an upper-class buffoon who would fit in well in the Drones Club. But that public persona doesn't quite hide the other facts about Boris, that he is a highly intelligent, extremely knowledgeable and articulate man, whose political ambitions reach to the very top. Prior to going into active politics he was a political journalist and editor so he knows how to write entertainingly and engagingly. You may already have guessed that I have a huge soft spot for Boris – it's just unfortunate he's as right-wing as Mrs Thatcher. But it's that ability to camouflage his views under his larger-than life personality that enables him to attract voters who wouldn't normally vote for his party. As for his amazing achievement in winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, it is conventional to treat this as a joke, an embarrassing attempt by the Swedes to make up for their neutrality in the war. Even relatively sympathetic historians such as Peter Clarke have dismissed the possibility that there was any merit involved. “Rarely can an author’s writings have received less attention than the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953,” he says. This is not just a little bit snooty, but surely untrue. Look at the list of Nobel winners in the last century – avant-garde Japanese playwrights, Marxist-Feminist Latin Americans, Polish exponents of the Concrete Poem. All of them are no doubt meritorious in their way but many of them are much less read than Churchill. In this book, Boris sets out to try to discover what made Churchill into the man who is considered to have been crucial in the British war effort. He does this with his usual panache, making the book hugely enjoyable and filled with humour, which doesn't disguise the massive amount of research and knowledge that has clearly gone into it. He makes it crystal clear that he admires Churchill intensely and, because he's so open about it, his bias in the great man's favour comes over as wholly endearing. In fact, this reader couldn't help feeling that Boris sees Churchill as something of a role model, and that his desire to understand how Churchill achieved all that he did is partly so that Boris can emulate him – hopefully not by becoming a great leader in another World War though! (Though I suspect Boris might be a little sorry he missed the last one...) In each chapter, Boris looks at one aspect of Churchill's life – his childhood, his writing, his early army career in the Boer War, etc. – and analyses it to see what we can draw from it in terms of what made Churchill tick. Over the years, Churchill has had as many detractors as admirers, and Boris takes their criticisms of him head on, dismissing them with his usual mix of bluster and brilliance. That's not to say he brushes over the big mistakes in Churchill's career, but he puts them into context and finds that he consistently acted in accordance with his own convictions. (If only we could say that about many of today's politicians.) This didn't always make him popular but, had popularity been his main aim, he probably wouldn't have stood out so strongly against coming to some accommodation with Nazi Germany at the point where Britain stood isolated and close to defeat. Boris makes it clear that he believes that it was Churchill, and Churchill alone, who carried the argument in the Government for Britain to fight on, and who was crucial in persuading the US to finally become involved. …if he was exhausting to work for, his colleagues nonetheless gave him loyalty and unstinting devotion. When he came back from New York in 1932 after nearly dying under the wheels of an on-coming car, he was presented with a Daimler. The Daimler had been organised by Brendan Bracken and financed by a whip-round of 140 friends and admirers. Can you think of any modern British politician with enough friends and admirers to get them a new Nissan Micra, let alone a Daimler? Although there is a considerable amount in the book about WW2, as you would expect, there is just as much about Churchill's achievements and failures both before and after. In a political career that stretched for over 60 years, he was involved to one degree or another in all of the major events in the UK, and indeed the world, from the 1900s to the 1960s – the Boer War, WW1, the establishment of Israel, the abdication of Edward VIII, the decline of the British Empire, the rise of the Soviet Union, the formation of the Common Market (now European Union). Boris shows how he was often at first a lone voice, perceptive through his deep understanding of history and politics, with other people dismissing him until he was proved right (or occasionally wrong). He also shows how Churchill was capable of changing his mind over time and admitting to it – for example, over women, where their contribution to the war effort persuaded him they should be entitled to rights he had previously argued against. A conviction politician certainly, but not hog-tied by it. There's so much in the book that I've missed out far more than I've included – Churchill's writing, art, speech-making, personal bravery, etc., etc. It is however a surprisingly compact read considering the ground it covers. It's not a full biography – it doesn't set out to be. Boris has selected those events and episodes that he feels cast most light on the character of the man and what formed it – the Churchill Factor, as he calls it. It's brilliantly written, as entertaining as it is insightful and informative, and I feel it casts nearly as much light on the character of the author as the subject. For anyone who still thinks Boris is the buffoon he plays so well, this might come as a real eye-opener. And for those of us who already know that, like the iceberg, the important bit of Boris is the bit you rarely see, this reminds us that we better decide soon if we really want to buy tickets for the Titanic. There are Churchill nightclubs and bars and pubs – about twenty pubs in Britain bear his name and puglike visage, far more than bear the name of any other contemporary figure. Sometimes it is easy to understand the semiotic function of the name – you can see why a pub-owner might want to go for Churchill. He is the world’s greatest advertisement for the benefits of alcohol. But why is there a Churchill Escort Agency? And what do they offer, apart from blood, toil, tears and sweat? As if two huge personalities aren't enough for one book, I listened to the Audible audiobook version, which is beautifully narrated by actor Simon Shepherd, who has one of the loveliest voices known to man (or woman) and the perfect rather plummy accent for this kind of book. It's a great narration that does full justice to the book – held my attention throughout, which doesn't always happen with audiobooks. In fact, I found myself frequently doing that 'just one more chapter' thing which normally only happens with the written word. Going to bed each night with Winston, Boris and Simon has been a lot more fun than you might imagine... NB This audiobook was provided for review by Audible UK. www.fictionfanblog.wordpress.com

