Bibliography of Works about Sir Winston S. Churchill
The raison d’être of the continued worldwide interest in Churchill is neatly summed up by Richard M. Langworth, the well-known expert in books by Churchill and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Churchill Centre, in his "Foreword":“he has become an epic figure, as fascinating to writers who would ‘demythologize’ him as to those who maintain that, warts and all, he really was the ‘Man of the Twentieth Century’ ” [p. viii].
Less clear, curiously, is the raison d’être of the Bibliography as explained by Zoller in his Preface—he seems to suggest that he wrote it for his own satisfaction, and why not, since by sharing it with us he does a great service to the community of scholars engaged in research connected with Churchill in some way or other. And we all know this covers a wide field, appropriately starting in 1900 with an article in Current Literature entitled “The Bravery of Winston Churchill”.
The format chosen for the Bibliography departs from more common classifications based on Authors or Subjects in alphabetical order. Instead, the entries are listed in four sections:
: Works entirely about Winston S. Churchill (pp. 3-132. 628
Sections A-D are arranged in chronological order (1900-2002), while Section E is in alphabetical order, covering material from 1941 to 2001. Then follow an Index of Author Names and an Index of Titles, both in alphabetical order.
The author of a Bibliography is always in a no-win situation from at least two points of view. The most obvious one is the updating. Considering the enormous constant flow of works (let alone articles) on a major world figure like Churchill, “any work like this is obsolete from the moment it is published,” as Zoller himself puts it [p. xiii]. To take only two examples, the capital book written by Klaus Larres, Churchill’s Cold War, is missing—though John Ramsden’s equally important book of the same year, Man of the Century,1 is included. Likewise, the important volume of Proceedings of the Conference on “Churchill in the twenty-first Century” held at the University of London in January 2001, published later in that year, is also unfortunately missing.2 No doubt this can be explained in terms of deadlines to meet for the printers—but this is precisely the point, and Zoller should have written “any work like this in conventional book form is obsolete from the moment it is published,” and Langworth somehow seems aware of other possiblities when he hints that “One day we shall probably have access to all these texts via the Internet” [p. x]. Hopefully, therefore, the Churchill Centre, or M.E. Sharpe, will at some stage provide a site with constant updates, like that of the Royal Historical Society, for instance.3 But of course this poses the problem of the remuneration of authors and publishers for their labour—and evidently Zoller’s must have been considerable.
The other difficulty is the extent of the coverage, with the constant threat of being “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” Will you include original works in a foreign language? Foreign translations? Zoller does both. Will you include books which you have not seen, considering that you speak of an Annotated Bibliography in your title? Zoller does, at least for the extreme anti-Churchill books of the Revisionist Press, even adding the surprising commentary that “Some of our experts question whether this book and the following [A449 & A450] have been distributed” [p. 86]. Will you include books which are not specifically on Churchill? This is what Zoller explicitly does in his Section B. Comprising almost the same number of pages as Section A (and more entries: 929 against 684—the difference being accounted for by the fact that annotations are shorter in Section B), the rationale behind this section, Zoller knew it, had to be justified. He does it very competently at the beginning of the section [pp. 133-134])—though one can argue endlessly over the desirability of including/excluding such and such a book or type of book. For instance, he says that he deliberately chose to exclude encyclopedia entries. But what will he do in a future new edition, when the New Dictionary of National Biography is published, with an entry of some sixty pages on Churchill by Paul Addison, indisputably one of the foremost Churchill scholars today? Is that not “substantial” enough to justify inclusion? In contrast, Zoller is (one can argue) justifiably taken to task (in the review of the book which appeared in Finest Hour, the official journal of the Churchill Centre) for including books of the “100 Famous People” variety.4 To show the difficulty of such judgements: the reviewer in the same journal also reproaches Zoller for including Charlie Chaplin’s autobiography, which only contains “three pages on meetings with Churchill,” asking “does this qualify as ‘substantial’? ”5 But then it all depends on whether the reader of Zoller’s Bibliography is looking for qualitative or quantitative substance—once again a source of endless argument, and therefore a good reason for deciding in favour of Zoller. The old saying, “If in doubt, leave it out,” somehow does not seem to apply to a Bibliography: better err on the side of safety, i.e. by including references whose justification will inevitably seem doubtful to some, but might be of considerable qualitative (though limited quantitative) interest to others.
