Hello everyone. For today’s post, I will be doing a book recommendation for the The Last Lion, a three-volume biography of Winston Spencer Churchill by William Manchester, and completed after his death by Paul Wells. This trilogy is one of the best biographical works I have ever read. It covers the entirety of Churchill’s life, beginning with his childhood and ending with his death, though naturally the largest sections are dedicated to his time during the World Wars and between them.
The first volume, titled Visions of Glory, covers the period from 1874-1932. This period was a fascinating period in Churchill’s life, as it extends from his early childhood until his quitting of the Tory party over its position on India, therefore covering his service as First Lord of the Admiralty during the First World War and his earlier military service. The second volume, titled Alone, covers his time in “the political wilderness”, extending from the time he quit the Tories until he was invited back as Prime Minister in 1940, therefore taking over the running of the war. The final volume, Defender of the Realm, covers the period of the Second World War until his death in 1965, and serves as an excellent history of the Western European theatre of the war as well as a biography of Churchill.
All three volumes are excellent examples of biographical writing. Manchester’s prose is supreme, and he turns it to good use in these volumes. He succeeds in putting many of the events of Churchill’s life in context, and in reading these volumes it is impossible to emerge without a better understanding of the man. This series also has a connection to one of the other books you have read about on this site; Manchester opens his second book with a dedication “To Bill Shirer who saw it from the other side and saw it first.“; referring, of course, to William L. Shirer, whose work you will have already read about here.
If I was to recommend only one biographical series, this would have to be it; it is certainly long, but it gives an invaluable understanding of a man whose contributions to the history of the world cannot go unrecognized. Furthermore, this and The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich are the two books I would recommend on the Second World War, as they allow it to be seen from both sides; there are certainly some viewpoints, that of the Eastern Front and the Pacific, missing after reading these, but they can be filled in with supplementary reading. I hope you all enjoyed this post, and have a good day.