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cathal Kenneally

    I'm only giving this book 4 stars as it doesn't mention the famine in Bangladesh during the Second World War for which Churchill was blamed. Apparently it was his idea to divert grain supplies destined for Bangladesh to British soldiers fighting in the Far East. I'm not a big fan of Boris Johnson but after seeing Darkest Hour l decided to learn a little bit more about Winston Churchill. He is at least unbiased; listing both his achievements and failures. He paints his character in broad brush st I'm only giving this book 4 stars as it doesn't mention the famine in Bangladesh during the Second World War for which Churchill was blamed. Apparently it was his idea to divert grain supplies destined for Bangladesh to British soldiers fighting in the Far East. I'm not a big fan of Boris Johnson but after seeing Darkest Hour l decided to learn a little bit more about Winston Churchill. He is at least unbiased; listing both his achievements and failures. He paints his character in broad brush strokes. He has his disasters but he also had his ideals. Future governments and politicians were inspired by him. Like everyone he had enemies but it didn't deter him from what he wanted to do

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alex Sarll

    Doubtless people will claim that this book is an act of hubris, Johnson attempting to acquire some reflected glory by yoking himself to another indomitable gadfly who then surprised everyone by becoming the great statesman. Nonsense. Give this topic to most modern politicians, and you would get something like that, a ream of platitudes topped off with a few personal anecdotes bearing the subtext 'It's not for me to compare myself to Winston Churchill; that's for other people to do'. Johnson, tho Doubtless people will claim that this book is an act of hubris, Johnson attempting to acquire some reflected glory by yoking himself to another indomitable gadfly who then surprised everyone by becoming the great statesman. Nonsense. Give this topic to most modern politicians, and you would get something like that, a ream of platitudes topped off with a few personal anecdotes bearing the subtext 'It's not for me to compare myself to Winston Churchill; that's for other people to do'. Johnson, though, has never seemed so humble, rightly awed by the sheer range and volume of Churchill's achievements. He's perhaps a little prone to simplifying the background - Sea Lion was never the sure thing he suggests; Henry Labouchere was a much more ambiguous figure than you'd think from this; and Johnson's line on Versailles is both misguided and (more surprisingly) depressingly conventional. On his leading man, though, he's not bad at all. He doesn't try to hide the feet of clay (opposition to Indian independence, women's rights, the almost comical enthusiasm for the use of poison gas); he doesn't even break out all the guns he could when it comes to Gallipoli, over which Churchill has taken such an unfair share of the blame all these years, down largely to incompetent subordinates and the original Murdoch lie. But he makes a convincing case that the fuck-ups as well as the triumphs can all be traced to the same unshakable appetite for glory and readiness to take risks. Lest we be unclear on this, there are many issues (including some raised here) on which I disagree with Boris Johnson. But I do think there is something to respect in the only front-rank British politician on any side today who would ever, in describing his political idol, deploy a line such as "He was the large protruding nail on which destiny snagged her coat."

  8. 4 out of 5

    Will Once

    I think I have finally worked out the purpose of Boris Johnson - he was born to write this book. The subject matter suits his bombastic oafish style and consummate belief in himself. That makes it a rollicking good read, if not the definitive biography of Churchill. Unusually for a biography, the book isn't written chronologically. We don't start with Winston's childhood and then work our way forwards through time. Instead we are given slices of his life to illustrate a particular point. On the w I think I have finally worked out the purpose of Boris Johnson - he was born to write this book. The subject matter suits his bombastic oafish style and consummate belief in himself. That makes it a rollicking good read, if not the definitive biography of Churchill. Unusually for a biography, the book isn't written chronologically. We don't start with Winston's childhood and then work our way forwards through time. Instead we are given slices of his life to illustrate a particular point. On the whole this works well and is a refreshing change from the normal stodge of childhood, schooldays, early life, great works, decline and death. It can be a little disconcerting at times, but it more or less works. The language is characteristically Boris - a weird mixture of slang and pomposity. One one page we are told that something isn't much cop and on the next page we bump into obscure polysyllabic words that have us scurrying to a dictionary. It reads well, most of the time if you allow yourself a raised eyebrow at the occasional "Oh, Boris!" moments. Boris's treatment of Churchill is borderline sycophantic. You can tell that here is a man writing about his hero, someone he has modeled himself on. He doesn't hold back from describing Churchill's mistakes, although he is always ready to defend the great man. Don't come to this book expecting objectivity -- this is fan fiction, though admittedly high quality fan fiction. If the book has a flaw, it is that there is too much Boris in it. Many of the sections start with Boris. Boris riding his bike. Boris driving on France battlefields. Boris having a very expensive lunch with Nicholas Soames. As I finished the book I realised that I had heard a lot of Boris speaking, but I didn't get a sense of Churchill's voice. This is very much third person reporting with a powerful narrator. I nearly knocked off a star for that. But that would be to misunderstand this book. This isn't a book solely about Churchill. This is Boris Johnson on Winston Churchill - two self publicists sharing equal billing in identical size fonts on the book's cover. Think of it as a supermarket BOGOF, a buy one get one free. For the price of the book you are getting an insight into two characters and not just one. And that makes it a unique book, a must read, a boisterous and passionate account of a flawed but fascinating man. I have only one request to make and I am talking to you, Boris. This is what you were born to do. Please, please, please, do more of it. Amusing as your buffoonery is, we want to see it between the covers of a paperback and not behind the door at number 10.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    I have been fascinated with Winston S. Churchill since I was a child. I try to read everything I can find about him. I was shocked to read in the book that the young people in Britain do not know who Churchill was. Johnson said he wanted to write about Churchill in such a manner as to bring Churchill to the attention of the young. Johnson thought the young might enjoy Churchill’s eccentricity. This book is written by the current Mayor of London. The element of self-identification in Johnson’s wri I have been fascinated with Winston S. Churchill since I was a child. I try to read everything I can find about him. I was shocked to read in the book that the young people in Britain do not know who Churchill was. Johnson said he wanted to write about Churchill in such a manner as to bring Churchill to the attention of the young. Johnson thought the young might enjoy Churchill’s eccentricity. This book is written by the current Mayor of London. The element of self-identification in Johnson’s writing is too obvious to ignore. This book is not just another biography. Rather, it is a series of polemics in which Johnson takes up the cudgels against Churchill’s critics. One of the allegations against Churchill is that he wasn’t very nice to the little people in his life. That in private he was a mean-spirited and short tempered. Johnson relays a story to rebut this charge, told to him by Nicholas Soames, Churchill’s grandson. Johnson also discusses the accusation that Churchill was an unprincipled opportunist and he also addresses the charge of incompetent leadership during World War One that led to Gallipoli. Johnson also discusses Churchill’s literary output and explains how Churchill managed to fit all this into a busy life. Johnson has created a canvas of more than just World War II but also looks at Churchill’s contributions in the Boer War, WWI and the period leading up to the start of the European Union and shown how, at each point, Churchill’s contributions were essential to Britain’s victories or were ignored by those in power resulting in decisions that left Britain far worse off than it could have been. Johnson also addresses Churchill’s work on behalf of the working poor in the UK, his efforts to improve the living and working conditions of the poor throughout the British Empire. The book is written with wit, and reveals fascinating nuggets of information I found fascinating. I believe Johnson has been successful in his defense of Churchill as a uniquely great man. I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. Simon Shepherd narrated the book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    thewanderingjew