In his recent Bibliography of over 700 pages,6 Rasor also cast a wide net—and the comparison with Zoller is inevitable. Of course, Zoller has the advantage of time: he was able to include the post-1999 great biographies which Rasor could not, like those by Geoffrey Best7 and Roy Jenkins, and useful compendia like Wrigley’s Biographical Companion.8 And Zoller undoubtedly has many more foreign references, notably from Japan and China—but as will be discussed later, many of these seem to be marred by poor transliteration of the details. On the other hand, in his first chapters, Rasor provided excellent guidance on the different phases in Churchill’s life, with for instance a comprehensive discussion of the literature on Churchill and Appeasement9 or Churchill and the “Grand Alliance,” including the wartime summits.10 Rasor also had a very useful Chapter 5 on “Winston S. Churchill, Subject of Biographies,” in which he devoted fifteen very informative pages11 to a detailed examination of all the extant Biographies in English, with some (unfortunately sketchy) indications on foreign publications.
To a large extent, however, the two Bibliographies are complementary. For Zoller provides a classification by type of publication (books, articles, dissertations) which one does not have in Rasor. Rasor included articles as well as theses and dissertations, too, but they were not classified as such. Zoller also has a unique feature with his Section D, devoted to reviews. This is especially useful since conventional Bibliographies generally do not list them—or at least give only those which appeared as long “Review articles” in academic journals—whereas Zoller also has one-page (or less) references, including those which appeared in the quality dailies, like the New York Times or San Francisco Chronicle, beside specialised weeklies such as the Times Literary Supplement or the Saturday Review (formerly Saturday Review of Literature), with periodicals which are probably unfamiliar to readers outside the United States, like the Mississippi Valley Historical Review. This section offers very tempting references, which all readers interested in twentieth-century British history will feel like ordering immediately through the inter-library loan system, with great authors reviewing great books: J.M. Keynes in the Nation and the Athenaeum on The World Crisis, (3) & (4) 1916-1918 (1927), G.M. Trevelyan in the Times Literary Supplement on Arms and the Covenant (1938), R.H.S. Crossman in the New Statesman on The Second World War, (6) Triumph and Tragedy (1953), Harold Nicolson in the New York Times on A History of the English Speaking Peoples, (1) The Birth of Britain (1956), Clement Attlee in the Observer on A History of the English Speaking Peoples, (2) The New World (1956).
If we go back to Zoller’s format, it must be said that the borderline between Sections A and B is very often not respected. A book like The Churchill Coalition and Wartime Politics [A546] is not “entirely about Winston S. Churchill”—Kevin Jefferys, its author, would no doubt reject the description. It is definitely among “Books containing substantial data about Winston S. Churchill,” and if it is “entirely” about something, it is British politics, more specifically wartime politics—as the title correctly indicates. One also wonders why Ramsden’s History of the Conservative Party [A598] is in that section: the fact that its Volume 4, The Age of Churchill and Eden, 1940-1957, has “Churchill” in the title certainly does not mean that it is “entirely about Winston S. Churchill.” Likewise, Charmley’s Churchill’s Grand Alliance : The Anglo-American Special Relationship, 1940-1957 [A589]12 is obviously not “entirely about Winston S. Churchill”—as once again the author would undoubtedly be the first to argue. By contrast, Charmley’s “Essay and reflection: Churchill as war hero”13 or his “Churchill’s Roosevelt”14—both definitely “entirely about Winston S. Churchill”—are not even in the Articles section. It is also highly questionable to include Colville’s books15in Section A, the ultimate in Zoller’s inconsistency being reached with Colville’s memoirs, Footprints in Time, which have two entries, with two different commentaries, in two different sections, A and B [A411 & B691].16 In practice, Zoller’s format is excellent for Sections C, D and E—but there are so many “borderline cases” that A and B should have been amalgamated, the extent of the “Churchill content” being made clear by the annotations when the title was not sufficient. After all, in the section on Articles, no attempt has been made to distinguish between “entirely about Winston S. Churchill” and “containing substantial data about Winston S. Churchill”—and that section is none the less useful for that.
