In this week's books podcast, Sam talks to Andrew Roberts in front of an audience about his new biography on Winston Churchill. It charts the leader's powerful sense of personal destiny, his ambition and bravery as a soldier and a leader. The book interprets the events that defined Churchill, from the Dardanelles disaster of 1915, his years in the political wilderness, and his summoning to save his country in 1940. Sam and Andrew discuss Churchill's belief that he was 'walking with destiny', his prophesies of European disaster in the 1930s, as well as his drinking habits, the racist charges against him, and his singular ability to deliver some of the most memorable speeches of the 20th century.

Presented by Sam Leith at Daunt Books, Marylebone.

United States


00:00:07hello everybody welcome it's a great great privilege to be here tearing I'm two hundred let's start by asking the slightly impolite but I'm afraid very very obvious question which is that for your own counts that been something like a thousand books written on this nine thousand and nine
00:00:23sorry ever the historian with the precision so why do we need another one what is that it's new to say well this was something that was a bit nerve wracking to me when I signed the contract as you can imagine four years ago but very fortunately through entirely
00:00:39through serendipity unlock rather than by archival GDS I was very fortunate that lots of new sources came together that's exactly the right time the church all kinds of Cambridge maybe have two and a half million sets of don't keep box forty one people's started sending in that papers
00:01:03since the last biography of Chechen was published and at the same time I was able to use the verbatim war happen at documents which I discovered when I was writing my book monsters Inc moaned is there was a sense of three volumes of I even my skis diaries
00:01:23diaries if the safe yet %HESITATION minister to launch of the three nineteen thirty two and forty three and there was also a great and extremely lucky %HESITATION is far as I was going endorsed the six diaries which the queen asked me to be the first church of of
00:01:41of %HESITATION to be able to use the cable and Churchill didn't start off very well to actually the pools supporting his elder brother during application classes and the king had been very much in favor of appeasement taking supported Nevil chamberlain save so you basically impressed me they weren't
00:02:00necessarily things get all that very quickly they date and stay established Tuesday lunch time meetings with the servants who sent away and they serve themselves from the side table and they talked about everything in the end Churchill trusted that came with every secret he trusted him with ultra
00:02:18he trusted him with the nuclear secrets and everything else and they go down to the point that Winston Churchill was actually the only one of the kings full prime ministers to be cool by his Christian name and looking actually writes of the two men is this being friends
00:02:34and save your great thing was that he also that Tuesday lunchtime meetings wrote down everything to actual set so this book is if you quotations from Churchill new stores and it dates and and gag something that's essential to say which is never been in any any church about
00:02:54free %HESITATION for my full service tremendously lucky in getting the love axes of Pamela Harriman normal ones from but the many many many more ones too I have I have a %HESITATION of course was set round of Churchill's wife asks the %HESITATION at the time of the second
00:03:13level but none the less that didn't stop her from deceiving the fez Averell Harriman at Morrow to Charles pool to the head of the R. F. yeah movie caffeine and another on may and %HESITATION that %HESITATION names American and general in fact she had three that was rising
00:03:31to the from the guilt of conference and also someone who Jerry and meeting he Gerry as we said ordinal although I have private access to to have that paper is not to have private access to %HESITATION and these were also very very lucky sick when he's made Churchill's
00:03:55great jeep soft and wool told Eisenhower in nineteen sixty that it would be impossible to write a comprehensive life of judge until the year two thousand and I agree with that because that would say many more than take school that needed to fix gather but luckily and I
00:04:12say this I may come first persons with space lock as far as I'm concerned they they are they have enough food to go with what's about your subtitle because you could be walking with destiny and Churchill age sixteen as you describe in the book so told a school
00:04:29night you know the country is going to be invaded online and save Britain from invasion and the empire paper important part in history I mean anybody else without some sense of destiny we regard as completely deranged way yes yes absolutely no we what we write two yes he
00:04:46said that will be great struggles there will be terrible upheavals it will fall to me to to save lawns and as a safer country to save the M. hot and as this you say what Merlin Devin's Susan say sixty her time when he feels that it's %HESITATION that
00:05:01we don't do we have that but seven office and she makes a fool of these things actually happened and his sense of destiny was absolutely essential to his self confidence and is sheer believe that he was specially say for something he said if the meeting invisible way and
00:05:22he's talking not about this is a question and or anything that got in didn't believe that Christ is the savior in all of the speeches is amazing speech is five point two million words and as I was writing six point one thing right he doesn't mention is Christ
00:05:38the tool in any of the fox he does believe that there is an almighty use primary purpose it seems to me was to take care of Winston Churchill to what extent do you think I mean we'll we'll go to the sort of place detail more in a moment