    The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History, Boris Johnson, read by Boris Johnson Written and read by Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, this book is an in-depth study of what made Winston Churchill great. Until his death, in 1965, Winston Churchill was a man larger than life. There were those that supported him and those that maligned him, but today he is renowned and revered for his analysis of world conditions and for his predictions of what was to come from events and decisions made in hi The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History, Boris Johnson, read by Boris Johnson Written and read by Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, this book is an in-depth study of what made Winston Churchill great. Until his death, in 1965, Winston Churchill was a man larger than life. There were those that supported him and those that maligned him, but today he is renowned and revered for his analysis of world conditions and for his predictions of what was to come from events and decisions made in his time that would eventually affect the future of the entire world. Boris Johnson is a great admirer of Churchill and he has spent countless hours researching this magnificent man. Churchill often exaggerated the facts and insisted that he was right. He preferred to speak in simple language to the people, so they would understand his message. Johnson captures Hitler and Churchill to a “t”, and, as the author states, “Hitler made you think he could do anything, but Churchill made you think you could do anything!” Churchill’s speeches were magnificent even if he was not the greatest orator. He didn’t mince words, and he made his feelings widely known with masterful speeches. The book is an absolutely brilliant rendering of the man who quite possibly saved Europe from German rule, according to the author who believes that Churchill’s decisions made it possible to have a world without Hitler. If, like his enemies, he had wanted to pursue a policy of appeasement, Europe would have fallen under that madman’s control. According to Johnson, Churchill’s foresight and courage inspired the Allies to victory. Although he could be crude, rude and brash, he had heart. He implemented social programs and work programs to help the poor. He was a Tory than a Liberal than a Tory again. He was married to the same woman for over 60 years and their love never faltered, although there are rumors of infidelity that were never proven. He was a drinker, but held his liquor well. He was a man with a great sense of humor; the witticisms mentioned will have the reader laughing out loud, although the author disclaims some that are attributed to him incorrectly. Churchill was a man unconcerned with his appearance, often covered with cigar ash, a man with his own fashion sense which did not move with fashion trends, a man who spoke his mind and accumulated many enemies along the way, a man who believed he could move mountains and was more often right than wrong and eventually was deservedly well-regarded by many, although he was never without rivals. Unfortunately, when WWII ended, he received little credit, rather, he was booted out and replaced, but he remained humble in his defeats and never truly gave up trying to reenter the fray. His influence on the geopolitical stage is still felt today. He was prescient in his analysis of many situations, was a staunch supporter of Israel, believed in maintaining strong ties with America and remaining an enemy of Communism. Churchill’s fingerprints are all over the last century and their effects are felt in this one. His speeches maintain relevancy even today. The book is read so beautifully by the author who paints a portrait of an outstanding man willing to buck the standards of the day and march to the beat of his own drummer for the safety and security of England. His colorful presentation of this remarkable man, complete with the real and the fabled stores about him, is mesmerizing. His writing style enhances Churchill as a human being, one who demanded for himself and others, steadfastness and strength in the face of adversity. His portrayal of Churchill and Clementine’s relationship is both romantic and touching. He draws a picture of a couple that shared a deep love and devotion for many years. The book is written almost as an ongoing conversation with the reader. The descriptive vocabulary assumes far more than a grade school education. It is written with a sophisticated knowledge of the English language, on a level not often seen today in books for the general public. He does not pander to the reader with slang or crude expressions. If foul language is used it is pertinent or it is a quote. He recites some parts of Churchill’s speeches and his presentation of the man tends to the lyrical and is often humorous. I can’t make enough positive remarks about this book, its content, its prose and its reader.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Neil Fox