This brings us to the crucial question of the annotations, and unfortunately most of the time there seems to be little to choose between Rasor and Zoller. Rasor is often irritating for his tautological, unnecessary comments,17 but sometimes Zoller is no better, as in [A381], Churchill 1914-1918, which is only described as: “An examination of Churchill during World War I,” something which Zoller’s readers would have been able to guess by themselves. Besides wondering why Delaforce’s book, Churchill’s Secret Weapons: The Story of Hobart’s Funnies18 should be in Section A, one is also struck by Zoller’s candid admission that he has no clue what the book might be about—and more disquieting that he did not even try to find out: “Located in the Hong Kong library, which lists its subjects as Winston Churchill, military leadership, World War II. Not observed by the author” [A634]. Where is the Annotated Bibliography announced in Zoller’s title? Surely, this is not an “annotation” in the conventional bibliographic sense of the word? Of slighly more use, at least if one is interested in authors of Churchill books, is the entry [A256] for Dilks’s 1965 booklet, Sir Winston Churchill19: “Professor Dilks is still actively researching, speaking, and writing about Churchill a quarter century later; this was his first published work.”
Fortunately, many annotations are more informative—if only for what they tell us about Zoller’s judgement on the book and/or author. For Zoller does not hesitate to comment upon his likes and dislikes, berating the “revisionists,” whom he perceives as a malignant anti-Churchill brigade. As an example of his likes, one could take [A447], Churchill and de Gaulle, by Kersaudy,20which receives the following commentary:
Curiously, Kersaudy’s next—and important—volume, Winston Churchill: Le pouvoir de l’imaginaire,21 was not felt to deserve the slightest words of commentary [A663]—but this is beside the point: what emerges here is that when Zoller (rightly) praises Kersaudy’s work he is in fact also attacking the “revisionists” who, it is suggested, have nothing really new to offer in terms of “facts,” as opposed to “interpretations”—invariably with an anti-Churchill bias, of course. Thus on Ponting’s Churchill22:
Ponting’s next book, 1940: Myth and Reality,23 only has the terse comment: “Continuation of Ponting’s revisionary condemnation of Churchill” [B877]. In contrast, Charmley—generally the only “anti-Churchill revisionist” vaguely known to the general public—gets away lightly. His two major works, Churchill: The End of Glory—A Political Biography and Churchill’s Grand Alliance: The Anglo-American Special Relationship, 1940-195724, receive very balanced comments: “Per the author [of the first, [A566]], Churchill chose to make Britain a client state of America, allowing Soviet power to wax and the British Empire to wane. Whatever we may think of that argument, this is a well-written, critical biography from a self-described ‘Thatcherite’ historian” and (for the second):
Zoller’s worst attacks, however, are directed at the people of the already mentioned Revisionist Press and at Indian Nationalists. Neilson’s Churchill and Yalta25 is summarily dismissed : “ ‘Revisionist Historiography’ series. Second to none in his hatred of Churchill, the author presumably suggests that WSC was solely responsible for the results of the Yalta Conference.” A book by Indian authors on “the last phase of India’s freedom struggle”26 fares little better :
On a slightly different register, in the comments on Pearson’s Citadel of the Heart27 we have Zoller’s vigorous defence of Churchill as a pater familias:
Zoller seemingly fails to see that only great men are the subject of “hatred:” uninteresting nonentities raise no strong feelings. And he does not seem to realise that “nasty polemics” and “vitriolic attacks” have their uses in perpetuating the Churchill debate, in that they encourage the writing of impeccably documented scholarly refutations—though this does not mean that “Churchillophobia” should lead to another extreme, “Churchillomania.”
All this demonstrates the difficulty of writing an annotated Bibliography: navigating between the Charybdis of bland, useless comments and the Scylla of unmitigated condemnation of points of view which the bibliographer dislikes is no easy task—and this is perhaps why professional librarians rest content with purely factual descriptions in their notices.
