Winston Churchill followed his own star. He yearned to be ‘great’, to gain historical immortality. And he did so through deeds and words: his actions as a soldier and politician, gilded by his writings as a journalist and historian.
But Churchill’s path to greatness was also defined by the leaders he encountered along the way – friends and foes, at home and abroad. Men of power such as Hitler and Mussolini, Roosevelt and Stalin, David Lloyd George, Neville Chamberlain and Charles de Gaulle. And the haunting presence of the adored father who had seen nothing of merit in his troublesome son. In these men Churchill discerned greatness, or its absence, in ways that influenced his own career.
This book includes some whom Churchill would not have deemed ‘great’, but who – in our own day – offer alternative mirrors of what that word might mean. Mahatma Gandhi, who infuriated Churchill by exploiting the power of powerlessness. Clement Attlee, whose heretical vision of ‘Great Britain’ was socialist and post-imperial. And his darling Clementine, channelling her ‘pinko’ sentiments to become Winston’s essential helpmate and most devoted critic.
Mirrors of Greatness offers vivid new perspectives on Churchill’s life and work, showing how this unique man – with dazzling gifts and jagged flaws – learned from his ‘great contemporaries’ and what they saw in him.
David Reynolds is the award-winning and bestselling author of twelve history books and Professor of International History at Cambridge University (Christ\'s College). He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2005. His book awards include the Wolfson Prize and the PEN Hessell Tiltman prize. David has written and presented critically acclaimed films and documentaries for both BBC TV and Radio 4.
Praise for Island Stories: -
”'Concise, elegant and lucid … A very useful primer on the delusions of an English mentality” - Guardian
”'Splendid… a clear, wellwritten and highly stimulating account of the flaws in our understanding of Britain's past that bedevilled the great debate over the country's relations with the EU and helped produce the result it did. We could have done with it two or three years ago. But then real history, based on extensive reading, research and the wisdom of a true historian, takes a while to write” - Literary Review
‘Incisive … Reynolds provides a useful summary of the scholarship that has examined the relationship between the four nations in the British Isles … Reynolds is at his best when the narrative of Europe as antagonist is concerned … On the basis of Reynolds’ compelling account, Britain’s future outside the EU ought to begin with an honest assessment of its past’ Financial Times -
”'History is essential to political awareness, and the Brexit debate was certainly shaped by historical narratives. Reynolds subjects these narratives to brisk, witty and often acerbic appraisal … His commentary on how these stories have shaped postwar British politics is compelling” - TLS
”'Lively, slender and timely” - Foreign Affairs