    On the 50th anniversary of the death of Churchill there probably won't appear a more entertaining though lightweight account of the great man. The book is revisionist in the sense of how it exaggerates the noble traits of Churchill like valour, perseverance, creativity and generosity, not to mention his deeds - we have him fearlessly hurtling into the jaws of danger dodging bullets or propelling himself recklessly through the skies at the controls of early aeroplanes - whilst at the same time glo On the 50th anniversary of the death of Churchill there probably won't appear a more entertaining though lightweight account of the great man. The book is revisionist in the sense of how it exaggerates the noble traits of Churchill like valour, perseverance, creativity and generosity, not to mention his deeds - we have him fearlessly hurtling into the jaws of danger dodging bullets or propelling himself recklessly through the skies at the controls of early aeroplanes - whilst at the same time glossing over some of the darker aspects of his character & his failings. These are many - his Imperialism, his vehement opposition to Indian independence, his long held views against female sufferage, his dark involvement with atrocities in Ireland, his advocacy of chemical weapons, the disastrous Dardanelles campaign of 1915, his deployment of armed troops against strikers - the very things which prevented TIME magazine considering Churchill for "Person of the Century" by their own admission. Johnson acknowledges some of these, but in such a way as to brush them off as minor transgressions in an otherwise Stellar career, or to pin the blame on other actors ( eg : Admiral Fischer for Gallipoli). He erects a defense that any criticism of Churchill represents the application of modern standards of political correctness to a different age. This is stiff upper lip Land-of-hope-and-glory fare, an account of Churchill through the prism of Johnson's own political agenda ( witness the ridiculous "the Nazis sought to forge a Europe akin to a sinister European Union"). He himself is the one projecting his own bias on contemporary issues backwards through time to apply them to the actions and motivations of Churchill, the subliminal message being "our hero would have approved of my policies and views etc". Ironically Johnson, in his chapter on Churchill's legacy in European integration, has the nerve to lambast those who would hijack his memory in trying to twist his possible thinking and intentions in interpreting a modern- day context when he is doing precisely that himself. But then one reminds oneself that Johnson is a foremost a politican and very much secondary a writer. Whilst the opinionated style of writing and schoolboy prose ("let us join our hero when") certainly irritate, the book is nevertheless a treasure trove of wisdoms about Churchill and is breathless in its scope. The trick for the reader is to separate the factual from the make-believe, the exaggeration from the understatement. At times Johnson's narrative is almost mature in chapters where he explores Churchill as a linguistic innovator of our language or delves into the creative-depressive side of his personality; his exploration of the nature of Churchill's towering intellect and gigantic memory are impressive. He also conveys very well the sheer scale of Churchill's influence over an enormously significant span of history from the 1890's to the mid 1960's. We often marvel today at Queen Elizabeth II's longliveity in recalling she came to the Throne when Churchill was Prime Minister. Another way of pondering things is to think Elizabeth was Churchill's last Monarch at the end of a political career that began when Victoria was on the throne. Boris Johnson is a charismatic, gregarious, bombastic, amusing, self-opinionated buffoon who likes to snipe from the sidelines. In this UK general election year he is waiting to pounce on his own party leader and Prime Minister David Cameron whose position as leader of the Conservative Party and PM he covets. The timing for the subtext of his thesis on Churchill, that one man can make the difference in destiny and history, could to the cynical observer be read as " that man is me, I am the leader-in-waiting, the moment makes the man". Johnson modestly claims to be no historian, only a mere mortal with the audacity to recount the great deeds of Churchill; in this one could very well quote Churchill himself- " he is a modest man with much to be modest about".

  12. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I got back into reading this one after a long layoff. It was recommended by a friend and turned out to be very good. It is an insightful look into the life of one of the most influential men of the 20th century. Written by “that” Boris Johnson, who turned out to be an exceptional fine writer with a loquacious vocabulary. Truly five stars as it examines the many decisions and actions that shaped Churchill’s life, Great Britain and the world as we know it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    David Lowther

    The Churchill Factor could have been a half-decent book, but it wasn't. Apart from some well-written pieces about Churchill's role in the creation of the welfare state and his seminal role in the early war years, the rest of the book seems to be a series of anecdotes about his smoking, drinking, eating, courage under fire, kindness to those less well-off than him, all of which combined to make Churchill the man who saved Britain. Johnson describes Churchill as Britain's greatest statesman. I woul The Churchill Factor could have been a half-decent book, but it wasn't. Apart from some well-written pieces about Churchill's role in the creation of the welfare state and his seminal role in the early war years, the rest of the book seems to be a series of anecdotes about his smoking, drinking, eating, courage under fire, kindness to those less well-off than him, all of which combined to make Churchill the man who saved Britain. Johnson describes Churchill as Britain's greatest statesman. I wouldn't argue with that because it seems to me that Britain has seldom had a statesman of any real calibre. Maybe Clem Atlee would have fitted that bill or perhaps Gladstone or Disraeli or maybe either of the William Pitts. Nevertheless the cupboard is pretty bare. There are a number of strange passages about the European union. Johnson sings Churchill's praises for his support of the establishment of the European Iron and Steel Community and points out that Churchill several times before, during and after the war, had made reference to a United States of Europe then, wearing his brexit hat, reminds us that Churchill was an imperialist who saw Britain sitting outside the EU in a kind of paternal role. The author readily acknowledges that Churchill had a massive ego and made many serious blunders during his political career and Johnson tries, unsuccessfully, to excuse some of them. But Churchill, along with David Lloyd George, did sow the seeds of the welfare state and, between May 1940 and December 1941, provided magnificent motivation to the British people to resist the seemingly irresistible tide of Nazi Germany's attempts to conquer Europe. Had Britain succumbed, the world would have looked a lot different today. THAT was Churchill's greatest achievement but Johnson's book spends too much time on the periphery and too little at the heart of the matter. David Lowther. Author of The Blue Pencil, Liberating Belsen and Two Families at War, all published by Sacristy Press.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kirstie

    I am genuinely astonished by how many 5* reviews this has had! I must be missing something because I just felt it went here there and everywhere, backwards and forwards and basically just sang his praises from the first line all the way to the end! There is no doubting just how much he adores WC!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Robin Webster

