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CHURCHILL, Winston S.

The Second World War

Cassell & Co., London, 1948-54
Octavo, six volumes (135 x 205 mm. each), red half crushed morocco gilt ruled by Aspreys (gilt stamped on upper turn-ins), red cloth boards, spine with gilt raised bands and gilt ruled compartments, gilt titles to the spine, gilt edged, marbled endpapers. With half-titles, plans and maps (some folding, some printed in colours), in excellent condition.
FIRST ENGLISH EDITION, first impression of Churchill’s masterpiece. A nicely bound set of Churchill’s monumental history of World War II. In 1953, the year prior to the publication of the sixth volume, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature ‘for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values’.

This work is written in typical Churchill style, not so much an academic historical work, as his perspective on history. In the introduction to the first volume published in 1948 Churchill states ‘I do not describe it as history, it is a contribution to history.’ In a letter to Sir Edward Bridges, Secretary to the War Cabinet, Churchill wrote ‘I feel I have a right to tell my tale and I am convinced it would be to the advantage of our country to have it told, as perhaps I alone can tell it’ (Reynolds, p. 56). As he often so eloquently put it, ‘This is not history; this is my case.’ Churchill is also known to have stated ‘I am perhaps the only man who has passed through both the two supreme cataclysms of recorded history in high Cabinet office. I was for more than five years in this second struggle with Germany the Head of His Majesty’s government. I write, therefore, from a different standpoint and with more authority than was possible in my earlier books.’

This work is the most important published account of the Second World War despite being regarded as an intensely personal and inherently biased history. There was no statesman of the 20th century as Max Beloff observed, ‘whose retrospective accounts of the great events in which he has taken part have so dominated subsequent historical thinking’. Richard Langworth said that the work was ‘indispensable reading for anyone who seeks a true understanding of the war that made us what we are today.’ It remains a vital part of the historical record. Provenance: Bonhams, 12 February 2002, lot 246. Cohen A240.4; Reynolds, David. (2005). ‘In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War’; Woods A123(b).
Stock number: 10480

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