To go back to the foreign-language references: they are of two kinds—original works and translations. Listing the translations is prima facie of little use for the English-speaking reader of the Bibliography. The real point will only be perceived by those who want to measure Churchill’s “popularity” at certain stages and in certain areas of the world—and in this Zoller’s corpus will usefully complement Ramsden’s research on Churchill’s own books as exploited in Man of the Century (cf. Note 1). It is also remarkable—if one is interested in what subjects make a “best-seller”—that the book which seems to have benefited from the largest number of translations should be from Churchill’s personal doctor.28
The original works are also of considerable interest in this respect, whether they are eulogies from postwar Western Europe (e.g. Winston Churchill: Engländer und Europäer [A133] (West Germany, 194929), prewar denunciations from Nazi Germany (e.g. Das ist Churchill [A18] (193930) or Cold War attacks from the Soviet Union, especially on his supposedly hostile attitude during the war, notably over the opening of the “Second Front.”31 The contents of the many books on “Chachiru” (Churchill in Japanese) or “Chiu-chi-erh” (Churchill in Chinese) do not really benefit from the descriptions promised by Langworth in his Foreword.32 Also, there is some inconsistency in Zoller’s system: sometimes he gives the English translation of the title (e.g. [A485]: Chachiru: Anguro Sakuson no sekai senryaku—“World strategies of the Anglo-Saxons”), sometimes he does not (e.g. [A374]: Chachiru: Dainiji Sekai Taisen no shidosha).
But considering the large number of grave mistakes in the spelling and transliteration of references in European languages, one has serious doubts about the reliability of Zoller’s references in Japanese or Chinese. Czech carons are ignored,33 accented letters are systematically garbled or used in the wrong place,34 letters are omitted,35 confusions are made between languages.36 The present reviewer is not able to tell whether the Greek title, He hygeia tou Tsortsil [A463]—no translation or comment given—has benefited from a correct transliteration, but it is clear that the substantial number of references in Russian has suffered from poor scanning and no serious checking. There is no consistency in the transliteration of Churchill’s name in Cyrillic. One finds “Cercil’ ” [A515], “Cherchill” [A293], “Cherchill” [A552]. This of course reflects the variety that one finds in libraries from countries with the Latin alphabet, but only one spelling should have been chosen. Unfortunately, there is worse, as “Hayka” in [A293] is the Cyrillic spelling left untransliterated. It is the Russian word for “Science,” “Nauka” in Latin letters. And the scanning (one supposes) went wrong, as “i Vtoroi” (=and (the) second) became “: Vtorol”, a totally meaningless word—and construction (see note 31 for correct reference). Also very misleading is the absent capital letter for Miliukov in [A515]: Cercil’ i miljukov protiv Sovietskoj Rossii,37 for which no translation or comment is given, as the uninformed reader will not see that the book alludes to that Russian politician’s supposed collusion with Churchill against the Soviets.
Of course Zoller cannot be expected to master all the languages which figure in his volume—but the Churchill Centre is connected with the International Churchill Societies, by definition a multi-lingual network of keen amateur historians and professional scholars. Why were not its non-anglophone members asked to check meanings and spellings in their respective languages? No doubt enthusiastic volunteers would easily have been found. It is obvious that only a multi-national team from all the continents of the globe can ever hope to give intelligible references in Bulgarian, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Mahrati, Malayalam, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Serbo-Croat, Slovene, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Thai, and Turkish: at least one book in each of these languages is included in the Bibliography. It would therefore be highly desirable to have a “state-of-the-art” Second Edition with all the non-anglophone references checked by specialists from the relevant linguistic areas.
This of course does not mean that Zoller’s efforts are worthless. Because of the considerable difficulties of bibliographic work, and the poor rewards which it brings, few professional scholars are interested in doing it (as opposed to taking advantage of its published results). Many academics wrongly consider this as ancillary, non-creative work: a great historian does not write bibliographies—only scribblers do. The work is seen as analogous to that of the copyist—clearly an obvious case for mechanisation and computerisation. In fact, as Zoller’s inevitable limitations show, this kind of work requires many skills which a machine will never have, from initial flair in detecting Churchill material behind unlikely titles to final judgement in assessing the value of the contents. Such undertakings also inevitably suffer from the law of diminishing returns: in the hopeless quest for exhaustivity, the more arcane references are the most time-consuming to get right—with the ever-present risk of leaving mistakes in entries concerning obscure publications, generally poorly documented in the major data bases. So, one should not lose sight of the forest for the trees: though there are many errors left in Zoller’s Bibliography, it offers a considerable core of reliable, informative data on the literature on Churchill. In combination with Rasor’s, which has different qualities and different faults, the present Bibliography will be found indispensable to anyone interested in what was written on the great man at different periods and in different countries. University Libraries will probably already have Rasor’s Bibliography in their Reference Sections: they must now immediately acquire Zoller’s.