    Because of the way this book was written, it is worth saying something about the author for those that live outside the UK. At the time of writing, Boris Johnson is the Mayor of London but is expected at some point to become a Conservative Party MP, and is tipped by some to become a future party leader. He is a bit of a character and has a flamboyant and enthusiastic style of narrating which is very evident in his interviews, speeches or writing. Johnson doesn’t hide the fact he is a big fan of Because of the way this book was written, it is worth saying something about the author for those that live outside the UK. At the time of writing, Boris Johnson is the Mayor of London but is expected at some point to become a Conservative Party MP, and is tipped by some to become a future party leader. He is a bit of a character and has a flamboyant and enthusiastic style of narrating which is very evident in his interviews, speeches or writing. Johnson doesn’t hide the fact he is a big fan of Churchill but nevertheless this is a very balanced book outlining Churchill’s failures, flaws in personally as well as his successes. There are numerous biographies written on Churchill so why write another you may ask. For me what sets this one apart is that it really does focus on the factors that made the man: these factors include his boundless energy, his risk taking, his ruthlessness when he felt it necessary but still had great compassion and sympathy for the common man. There are many reasons why the allies defeated Hitler and many men and women and nations that were vital in that endeavor, but there seems little argument that without Churchill we would not have won the war. His influence was especially important when Britain stood alone in May 1940 and the majority of the political establishment wanted appeasement with Hitler. This is a very easy book to read and a good introduction for anyone who is interested in Churchill.

  16. 5 out of 5

    David Huff

    Not the lengthiest or most comprehensive biography of Churchill, for sure, but a great and often witty introduction to a most remarkable man. The scope of all that Churchill accomplished during his long life is truly mammoth; consider this summary by the author: " ....no normal family man produces more published words than Shakespeare and Dickens combined, wins the Nobel prize for literature, kills umpteen people in armed conflict on four continents, serves in every great office of state includin Not the lengthiest or most comprehensive biography of Churchill, for sure, but a great and often witty introduction to a most remarkable man. The scope of all that Churchill accomplished during his long life is truly mammoth; consider this summary by the author: " ....no normal family man produces more published words than Shakespeare and Dickens combined, wins the Nobel prize for literature, kills umpteen people in armed conflict on four continents, serves in every great office of state including Prime Minister (twice), is indispensable to victory in two world wars and then posthumously sells his paintings for a million dollars." The author, Boris Johnson, is Mayor of London, clearly a Churchill fan, and who can blame him? He writes endearingly and compellingly about his most famous countryman .... A book well worth reading!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Kukwa

    To be blunt: I agree with Boris Johnson's core analysis of Winston Churchill as a great man of history, who gives lie to social historians and their obsessive love of historical "forces" as the driving engine of the human experience. It's written with wit, uses evidence in a persuasive manner that doesn't overwhelm, reveals fascinating nuggets of information that I was unaware of...and it doesn't shy away from Churchill's mistakes & misadventures. I also appreciate how Mr. Johnson manages to pre To be blunt: I agree with Boris Johnson's core analysis of Winston Churchill as a great man of history, who gives lie to social historians and their obsessive love of historical "forces" as the driving engine of the human experience. It's written with wit, uses evidence in a persuasive manner that doesn't overwhelm, reveals fascinating nuggets of information that I was unaware of...and it doesn't shy away from Churchill's mistakes & misadventures. I also appreciate how Mr. Johnson manages to present his analysis in both a thematic & chronological fashion...no small feat. It's not the definitive word on the titan of the 20th century (as Johnson would be the first to admit), but it may become the definitive foundation of future discussion.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dylan Vieites Glennon

    A thoroughly brilliant book, I never thought I'd style anything belonging to Mr Johnson with the epithet 'brilliant' but we live in a topsy-turvy world. Anyhow, to get onto the book, it's well-worth the read. The anecdotes are fascinating, the insights into the nature of Churchill are told in such a wonderful way that a layperson with no real knowledge of 20th century British history can entirely understand the workings. A part I liked most, was the way Mr Johnson portrayed Churchill against his A thoroughly brilliant book, I never thought I'd style anything belonging to Mr Johnson with the epithet 'brilliant' but we live in a topsy-turvy world. Anyhow, to get onto the book, it's well-worth the read. The anecdotes are fascinating, the insights into the nature of Churchill are told in such a wonderful way that a layperson with no real knowledge of 20th century British history can entirely understand the workings. A part I liked most, was the way Mr Johnson portrayed Churchill against his times and also his relationships such as with his late father and the way in which he treated Churchill growing up. Or the lovely story of the 'nanny' who looked after him, and the sense of injustice felt by the young Churchill who did everything in his power to support the one person who actually cared for him, as a parent should, when he was a child - she didn't neglect him. I always forgot how strange a political climb Churchill's was, it was seemingly doomed from the start. The son of Randolph Churchill (ex-chancellor) and a prolific socialite, with a father who has seen a fall similar to one found in a Greek tragedy dying in his decadence. Then, even after managing to make a stand in parliament, he never felt a sense of belonging to a political party. In many ways, in the novel, I feel myself seeing Johnson's own political outlook through the writing and to some extent how he's aimed to follow in Churchill's footsteps. Johnson may have had a sense of belonging to the Conservatives but he most certainly seems to have done a lot of political manoeuvring. There is of course an 'inherent' bias to his writings, but he does seemingly intend to act objectively by portraying his faults and also other's opinions of him - even if he aims to discount them.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tom Burgess

    For clarity- I read this book for my dissertation to understand Boris Johnson's psyche and not as a Churchill fanboy. As a book it is a pretty desperate attempt by Johnson to draw himself into Churchill's myth and gives a fairly sycophantic version of that.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Johnny

