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April 8, 2006

The Last Lion

William Manchester
(a biography of Winston Churchill in two volumes)
ISBN – (I) – 0385313489 (II) 0385313314

This biography, upon its release in 1983/88 was described as “brilliant,” “bedazzling”, and “a triumph.” That, I’d say, is not hyperbolic. No exaggeration is possible over what is arguably Manchester’s most stunning work.

I chose to reread this tome after 15 years. It is particularly apropos “this season,” in light of the fact that we are again facing—though some refuse to acknowledge the fact—a most serious challenge to Western civilization. Indeed, to civilization itself. Not since WWII have we been so seriously challenged, and not unlike then, we can lose. If we do . . . civilization is all over for the next millennium.

Beyond doubt, Winston Spencer Churchill was the most important world figure in the 20th century. It can be fairly said that without him Western civilization would not exist as we know it, and it is virtually certain that we would be in the 7th decade of the 3rd Reich, speaking German—at least those of us still alive. Isaiah Berlin described Churchill as “the largest human being of our time.” Indeed! He is likely amongst the largest human beings of all time.

One can hardly imagine the immense amount of material Manchester had to command in order to write this 1600 page document, though it is readable to the last page. And riveting. For those too young to remember, and those otherwise unenlightened of history, Churchill was virtually alone in his battle over European appeasement of the Germans when they could have been stopped, thus avoiding WWII. He finally had the attention of the British after Chamberlain’s announcement that he had negotiated “peace in our time,” just before Germany’s massive attack upon the allies.

The story begins with Churchill as a child, reviewing this most unhappy state, follows thru his early military career, his first era of prominence, his subsequent slide into oblivion (after Gallipoli) and his recovery to lead the allies to victory in WWII.

Sheer grit, determination, and faith in his God and his country were all that Winston needed to believe that the battle for civilization could be won. A leader of his talent comes along only rarely, and, it seems to me serendipitously—or perhaps by an act of God.

In addition to all of that he was a masterful politician (though spottily so), a phenomenal historian and an eclectic writer who supported himself thruout his life with his writing skills. While of noble birth, he was sufficiently removed from it that he inherited nothing. Still he had the family history and pride in his predecessors.

Read it for information . . . for history . . . for insight into the sheer magnificence of the West—and Churchill, of course--and to be reminded of what we are, or ought to be fighting for at this time. You will not read a more comprehensive or moving biography anytime soon, which is why it is still in print!

Posted by respeto at April 8, 2006 1:35 PM