00:05:55but was his sort of meeting with destiny match for your lock I mean had the world not being on the brink if it's actually coming to an end on his watch would you be missiles have been F. as a museum piece or an antiquated bluster or someone who's
00:06:10a lapse of time because he was hopeful signs off stuff from as you said very early age and it just so happens that he was Russian on the spot when it happened and what he wasn't radios for because of course he didn't ten years in the wilderness saying
00:06:24it was an out of office saying it was going to happen and yes %HESITATION if if you'd been wrong about things he would he be an absurd character looted Pacific already which is the kind of thing %HESITATION the the lease is trying to make him out to be
00:06:39anyway there was a %HESITATION a very strong whips office of the national governments nineteenth this is very much needed to make Churchill out to be a has been to be a sort of musical %HESITATION to be somebody who was seven %HESITATION you used granted equipments the old fashioned
00:06:58English to %HESITATION warned against the dangers that exist box the great thing was that he had spoke to the mother said heck of an offseason ideal policy because he was a find a C. might %HESITATION from early age was because many people in his class and background with
00:07:17working all only because he really understood about history he'd written his biography of the great you could move brought his assets that you have to say written for them fourteenths domination of Europe in the %HESITATION war bowstreet succession and partly because he had seen fanaticism really up close
00:07:38he'd seen his best friend in the northwest from today get sliced pieces on a stretcher by %HESITATION anything tribesmen he'd seen the the she's in the seats in the South Bay in the charges only last week every judge the rich and %HESITATION and %HESITATION and the way they
00:07:55will act two eighty five Islamic fundamentalists the faxes system and this was a world away from the kind of backgrounds that that will change the name but again or ransom that the whole school Stanley Baldwin %HESITATION frankly any of the other frontline politicians had has started that run
00:08:14that through this I mean as you describe these he did see action when we think of him now hopefully will also have the classical image of churches is kind of elderly read Tom felt a kind of rough the seat with a bullet shot paints a golf but it's
00:08:29because you read the first six chapters of my but he had tremendous physical cards into amazing physical courage and and see if because if you look at the loss of life only a occasions when he grabbed his opportunities in the path of shots that I was telling you
00:08:47about %HESITATION yeah they're with twenty five percent killed the weeds from his right but when in the train them bush that took place during the Boer war in South Africa fifty two percent killed lately we he escaped from his south African prisoner of war camp then %HESITATION in
00:09:04Pretoria a %HESITATION a month later and they the the pools of course would have shot him if they if they capture of the filter the capstan at sent me that was the %HESITATION the risky was taken with the sheer animal rule courage of this man physical coverage falsely
00:09:23continues all the way through the first mobile where he goes for thirty times internet mass that he didn't need to do that was left in a coma he could've sat back into town in a call to see if it works too but he didn't he got so close
00:09:36to the German lines you could actually hear the German speaking in the trenches and say by the time you get to the second World pool and this is this is this is a threat that we need to this remark this wonderful statement that he makes about himself in
00:09:51the woman was in nineteen forty eight when he says speaking if they became prime minister that %HESITATION might cost life is good but a preparation for this Allah and for this trial sentence before the the parts about I've I felt as if I were walking the destiny and
00:10:07that is so true too because he fine buying the second World War then he goes off home to the %HESITATION and ministry roof to watch air raids during the blitz looking banks in multi party continues to to do it he was immensely brave and honest thinking a hundred
00:10:25and twenty thousand miles off troubles of Germany's outside the United Kingdom menus private stream this five years from Dunkerque to the food but it and these were very often in %HESITATION in freezing cold %HESITATION pressurized cabins wrapped up in a in a great case that one maintenance %HESITATION
00:10:46he's plane was hit by lightning a Lansing because they feared that the instrumentation was all going to go wrong and a bad a tool for looking specially in the western desert and eva from sin the times before from they were of the easy distance of the Luftwaffe and
00:11:03the sheer rule adult comic coverage of this man can only be equated to the moral courage to deal section again again and especially fools during the wilderness yes how do you interpret that courage I mean the sort of risks he took was that a case of his of
00:11:23being sensing that his protection by golden by destiny and that or was it a sense that his ego was so important to him that he was prepared to take risks in order to be a great man oversee proving himself his father is is another possible the new book
00:11:37how does how does that panel psychologically it is his fascination this very much because of course you will so Jenna and use a something on the north west frontier and he took unnecessary risks that need not least by buying and gray and he rode around on the gray