    A friend gave me The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History by Boris Johnson. Yes, that Boris Johnson, the Brexit-foaming opportunist who tried to prorogue Parliament to get his way in September of 2019. The Churchill Factor was written around five years before Johnson began his clear abuse of power (not only my opinion, but that of the U.K.’s highest court, as well). The good news is that Johnson has done some solid research, enough to offer a few new anecdotes, quotations, and insights, ev A friend gave me The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History by Boris Johnson. Yes, that Boris Johnson, the Brexit-foaming opportunist who tried to prorogue Parliament to get his way in September of 2019. The Churchill Factor was written around five years before Johnson began his clear abuse of power (not only my opinion, but that of the U.K.’s highest court, as well). The good news is that Johnson has done some solid research, enough to offer a few new anecdotes, quotations, and insights, even to those who’ve read Churchill’s own writing and quite a few histories of the man himself. The bad news should be clear in the title. Johnson subscribes to the “great man” school of history and treats his subject much like a fan-boy would faun over his favorite writer/artist at a comic book convention (If you wonder how I know about the latter, I’m just remembering my own lame conversations with the late Will Eisner, Stan Sakai, and Mark Waid at one particular convention.). By calling Johnson a “fan-boy” in this sense, I do not mean to say that he doesn’t deal with Churchill’s failures; I mean he rather glosses over them as his rhetoric quickly moves from the questionable moments to the courageous and admirable decisions. And by putting this in the middle of the ratings scale, I don’t mean to suggest that the writing itself is mediocre. Johnson has a flair with his pen that seems more than equal to his flair for (often dishonest) rhetoric in his political speeches. Johnson keeps the writing lively with accounts of his personal visits to venues important to Churchill’s life and with imaginary scenes that try to put the reader into the sense of the experiences. I don’t mean that Johnson falsifies the history, but because of the author’s character, he might have. I find it ironic that the same fellow who kept and keeps telling the U.K. that Brexit won’t have severe economic consequences on the country is the same one who writes that Churchill, throughout his early career, “was not just held to be untrustworthy—he was thought to be congenitally untrustworthy.” (p. 38) For me, the most enlightening part of this biography (or, perhaps, more accurately, biographical celebration) was the theme of Winston’s problematic relationship with his father, Randolph Churchill. I wasn’t surprised to read, “He had to emulate him—how else could he prove himself to Randolph?” (p. 42) As impressive evidence was the entertaining and enlightening account of Winston’s supernatural experience where the late Randolph Churchill appears to the former Prime Minister in the studio at Chartwell where Winston painted. Psychological or psychical, Winston has a conversation with his father in which his father interrogates him on the events since his death, but consistent with his constant disapproval of Winston, he concludes with an observation completely oblivious to Winston’s service as Prime Minister, Lord of the Admiralty, and Chancellor of the Exchequer (among others). Randolph is alleged to have stated, “When I hear you talk I really wonder that you didn’t go into politics. You might have done a lot to help. You might have made a name for yourself.” (p. 44) Johnson goes into a lot of detail demonstrating similarities with and complications brought about by Randolph, but I couldn’t help but chuckle at the description of Randolph’s oratory as being delivered by a semblance of P. G. Wodehouse’s Gussie Fink-Nottle (p. 48). Wodehouse enters the equation again when Johnson compares Winston’s secretary, Eddie Marsh, to Jeeves (p. 117). Whereas I had read about Winston’s imperialistic views in other sources, I really began to comprehend why the “Empire” was so important to the statesman as I read The Churchill Factor. “When Churchill took the reins at the Colonial Office, he was at the apex of an empire that comprised fifty-eight countries covering 14 million square miles and he was responsible…for the lives and hopes of 458 million people. …six times the size of the Roman Empire at is apogee under Trajan.” (p. 303) He really feared for bloodshed (particularly vented toward Muslims) in the event of India’s independence (p. 208) and, conversely, he mistrusted the Arabs as standing in the way of progress when he tried to establish a policy where Arab and Jew could live peaceably in a Jewish Homeland (this after WWI, p. 312). Alas, his efforts in the Middle East were as ineffective as the planting of a symbolic tree which broke and died even sooner than his tentative solution (p. 309). But his analysis seems spot on when decades before the ISIS situation and the events leading up to it, Churchill described Iraq as “an ungrateful volcano.” (p. 314) Yes, there was British arrogance in his imperial positions. Franklin D. Roosevelt was particularly bothered by his anachronistic colonialism, as evidenced by FDR’s placement next to a prominent advocate for Indian independence at a state dinner. Unlike some of Churchill’s bon mots, this one seems verified. When the woman asked Churchill what he was going to do about those “wretched Indians,” Churchill replied, “Are we talking about the brown Indians in India who have multiplied alarmingly under the benevolent British rule? Or are we speaking of the red Indians in America who, I understand, are almost extinct?” (p. 323) But perhaps my emphasis has been too much on the Churchill of WWI and WWII! In all my reading, I seem to have missed the realities of Winston the “social reformer.” I suppose I so identified him with the Tory party that I failed to see his contributions to the following advances: minimum wage (p. 143), unemployment insurance (p. 144), property tax (as in land reform, p. 145), prison reform (p. 146), reducing the pension age (p. 148), and reducing military spending to redistribute to the lower class (p. 164). Actually, I wish Johnson would re-read his own book because it has a marvelous statement on pp. 151-152 dealing with social legislation: “He knew what all sensible Tories know—that the only way to keep things the same is to make sure you change them; or as Burke puts it, a state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.” In military innovation, I realized that Winston fancied himself as an aviator, but hadn’t realized how he had put himself at risk in the early years of aviation (pp. 54-59, 64-66). I knew of his service on the “Landships Committee” (p. 172) and both why they were called “ships” (to justify using Royal Navy funds) and “tanks” (as part of the “cover” for the secret project). I loved his statement, quoted by Johnson on p. 178: “Machine-power is a great substitute for manpower. Brains will save blood. Manoeuvre is a great diluting agent to slaughter.” That’s not shabby during a war characterized by static trench warfare which needed something like these machines to shake up, temporarily, the balance. I was sorry to read the necessary demythologizing of some of my favorite “Churchillian” quotations. Johnson questions the riposte to a woman who said that she would poison Winston’s coffee if he were her husband. Churchill volleyed back, allegedly, that if he were her husband, he’d drink it (p. 131). But one of my favorites, “…the kind of English up with I shall not put!” definitely predates Churchill as being published in The Strand magazine (p. 131). Research into both George Bernard Shaw’s and Winston Churchill’s correspondence shows no evidence for the exchange where Shaw allegedly sent two tickets to one of his opening nights and invites Winston to bring a friend “if you have one.” To which Churchill stated that he would attend the second night performance “if there is one.” (p. 132) Nonetheless, I was delighted to be able to reinstate the comment about chicken breasts. When Churchill requested another chicken breast at a dinner, the shocked hostess stated that, in polite society, they referred to this as “white meat.” So, as confirmed by Churchill’s granddaughter, Churchill sent an orchid to the shocked woman on the next day, suggesting that she pin it on her “white meat” (p. 135). And, one of my favorite rude remarks seems to have been authentic. He seems to have responded to one Bessie Braddock’s critical assertion that he was drunk with, “Madame, you are ugly, and I will be sober in the morning.” (p. 134) There is much to admire in the courage and creativity of Winston Spencer Churchill. I appreciate his contributions to the present condition of the world more than ever. But my biggest problem with what Johnson calls The Churchill Factor is that I couldn’t get over the feeling that Johnson sees himself as another Churchill, an iconic, position-changing, curmudgeonly politician. In addition to feeling like the history was partially sanitized, that is what kept me from enjoying this biographical effort even more.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Stijn Zanders

