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Biography - Sir Winston Churchill

Churchill was a politician and wartime prime minister who led Britain to victory in World War Two.


Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born on 30 November 1874 at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. His father was the prominent Tory politician, Lord Randolph Churchill. Churchill attended the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, before embarking on an army career. He saw action on the North West Frontier of India and in the Sudan. While working as a journalist during the Boer War he was captured and made a prisoner-of-war before escaping.


In 1900, Churchill became Conservative member of parliament for Oldham. But he became disaffected with his party and in 1904 joined the Liberal Party. When the Liberals won the 1905 election, Churchill was appointed undersecretary at the Colonial Office. In 1908 he entered the Cabinet as president of the Board of Trade, becoming home secretary in 1910. The following year he became first lord of the Admiralty. He held this post in the first months of World War One but after the disastrous Dardanelles expedition, for which he was blamed, he resigned. He joined the army, serving for a time on the Western Front. In 1917, he was back in government as minister of munitions. From 1919 to 1921 he was secretary of state for war and air, and from 1924-1929 was chancellor of the exchequer.


The next decade were his 'wilderness years', in which his opposition to Indian self-rule and his support for Edward VIII during the 'Abdication Crisis' made him unpopular, while his warnings about the rise of Nazi Germany and the need for British rearmament were ignored. When war broke out in 1939, Churchill became first lord of the Admiralty. In May 1940, Neville Chamberlain resigned as prime minister and Churchill took his place. His refusal to surrender to Nazi Germany inspired the country. He worked tirelessly throughout the war, building strong relations with US President Roosevelt while maintaining a sometimes difficult alliance with the Soviet Union.


Churchill lost power in the 1945 post-war election but remained leader of the opposition, voicing apprehensions about the Cold War (he popularised the term 'Iron Curtain') and encouraging European and trans-Atlantic unity. In 1951, he became prime minister again. He resigned in 1955, but remained an MP until shortly before his death. As well as his many political achievements, he left a legacy of an impressive number of publications and in 1953 won the Nobel Prize for Literature.


Churchill died on 24 January 1965 and was given a state funeral.

The Right Honourable Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was educated at Harrow and Sandhurst. After a brief but eventful career in the army, he became a Conservative Member of Parliament in 1900. He held many high posts in Liberal and Conservative governments during the first three decades of the century. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty - a post which he had earlier held from 1911 to 1915. In May, 1940, he became Prime Minister and Minister of Defence and remained in office until 1945. He took over the premiership again in the Conservative victory of 1951 and resigned in 1955. However, he remained a Member of Parliament until the general election of 1964, when he did not seek re-election. Queen Elizabeth II conferred on Churchill the dignity of Knighthood and invested him with the insignia of the Order of the Garter in 1953. Among the other countless honours and decorations he received, special mention should be made of the honorary citizenship of the United States which President Kennedy conferred on him in 1963.



Churchill's literary career began with campaign reports: The Story of the Malakand Field Force (1898) and The River War (1899), an account of the campaign in the Sudan and the Battle of Omdurman. In 1900, he published his only novel, Savrola, and, six years later, his first major work, the biography of his father, Lord Randolph Churchill. His other famous biography, the life of his great ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough, was published in four volumes between 1933 and 1938. Churchill's history of the First World War appeared in four volumes under the title of The World Crisis (1923-29); his memoirs of the Second World War ran to six volumes (1948-1953/54). After his retirement from office, Churchill wrote a History of the English-speaking Peoples (4 vols., 1956-58). His magnificent oratory survives in a dozen volumes of speeches, among them The Unrelenting Struggle (1942), The Dawn of Liberation (1945), and Victory (1946).



Churchill, a gifted amateur painter, wrote Painting as a Pastime (1948). An autobiographical account of his youth, My Early Life, appeared in 1930. From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, Editor Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969. This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures.

 
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