00:11:52which was which is of the naval most inviting a little bit but he knew in his early years as he didn't think he was ever going to live at all it's extraordinary how many of his family his uncles and aunts diets very up to someone intelligence feeling that
00:12:09for these very few made sixty is full of cool stuff out of forty five and C. Churchill didn't speak he felt he didn't have long to let me have to make his name is this as much as possible the way to do that was to be in office
00:12:23sleepy and the minutes the bravery all and say that's one explanation others you lied to his relationship with his father which was two things and sometimes it's terrible I mean in the modern world you wouldn't put up with it for a minute this stain food aloof man lord
00:12:40Randolph Churchill who is never really change any nothing affection for his son through his son was a was a useless Fabia and yeah it's Churchill desperately screws to impress his father even off his father died and he was constantly bringing up his father in conversation he adopted his
00:13:00falls is when speaking he adopted ordered his father's political principles and views for the since you got any money seventy one years old bold racehorses any cases the mountainous fathers %HESITATION racing because he talked about his father endlessly and and links in life he had that very strange
00:13:20moments where %HESITATION he believed he'd seen his father's ghost and racial curry about %HESITATION about compensation he had with his father even which is phone the never knows that he had won the second mobile it's a very interesting psychological connection and save Churchill walls you as a user
00:13:39from trusted P. emotional fake up their fifty times during the second World War when you listen to this and you have to see in there for I think in terms of a regency romantic Ralph of than a Victorian stiff upper lip hours to class but as a regency
00:13:57romance I mean regency romantic Arabs to crack he yeah he he he spent money like a drunken sailor on shore leave %HESITATION but there was this amazing %HESITATION at amazing sense of humor just not caring about what anybody else school to fit hobby that this was his grandson
00:14:16of the do you could time when jeeps with Deeks also because he had this set this still makes sense of of personal destiny and enhance the subtitle of the book how much do you think you'd see him as a person all of principle and how much is captured
00:14:33was the river petunias and of making it up as he goes along one of you know I'm thinking particularly off to you know the new way to box in the first years of the war yes he's a rather out many of the chamber then yes and no absolutely
00:14:46I mean that's that's the new way to take this particular instance the No Way does also was much more he's full seems personal the apple tree and it was a %HESITATION willingly naval operation and he was made minister through the nation's defense saying he was in far as
00:15:02far as the day to day aspects of that campaign was consent whose phone responsible and double check the prime minister however %HESITATION what everybody deeds Preciado twist of one of the reasons that we did so badly sexual was that we were not fully all I'm the person the
00:15:19only person who said that we needed to be for the elements within weeks and just previous five yes so he couldn't really be criticized for the defeat of an operation in which there was enough men and ships and planes and so on considering he had stayed five years
00:15:35the mom thing that %HESITATION that they should be more as far as the general assumption that he was in this terrible opportunist and would be willing to you intrigue and and do anything for his personal politics is concerned actually there is a sexual threat of political philosophy through
00:15:52churches life which is what he called for you tomorrow which he got from his father's phone because it for them patients right and it's about a certain form policy improved and here it is and and social reform at five it's a rule didn't and %HESITATION as wide ranging
00:16:10think that allows you to get away with quite a lot box it doesn't save me that when he joined the Liberal Party in nineteen eighty four didn't come back services until nineteen twenty five actually not this because he left because the conservatives have done free trade is a
00:16:27school policy risky stuck to it seems he was able to argue that it wasn't him is changing policy so much as his policies who %HESITATION read the changing that that the schools and he kept his principles intact and I think there is quite a lot to say that's
00:16:40true apart from of course as I say the concept off to intimacy is a sufficient you want one to allow an awful lot of bobbing and weaving it was %HESITATION into one of the I think modern criticism the Chechen is you know how do we square the great
00:16:58defender of liberty and democracy with the man who has when suffrage who was very keen to repress any sort of Indian self rule self government I mean you know the imperialist on the as it were anti German in Paris how those two sides of him compatible he goes
00:17:16women's women's suffrage very quickly and and and stupidly ready puts himself on the wrong side of history by supporting women's suffrage rights at the beginning and then turning against it as soon as the suffragettes adopted radical tactics because he feels that that would mean that the liberal government
00:17:37was being pushed by a aggressive and sometimes violent policy into changing the constitution also recognize the women's suffrage was something that was likely to benefit the Conservative Party much more than the liberal policy this was when he was a liberal many factions once the nineteen fifty five nineteen
00:17:59seventy four and one other election would not have been won by the conservatives if so in nineteen seventy election would not have been won by the conservatives had it not been for a female suffrage save and there's no labor please namely that the tree that was won by