    An entertaining book that was written by the current Brittish secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs. It shows a detailed insight into the life of Winston Churchill: 'the greatest man in the history of the world'. Interesting to see how Churchill has had an influence on the first and second world war, nato, the European union, the independence of India and the Middle East. Hence, it has many intersections with other books I have read and gave me a better overall view. An entertaining book that was written by the current Brittish secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs. It shows a detailed insight into the life of Winston Churchill: 'the greatest man in the history of the world'. Interesting to see how Churchill has had an influence on the first and second world war, nato, the European union, the independence of India and the Middle East. Hence, it has many intersections with other books I have read and gave me a better overall view.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Chuck Slack

    A fairly light read about a great man. It is obvious that the author, Boris Johnson, is awed by the man. Having said that so should we all. He was truly one of the greats of the 20th century and well worthy of this tribute. The book flows fine and presents sufficient details, stories, and quotes from, and about, Churchill. I enjoyed it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kaycee

    Boris Johnson speaking about Winston Churchill; bloody brilliant.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Atharva

    Terrible.This is the opposite of a unbiased,nuanced take on an important historical figure-every page is intended to celebrate WSC,with his failings being casually brushed aside. Hard no.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bert van der Vaart

    Interesting read as Johnson looks set to assume the Tory party leadership in Britain, and to deal with Brexit and more. Johnson clearly admires Churchill, and implicitly hints at his setting a benchmark for Johnson himself. One which Johnson clearly shows he will not be able to meet. His biography is less a full biography than a debater's affirmative case for the proposition that Churchill was someone who made a huge difference to the course of history, and, unlike Stalin and Hitler, he made a v Interesting read as Johnson looks set to assume the Tory party leadership in Britain, and to deal with Brexit and more. Johnson clearly admires Churchill, and implicitly hints at his setting a benchmark for Johnson himself. One which Johnson clearly shows he will not be able to meet. His biography is less a full biography than a debater's affirmative case for the proposition that Churchill was someone who made a huge difference to the course of history, and, unlike Stalin and Hitler, he made a very positive contribution. Johnson focuses on Churchill's tremendous energy, his oratorical and argumentative gifts in politics and in his writing (Churchill won the Nobel price for Literature in 1953), and his drive to getting his way--and thankfully that his way was in general for the good of the many. Just a few excerpts perhaps: "[Churchill] was born not just when Britain was at her peak, but when his generation understood that it would require superhuman efforts and energies to sustain that empire." And although Churchill presided over, as AJP Taylor wrote, "the war of the British succession"--to the USA as world power, Churchill did much to both bring the USA into its role as global power, as well as to set its on its way as guardian of what Johnson writes were essentially British liberal values. Certainly Johnson shows how Churchill had first to fight within Britain to get the country ready to take on Hitler (as against Chamberlain and Halifax, and even the King of England), and then much to bring the USA into the fight. Ringing in its endorsement of action above caution (we again see the legacy Johnson is perhaps seeking to assume), this book is an enjoyable and provocative read. It could probably have done with some (more) editing and is at times more like an extended article in the British Spectator magazine than a scholarly study, but perhaps all the more enjoyable for that.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Yasmin Halliwell Fraser Bower

    The Churchill Factor goes to the point bringing ton light small details and curiosities about Churchill's character and life (and actins, obviously) in a way that lets you see the real man. That is the main objective of the book, to let you see that he was a real person dealing with very real things and how he had a greatness inside himself in order to accomplish what noone thought posible. It starts talking about his childhood and parents in order for us to see how they shaped his youth. We see The Churchill Factor goes to the point bringing ton light small details and curiosities about Churchill's character and life (and actins, obviously) in a way that lets you see the real man. That is the main objective of the book, to let you see that he was a real person dealing with very real things and how he had a greatness inside himself in order to accomplish what noone thought posible. It starts talking about his childhood and parents in order for us to see how they shaped his youth. We see his hobbies, a lot of quotes and their context, his funny remarks, how he dealt with the wars, the middle east and congress. He did so many vital things that is quite unbelievable. I mean, if it weren't for him, the world wouldn't be what it is today. One man changed history, and we were lucky to have him. It amazing, actually, how he is not more loved or remembered now by the young. Everyone know Hitler, but not everyone know what WC did. He was hope, he was the will to survive, freedom and.. never, never give up. This book sums up a whole life, it's better if you know more about WC before going into it, but if not it's a good start to give you a pnoramic view. The first half of the book was my favorite because it centered more about the man, and in the second half there were more politics. I really enjoyed it and it was easy to get into, especially for a historical/biography book. i'm giving it 4 stars!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dan Graser