00:18:15a %HESITATION female suffrage save there was a sense that he had sort of books himself into a corner and once he was that he he didn't work out a way of coming back and women's suffrage is along with many other aspects of Winston Churchill returns the gold standard
00:18:34application crisis I mentioned %HESITATION idea in several of those classic example of him getting it role making a mistake and he told his wife kind of teen I would've made nothing if I don't make mistakes great theme from the set mistakes however is this he didn't from the
00:18:52dominoes campaign as the default because the job does nails for example of the races now too told him not to overrule the chiefs of stuff during the second level which you didn't deal on any occasion general second level and he learns other things in very quickly of course
00:19:09he'll say laughs with regards female suffrage that it was absolutely vital to you and to try to get women to date Tory off tonight twenty five deep imperialism thing that it would take to describe him as a racist for instance it would be an anachronistic calls we today
00:19:27and that is that it's completely absurd and obscene to think of racism different hierarchies box it seems back in the immediate past always area it as a scientific facts and you see people on the left like tools that children age two wells and sketches where les and %HESITATION
00:19:46tomahawks tools scribing to this theory which today since the nineteen forties and fifties and the breakthroughs and DNA and the rest to be awfully ludicrous that there should be the the the some people because they're white written in any way superior to others and yes in those days
00:20:05that is what people across the board fool and say it is an acronym stick and so on historical to think the Winston Churchill should in some way be entirely different from from that it's it's like expecting one of the chrome will to support the concepts of socialized medicine
00:20:22in the NHS do you think if you hadn't had to close ups of the the great virtue nobility and strength of the Anglo Saxon tables as against the the the Han he would have had the fire in his belly to fight the second World War the way he
00:20:39did that I will eat you see to what extent is is not actually a sense of national superior at sea of his belief that the %HESITATION the British people will %HESITATION inherently superior to the Germans the French the tenants and so on and in school possible say the
00:20:56the racial thing because if there's a hierarchy of colored races isn't a rule said %HESITATION as far as he's concerned a hierarchy white races and at any given leave and you see in June nineteen forty and still be meeting at two of the perfect here in into a
00:21:13where the French governments have had to had to retreat center that he waits %HESITATION Paris actually just you didn't think they speculate as you feel they should fight street by street but the French government I would say that but when the ball down to to %HESITATION he flew
00:21:28away from the phone as he and G. nineteen forty to meet with the bulls win a different sinus Marshall pastime and general vague on the French commander in chief boycotted the meeting they didn't turn out of that meeting Churchill said I I know the British people I can
00:21:44tell the bush people however bad the situation is I can I can tell you they will they will accept it as the British people on not getting to collapse in the same way that everybody else in the on the consequences class we okay see we had a fight
00:21:58back we will win from its back and we will without your own you must not make peace with jealousy Boston's break the agreement not to make set piece %HESITATION women's self didn't too is eternal ana little Beastie that's kind of the same yes there was this sense of
00:22:17national to Splenda and that came mostly from his from his historical background his books on Auburn so and it's was something which we might easily be able to criticizes politically incorrect nowadays however %HESITATION ninety four C. in nineteen forty one it was invaluable the speeches that he may
00:22:39telling the British people that they were different and they were bad weather absolutely invaluable in winning that war couple things that fascinates me to put you to punk will be nice sometimes was to pulse and some of the things this one at least I threw her new about
00:22:54with some church I thought I knew that he was a depressive of was I knew that he was if not an alcoholic at least of someone with a serious potential for the drink you know I thought he'd been in favor of the neck gassing unready natives can you
00:23:07talk a bit about some of these myths that have grown up the gassing of the %HESITATION really nice is actually if you go to the original papers and read the entire sentence rather than the census that's taken out of context and stuck in the of the internet's everyone
00:23:20is using he's in favor of using tear gas that was the guys good luck from a tree gas save it Smaltz %HESITATION it's not mustard gas it's not set for speed or any of that gases that would be used in the %HESITATION in the great war stride kill
00:23:36people it was the same kind of gas that the French rock police will use it quite easily open on a Saturday night in the phone book that as far as his depression was concerned he used the phrase black dog once in a letter to his life in nineteen
00:23:52eleven which was also used by the way by Edwardian matrons and that is to explain their own movie %HESITATION there of the children there is no movement during the second level of the assembly passed the hit by this circle depression that he's not able to take decisions to