    Though many folks right now aren't willing to near anything from Boris Johnson due to his politics in the Brexit vote, he remains an engaging and highly amusing writer and in this volume he turns his attention to a truly singular figure in British history. Though his admiration for his subject is quite obvious, he avoids many of the pitfalls of the admiring biographer merely crafting a genuflecting hagiography that attempts to rewrite historical context. Johnson combines a great amount of genuine Though many folks right now aren't willing to near anything from Boris Johnson due to his politics in the Brexit vote, he remains an engaging and highly amusing writer and in this volume he turns his attention to a truly singular figure in British history. Though his admiration for his subject is quite obvious, he avoids many of the pitfalls of the admiring biographer merely crafting a genuflecting hagiography that attempts to rewrite historical context. Johnson combines a great amount of genuine context along with interesting musings into Churchill's mind and motivations into a coherent balance that reads easily while providing a wealth of information. One particular point that he makes late in the book is right on the money and perhaps the most annoying thing about discussing Churchill in this day and age: "It is a measure of Churchill's prophetic numen that people will still try to invoke him as the arbiter of various modern political dilemmas. Out of his voluminous sayings a text will be found to legitimate some opinion of validate some course of action - and that text will be brandished in a semi-religious way, as though the project had been posthumously hallowed by Churchill the sage and wartime leader" This is an enjoyable introduction to many interesting facets of the Churchill Factor and Johnson's pellucid language displays his opinion while at the same time presenting a great amount of information.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Karen A. Wyle

    I'm rounding up, perhaps half a star. It's easy to see why Boris Johnson finds Churchill a fascinating study. The two have much in common. Both are brilliant, dramatic, ebullient, and ambitious, with a nigh unquenchable lust for life and a great gift for finding the right words to serve their purposes. At this time (January 2020), it also seems that while not necessarily matching the scale of Churchill's impact on the 20th century, he too is playing a pivotal role in British and European history. I'm rounding up, perhaps half a star. It's easy to see why Boris Johnson finds Churchill a fascinating study. The two have much in common. Both are brilliant, dramatic, ebullient, and ambitious, with a nigh unquenchable lust for life and a great gift for finding the right words to serve their purposes. At this time (January 2020), it also seems that while not necessarily matching the scale of Churchill's impact on the 20th century, he too is playing a pivotal role in British and European history. Johnson makes, in my view, a convincing case that Churchill played an irreplaceable, decisive, role in the events he describes. Along the way, he defends Churchill against many common charges, while acknowledging and describing at least some of his egregious errors and explaining their likely origins and causes. He vividly conveys the astonishing longevity and turbulence of Churchill's political career, as well as the breadth of his interests and inventiveness. Throughout, the narrative has a breezy energy, a pithy blend of seriousness and irreverence, and a sense of humor that call to mind the style of his subject. I strongly recommend this book not only to those interested in Churchill, but to any student of world (not only European) history, or of leaders and leadership.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Harry Buckle

    The bl**dy overwhelming brilliance of some people is hard to bear. Churchill may be? The jury, with of course the benefit and burden of hindsight is still out on him. No, the genius in this case is the alarmingly blonde haired blusterer- Ex London Mayor, Member of Parliament, Minister of the Crown, fluent master of a lexicon of languages (including some of the classics) : Boris Johnson. I almost didn't buy his book on Churchill, as 'stuffy old histories of stuffy old politicians'are not my thing The bl**dy overwhelming brilliance of some people is hard to bear. Churchill may be? The jury, with of course the benefit and burden of hindsight is still out on him. No, the genius in this case is the alarmingly blonde haired blusterer- Ex London Mayor, Member of Parliament, Minister of the Crown, fluent master of a lexicon of languages (including some of the classics) : Boris Johnson. I almost didn't buy his book on Churchill, as 'stuffy old histories of stuffy old politicians'are not my thing. Boris as is his engaging way--don't be fooled by the burbbling and bluster of his speech- has turned the Churchill story-or much of the man's long history - into an easy going, exhilarating can't put downer. That's as in 'can't put it down and stop reading.' And 'Can't Put down the style content and reportage.' I am sure there others more informed than I who will say; 'Boris is wrong. Churchill only liked his eggs easy over - not sunny side up' (there are Americans in his heritage)..but overall...this is a book that brings an important figure from our still current history to life. Da*mn you Boris...what can't you do?

  30. 5 out of 5

    Budd Margolis

    A wonderful delicious look at the life and career of Winston Spencer Churchill complete with insight, flaws, new stories, humour and some clarity on several vital historic issues. One can see the influence this great statesman had on the author's life as well. Boris asks where would we have been without Churchill? It is a question every school-aged child, as well as adults frankly, should wonder and learn about for this is the most vital question. I will leave that for you to debate yourself when A wonderful delicious look at the life and career of Winston Spencer Churchill complete with insight, flaws, new stories, humour and some clarity on several vital historic issues. One can see the influence this great statesman had on the author's life as well. Boris asks where would we have been without Churchill? It is a question every school-aged child, as well as adults frankly, should wonder and learn about for this is the most vital question. I will leave that for you to debate yourself when reading but it is a fascinating question and one we should ask often. Churchill was a complex man and no volume can do him justice, he was and still is hated by some and revered by others, but this book shines a light with a precise perspective on a subject of a leader at his time in history that many have ignored. We knew that Churchill struggled in his schooling, made some big mistakes in military and Government affairs, but he also came through when he was most needed and frankly, few could imagine who else could have led us through WWII? The book covers many key topics from WW1, the cold war to the formation of the Middle East, India and domestic British issues. Boris Johnson adds wit and grace to the telling and we are charmed with the life of WSC, a great leader, journalist/author, speechwriter, speaker/debater and flawed genius human.

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