00:24:11sixteen cabinets and %HESITATION Chad the wall cabinets and so which is true depression that land mine express can prevent you from being able to execute that kind of executive sensations the flames when he gets the press such as the food Singapore in February nineteen forty two of the
00:24:31folder to broken June nineteen forty two comes when when anyone fast if you if you wanna see you would be depressed by this terrible thing and I've seen in the cafe was drinking is concerned eight yeah dragon and Knowles %HESITATION if this this apps the NHS about that
00:24:50he was dead tree champagne lounge pretty much every day of the war in the woods and have some white wine he would then have a glow also maybe two glasses of brandy and then during the off to do the things the things he would keep his blood alcohol
00:25:06level pretty much level with whiskeys and sages through the small amounts of whiskey lots of ceda ante sprite sixties need to exactly how to keep the level the same same level that's key hadn't all slight constitution and TV Scott said that Winston Churchill couldn't of been an alcoholic
00:25:26because now convicted of drug yeah just let there's not there's only one single location in the whole two thousand one of the nine four days second level when the people around him food he was drunk and that made no decisions taken that night by the finance committee and
00:25:49they refused to yield the next morning and then do the same day like today many of the decisions were taken so it was in the navy maybe was at the damaged by the fact that judge alone one day imagine the fractious nation and the phone Winston Churchill during
00:26:04the second level is any one day fun I just would like to ask a bit about his or tray and his rhetoric is is a sub subject is my heart how much do you think his or trees are fitted the moment and how much was it is a
00:26:19fixed please fix weaponry that that hit the right the right time in history yes it is a very good question samples with a book on on rhetoric and and Winston Churchill in eighteen ninety seven when he was a young man at four twenty three rates all school cools
00:26:37the scaffolding of rhetoric in which he sets out the five things that a public speaker should do in order to win the hearts of these systems and this is before the age of twenty three before he's actually given a single speech in public itself repeating he's worked out
00:26:56for movies reading news in minutes autodidact to may twenty self tool he had to be because you have to have why he had this and how he had this this sort of ABC the rules for for rhetoric and he also has a full time students who read that
00:27:17too graphic memory producer photographic memory where he could he yeah cadences of poetry and songs and so on and he's in his mind so he always dictated the speeches walk back some four and that is very difficult some of the sectors and the fact that he mumbled sometimes
00:27:36as Saddam is now waiting in the other walking away in the other direction and say that they non the less and to try to work out what you say %HESITATION this extraordinary sense that he had of knowing what's his dismissal today yeah and one of the reasons was
00:27:52just folks room remember of public speaking speeches that he gave the salty soon off to that right now set of school and by the time he became that prime minister forty two years later he had given tens of thousands of speeches he went all over the country as
00:28:10a as a young Impian as a junior minister and they all of the the the speech he never repeated himself he wrote all the speeches himself which no politician may see a politician does nowadays with the first drop in every speech as well as all the others he
00:28:26did himself it was an extraordinary amount of time that he dedicated staff so following the outbreak of the second World War seventy Bucks on line this stuff in may nineteen forty %HESITATION his post like genuinely had been a preparation for this %HESITATION and for this trauma and did
00:28:42did he improvise well because I think was an F. B. Smith J. query says it would suspend the best part of his life rushing impromptu speeches no he didn't improvise he tried not to and flies out to he was Celtic in terms of the fact he was always
00:28:58late for everything and say sometimes %HESITATION he'd actually start to the speech in the house of Commons and he's is at six trees have been typing and been taking down in the common typing them up in the office and actual handing him the speaking yeah the song full
00:29:15movie cool day of the speech is often the guns we say it's safe we have this sense that he didn't know how I was going to end the speech before you came to think he didn't like he never liked speaking on the end and we see cool to
00:29:29save simply didn't improvise and he would change in case of Chechen college archives and they will show you the way in which he was %HESITATION he was scribbling a very changing the words of the screens right way out to the very loss that last minute but what he
00:29:46created and one thinks of these incredible speeches he he had some rules one of them of course was to use your words at shoulder mainly Saxon words ones the squeaky clean you would what's the the the hearts of his this is a classic example three hundred and sixty
00:30:06seven words in the paragraph of the we should fight on the beaches speak to jazz which has which five great confidence in the %HESITATION and we should have a surrender of course is the is the final line and in that paragraph if we single word comes from the
00:30:23LD accepted confidences Lassie and surrendered his friend amazing there's no way of topping that thank you very much you listen to the spectators books put cost very much hope you enjoyed it and if you did please to consider raising %HESITATION reviewing us on the iTunes store would love
00:31:01to hear from

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